The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (16-11,10-10 Big Ten) continued their cold stretch to end the regular season, losing five of their last six games.
The Badgers lost a controversial, competitive game to No. 5 Iowa (20-7, 14-6) by a final score of 77-73. The Badgers lost their last three regular-season games and eight straight games to ranked opponents.
The Hawkeyes started the game sizzling, jumping out to a 20-9 run in the game’s first 10 minutes. Junior guard Joe Wieskamp led the way early, scoring 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting. Wieskamp’s strong start was cut short as he went down with a lower leg injury with eight minutes in the first half, which forced him to miss the rest of the game.
It was senior night for Iowa’s two seniors — Luka Garza and Jordan Bohannon — and the duo clicked in their final home game, finishing as the two leading scorers for the Hawkeyes. Garza finished with his 12th double-double on the season, scoring 21 points on 50% shooting with 16 rebounds. Bohannon finished the game with 16 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds.
For Wisconsin, it took a while for most of their players to start making shots — star guard and leading scorer D’Mitrik Trice didn’t make a field goal until five minutes into the second half. The offense had to rely on big-man Micah Potter for buckets. Despite the loss, Potter gave his best effort in keeping the Badgers in the game, scoring 23 points on 12 shots all while having the task of guarding Garza.
After trailing by nine at halftime, the Badgers crawled back into the game. The Badgers took a 49-48 lead on a Brad Davison 3-pointer with just over 12 minutes to go.
The game’s final 12 minutes were neck-and-neck with many lead changes, but a couple of controversial officiating decisions in the final minute helped Iowa get the win.
The first was a shooting foul called on Trice while Bohannon shot a 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go. The foul not only gave Bohannon three shots from the line but resulted in Trice fouling out, taking Wisconsin’s best shooter off the floor for the final 30 seconds.
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Another head-scratching call was a flagrant foul on guard Brad Davison. This flagrant gave Iowa two free throws which brought them up by three points with ten seconds remaining.
The flagrant foul did not sit well with Head Coach Greg Gard as Gard called out the Big Ten Conference and claimed Davison had been put under an unfair spotlight in terms of officiating, calling the hook-and-hold rule the “Brad Davison rule” after the game.
Teammate Micah Potter also was not happy with the call.
In a post-game press conference, Potter said, “He [Davison] is not a dirty player. He does nothing maliciously. It’s not who he is.”
Iowa won their last eight games and will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the conference. If Wieskamp can come back healthy, the Hawkeyes should expect to make some serious noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin plays Thursday night as the No. 6 seed. Hopefully the Badgers can regroup and come out with a win to snap this disappointing losing streak.
After entering the season ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP Poll, the Badgers have not lived up to expectations. Many preseason experts expected this Badger team to win the Big Ten and contend for a national championship.
Those expectations seem a bit lofty as Wisconsin enters tournament play.
The biggest problem for this team is the lack of consistent shooting, especially from Trice and Davison. This season, Davison’s shooting has regressed greatly — only making 31% of his shots and not shooting above 50% even once this season.
The Badgers should look to rely on Potter, who, despite only playing 21 minutes per game, is second on the team in scoring. Potter is perhaps the most efficient Badger player, shooting 50% from the field, 37% from deep and 85% from the line. Potter has played especially well recently, scoring in double figures for five straight games.
If the Badgers want to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, they need to view Potter as a focal point of their offense and support him with better guard play against top-notch competition.