For a team plagued by poor free throw shooting, Wisconsin didn’t act the part in the two overtimes against Iowa Wednesday night.
Converting on 13-of-14 from the line after regulation and receiving a deadlock-breaking three pointer from freshman forward Sam Dekker, the Badgers (16-7, 7-3) beat the Hawkeyes (14-9, 3-7) in a double-overtime thriller at the Kohl Center, 74-70.
It was Wisconsin’s first win against Iowa since a victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Feb. 9, 2011, as the Badgers snapped a three-game losing streak the Hawkeyes.
Junior guard Ben Brust led all scorers with 18 points and fifth-year senior forward/center Jared Berggren put up a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds to pace UW in a game where both teams shot a lowly 33.8 percent from the field.
“We just kept working,” Berggren said. “That was a tough battle out there. [Iowa is] a team that plays hard and they’ve had our number so we just kept fighting. To go two overtimes like that and make some mistakes … we showed some fight and did just enough to find a way to win.”
Down nine with 6:18 left to play, Brust hit a clutch three pointer to spark a 11-2 Wisconsin run that tied the game with 1:24 remaining.
Iowa’s Aaron White, a sophomore forward who finished the night with 13 points, stole a pass from fifth-year forward Ryan Evans and converted a three-point play of his own to put the Hawkeyes back on top with just 45 seconds remaining in regulation.
After a 30-second timeout by Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, Berggren missed two shots in the lane, but the ball ended up in the hands of guard Traevon Jackson, as the sophomore pulled up for a clutch cold-blodded three, receiving a friendly bounce from the rim and tying the game at 58-58.
“To close that gap before the overtime, it was really gutsy,” Ryan said. “We made some shots and gave ourselves a chance.”
After an Iowa timeout, the Hawkeyes set up a play for sharpshooter Josh Oglesby, who ran off a screen and caught the ball on the left wing. The look was clean from beyond the arc, but the shot rimmed in and out, as the Kohl Center breathed a collective sigh of relief as the game headed into the first overtime.
Oglesby was quick to get back to work for the Hawkeyes, connecting on his first shot in overtime, giving Iowa a 61-58 lead.
But, once again, the Badgers battled back, this time thanks to clutch free throw shooting from Berggren and Jackson. Neither team was able to convert a shot in the game’s final minute, as White missed a jumper and Berggren and senior forward Mike Bruesewitz both missed threes in the final seconds.
After not playing any of the first overtime, Dekker was forced to check in after Bruesewitz was called for his fifth foul on a block.
“I just had to keep myself mentally into the game,” Dekker said. “I couldn’t get down on myself. Coach said to me a couple times he kept those guys in for experience. Coach turned to me before the tip of second overtime and said to be ready because the guys were getting fatigued.”
Dekker wasted little time making his presence and fresh legs felt, as the freshman gathered himself on the catch from a Berggren pass and drilled a three from the right wing.
“He was wide open and he stayed loose over on the bench,” Ryan said. “If you watched him while he was sitting over there, bouncing his legs and staying ready.”
The three proved to be a spark, as Berggren swatted the next Iowa shot attempt with Brust pulling in the rebound and drawing a foul.
Wisconsin went 5-for-6 from the line in the final 31 seconds of the game to hold off an Iowa rally that cut the Badgers lead to just two points with five seconds to go. At that point the Hawkeyes elected to foul Evans, the Badgers worst free throw shooter at just 40 percent entering Wednesday night.
But Evans surprised Iowa by calmly sinking both shots of his double bonus, icing any comeback hopes and sending the Badgers to their first win over the Hawkeyes in nearly two years.
“They’re as tough as any team in the Big Ten,” Berggren said. “Every team is going to play hard, they showed a lot of fight. It’s a team that’s played extremely hard it was good to just keep fighting and find a way to get it done.”
Notes: Wisconsin improved to 178-17 (.913) at the Kohl Center under Bo Ryan, including a mark of 88-10 in conference home games… Berggren’s double-double was his second of the season and just the second of his career… Brust recorded his ninth double-digit scoring performance of the season… The double overtime game was the first since the Badgers beat Eastern Kentucky in the 2005-06 season at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.