The Wisconsin Badgers utilized a second-half surge to defeat the Iowa Hawkeyes in a 64-52 victory on Wednesday night, improving to 16-11 on the season and 8-9 in conference play.
Wisconsin neutralized the Hawkeyes’ top players, while providing just enough offense to withstand the Iowa attack, earning an important conference win as they end their homestand.
The Badgers got off to an ugly start, committing five early turnovers on the offensive end, while giving up multiple offensive rebounds that had the Hawkeyes up with an early 10-4 lead.
After a cold stretch where neither team scored for three minutes, the Badgers started gaining some momentum, as guard Isaac Lindsey hit a tough pullup jumper before Tyler Wahl continued his aggressiveness with a layup driving downhill.
Wahl was the main offense for the Badgers early, as center Steven Crowl hit the bench with two early fouls, which sidelined him for the entire half after just five minutes on the court.
The Badgers forward hit two more baskets after his early layup, with one coming off a steal and the other from a post-up, matching some Iowa scores to tie the game at 14 a piece halfway through the period.
Connor Essegian, who had a day to forget over the weekend in an 0/10 shooting game against Rutgers, got himself going with a nice cut and layup off a feed from Tyler Wahl.
After a Payton Sandford three-pointer for the Hawkeyes, the Badgers went on a quick 7-0 run as the first half came to a close, holding a 26-22 lead that ended up becoming a 27-26 game in their favor heading into halftime.
The Badgers played a different strategy, utilizing nine players in the first half due to some foul troubles, as Markus Illver and Isaac Lindsey saw minutes for the first time in a while alongside backups Jordan Davis and Carter Gilmore.
While the Badgers have been a strong shooting team, and the Hawkeyes have struggled to defend the perimeter, Wisconsin was unable to get anything going in the first half from beyond the arc, hitting just 1/7 of their threes, but surprisingly worked well in the paint, where 18 of their 27 first-half points came from.
The Badgers ended up shooting 12/22 in the first half, hitting 11/15 of their two-pointers, which hasn’t been the norm for them this season.
Consequently, the Hawkeyes struggled with efficiency in the first half, hitting just 9/29 shots, including 1/12 from three.
With the size advantage, the Hawkeyes looked to be aggressive early, and earned good looks inside the paint, but they just couldn’t hit shots, although six offensive rebounds provided them with enough opportunities to remain in the game.
In the second half, both teams remained in a battle to begin, with the Badgers targeting Steven Crowl early, who scored Wisconsin’s first three field goals, while the Hawkeyes went down low as well to Filip Rebraca, who scored three consecutive buckets as well.
Iowa continued to generate some good looks, earning three more offensive rebounds, but struggled, once again, to hit shots, especially from the perimeter, as guard Tony Perkins was unable to generate any offense.
After a Kris Murray dunk to take a 41-40 lead, the Badgers started gaining some offensive momentum, as Connor Essegian hit a three as Wisconsin pushed the ball up the court.
Then, following an Iowa turnover, Max Klesmit hit a three on an inbounds play, which was followed by an offensive foul on Filip Rebraca.
Rebraca came down with a layup on the ensuing possession, but the Badgers got a response from Chucky Hepburn, who hit a three from the exact same spot as Klesmit and Essegian’s distance shots, providing Wisconsin with its biggest lead of the night in a 49-43 contest.
From that point, Wisconsin never took its foot off the gas pedal, taking a 10-2 run following the media timeout during a four-minute stretch as the second half winded down to take a 59-47 lead with 3:41 remaining.
During this stretch, the Badgers looked the best they have in a while on the offensive end, pushing the ball well in transition, attacking, and drawing fouls.
On the other end, Iowa continued to see solid looks, but couldn't hit anything beyond the arc, shooting just 2/16 from three in the second half.
The Badgers ended with a 64-52 win, making it the first time since December 30th that they beat an opponent by more than five points.
Connor Essegian led the Badgers with 17 points, shooting 5/13 from the field and 2/7 from three.
While it wasn't necessarily the best shooting night for the guard, he found different ways to score after an 0/10 shooting display on Saturday, and was a team-high +15 on the court.
Tyler Wahl was a vital part of Wisconsin’s win, playing a team-high 36 minutes and scoring 11 points on 5/8 shooting, while securing 14 rebounds on a day where Steven Crowl only played 13 minutes.
Wahl drove downhill a lot, which attributed to his good scoring night, while creating opportunities for his teammates when posting upon the block.
Chucky Hepburn had a good second half, scoring nine points on 3/5 shooting, while dishing three assists, taking good shots.
In the brief time he did play, Crowl was effective in the second half after seeing foul trouble in the first half, scoring six early points in pick-and-roll actions, although he played just eight second-half minutes.
For Iowa, apart from Filip Rebraca, who had 13 points on 6/10 shooting, nobody could get shots to fall, as Kris Murray was an afterthought, hitting 2/10 of his looks, while Tony Perkins mustered a 4/14 shooting night.
Overall, the Hawkeyes shot just 32.3% from the field, while hitting only 3/28 from three, despite seeing several wide-open looks.
The Badgers had their most efficient night in a while offensively, hitting 52.2% of their shots, although the three-ball wasn’t falling, with Wisconsin making just 4/18 shots beyond the arc.
Still, it was a valuable game for the Badgers, who improve to 16-11 and 8-9 in conference play, especially in the way that they won.
Now, they head to Ann Arbor to face the Michigan Wolverines on Sunday, looking to compile two wins in a row for the first time since January 3rd.