Wisconsin Badgers get contributions up and down lineup for much-need win over Iowa

MADISON – This was a start for Wisconsin coach Greg Gard and his players.

Down to four regular-season games remaining and needing any kind of victory to enhance their NCAA résumé, the Badgers defended exceptionally well at times, ran an efficient offense that led to a plethor of shots in the paint and hit just enough free throws to grind out an impressive 64-52 victory over Iowa Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.

The victory came four days after a crushing 58-57 home loss to Rutgers.

“The thing about this group is they’ve been very resilient,” Gard said. “They haven’t hung their heads. They haven’t pouted. They always bounce back and respond when they take on the chin a little bit.

“That is always a good sign as a coach that they keep coming back and want to learn and want to get better.”

The Badgers (16-11, 8-9 Big Ten) swept their rivals to move within one game of the .500 mark in league play.

Wisconsin forward Tyler Wahl (5) stops on a dime front of Iowa guard Tony Perkins (11) during the first half of their game Wednesday, February 22, 2023 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

Iowa (17-11, 9-8) was awful from three-point range for the second consecutive game. The Hawkeyes hit just 3 of 24 three-pointers (12.5%) in a 20-point loss Sunday at Northwestern and hit just 3 of 28 attempts (10.7%) in the loss to UW.

“I didn’t think the shots we took were bad,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I think you always go back and say: Could we have worked the ball a little bit more, maybe gotten a post feed? But we typically let our guys go. We let them shoot the ball. I encourage them to shoot open threes.

“It was a frustrating night from that standpoint. That’s two games in a row where it just wasn’t dropping from three.”

Gard got contributions – big and small – from up and down his lineup.

BOX SCORE: Wisconsin 64, Iowa 52

Connor Essegian, 0 of 7 from three-point range and 0 of 10 overall in the loss to Rutgers, hit 2 of 7 three-pointers and 5 of 13 shots overall against Iowa. He finished with 17 points and five rebounds.

Tyler Wahl, who scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in UW’s overtime victory at Iowa, burned the Hawkeyes with 11 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, one steal and solid defense on Iowa’s Kris Murray. Those contributions more than made up for three first-half turnovers.

“(Tyler) was great today,” Steven Crowl said. “As you can see, his ankle is starting to get fully healthy. We’re starting to see the old Tyler we saw earlier this season.”

Chucky Hepburn contributed 12 points, five assists, four rebounds and just one turnover in a solid floor game. He played 18 minutes 58 seconds of the second half and had nine points, three assists and no turnovers to help UW pull away from a one-point halftime lead.

“Five assists, one turnover with the pressure that he saw?” Gard said. “And having to make decisions every time up the floor. I thought he was physical at the rim, trying to go through contact more. That is a good sign.”

Crowl sat out the final 15:28 of the opening half after picking up his second foul and played just 12:40 overall. Still, he finished with eight points and three rebounds

Max Klesmit (four points, three rebound), Jordan Davis (four points, three rebounds) and Carter Gilmore (four points, two rebounds) all made key plays.

“They’ve got a lot of different guys that can score,” McCaffery said. “They’re hard to guard.”

UW entered the night No. 1 nationally in fewest turnovers per game at 8.7. The Badgers had five on their first nine possessions and finished the first half with eight. Iowa scored 11 points off those turnovers to stay close.

“In the beginning of the game were just throwing the ball around, not being too careful with it, being a little reckless,” Wahl said. “And then the second half we just got back to Wisconsin basketball, breaking the press, getting into the middle and doing a good job of pushing it.”

The Badgers had only three turnovers after halftime, which allowed them to do a better job setting their half-court defense.

Struggling from three-point range, Iowa finished 20 of 62 overall (32.3%). The Badgers hit just 4 of 18 three-point attempts (22,2%) but they worked the ball into the lane and hit 21 of 30 two-point attempts and finished with 38 points in the paint.

“Obviously, the second half we did a much better job taking care of the ball,” Gard said. “Part of helping our defense was not turning the ball over in the second half. We could get our defense set for the most part. I thought we did a decent job.

“(And) we did a decent job of getting the ball inside, finishing much better.”

Murray, averaging 20.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, missed the final 8:34 of the first half after picking up his second foul. His first points came with 16:15 left in the game on a corner three-pointer and he finished with just five points. He hit just 1 of 5 three-pointers and 2 of 10 shots overall.

“They worked hard guarding him,” McCaffery said. “They were physical. They were chasing him around. That is kind of what he gets every game, but I thought they were really paying attention to him.”

Filip Rebraca (13.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Tony Perkins led Iowa with 13 points apiece for the Hawkeyes. Payton Sandfort, who missed all seven shots he took in the teams’ first meeting, contributed 10 points Wednesday.

The game remained close for most of the second half until UW used a 10-2 run to take control. Gilmore hit a tough turnaround jumper with 7:13 left to spark the run; Hepburn hit two free throws to push the lead to eight; hit a tough turnaround jumper for a 57-47 lead with 5:01 left; and fed Gilmore for a lay-in with 4:20 left.

The lead was 12 and UW, which hit 8 of 14 free throws after halftime, was in control.

Four days after a one-point home loss to Rutgers, the Badgers got a critical victory with a road game looming Sunday against Michigan.

“I was happy with how our guys responded coming off of Saturday’s finish,” Gard said.

Game over.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Wisconsin Badgers start key stretch with much-need win over Iowa


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