basketball Edit

Wisconsin 64, Iowa 52

Iowa's Connor McCaffery and Wisconsin's Chucky Hepburn battle for a loose ball in Wisconsin's 64-52 win over Iowa.
Iowa's Connor McCaffery and Wisconsin's Chucky Hepburn battle for a loose ball in Wisconsin's 64-52 win over Iowa. (© Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports)

The weather outside on Wednesday night matched Iowa's shooting performance inside the Kohl Center: cold as ice. The Hawkeyes followed up one of their worst offensive performances of the season against Northwestern (60 points, 0.88 points per possession, and 3/24 shooting from 3) on Sunday with... an even worse offensive performance (52 points, 0.85 points per possession, and 3/28 shooting from 3). A close game at the half (27-26 Wisconsin) turned into a comfortable Wisconsin win, mainly because Iowa's offense never got going.



The game actually started well for Iowa -- the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 10-4 lead at the first media timeout. The Hawkeyes seemed to have more energy -- they were the team hustling to loose balls early and forcing turnovers; the Badgers coughed the ball up five times in the first five minutes.

Iowa couldn't maintain that fast start, though. The Hawkeyes went without any points between media timeouts and endured a 4+ minute scoring drought until Payton Sandfort made a layup with 11:30 to go. Improbably, iowa still led 12-10 at that point. As bad as Iowa's offense was, Wisconsin's wasn't much better. The two teams went back-and-forth over the remainder of the half, with the Badgers taking a one-point lead into the break.

The second half started brightly -- Iowa made its first three shots after halftime. Wisconsin kept pace, though, making three of its first four shots in the second half as well. A Kris Murray 3 -- his first made basket of the game -- at 16:13 to play provided hope -- maybe the shooting funk was over. Maybe Murray would get on track after a scoreless first half. Nope and nope.

Iowa's last lead of the game came after a Murray dunk made it 41-40 Iowa with 10:41 to play. The Badgers made three-pointers on three of their next five trips down the floor; Iowa's only bucket in that stretch came from a Filip Rebraca layup. Tony Perkins cut the lead to 49-45 with 7:48 to play, which was close as Iowa got for the remainder of the game.

Iowa continued to miss shots, while Wisconsin kept steadily making a few, and the deficit climbed to 8, then 10, then 12 points. A 12-point lead in this game with 4:20 to go might as well have been a 40-point lead. Iowa scored five more points the rest of the way and Wisconsin coasted to a 64-52 win and a season sweep of the Hawkeyes.


There's only one stat to start with: 3/28 on 3-point attempts.

After shooting a season-worst 3/24 (12.5%) on 3s against Northwestern on Sunday, Iowa actually managed to shoot worse from long range in this game -- 3/28 (10.7%). It would be impossibly bad if not for the fact it actually happened, so it was in fact very possible.

Aside from several rushed shots at the end of the game when Iowa was fully in desperation mode, a lot of the shots were perfectly good looks. Iowa got a lot of open shots in this game; the attempts they were taking weren't often rushed or contested. They just rattled around the basket and out, or clanked off the rim.

Against Northwestern, Iowa at least converted shots inside the arc at a reasonable rate -- 20/30 (67%) -- but the Hawkeyes struggled to convert attempts closer to the bucket in this game as well. Iowa was only 17/34 on 2-point tries, with several misses coming right at the rim.

Filip Rebraca stretches for a rebound in Iowa's 64-52 loss to Wisconsin.
Filip Rebraca stretches for a rebound in Iowa's 64-52 loss to Wisconsin. (© Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports)


On an individual level, Tony Perkins and Filip Rebraca led Iowa with 13 points apiece. Rebraca went 6/10 from the field, but was only 1/4 at the free throw line; Perkins was a grim 4/14 from the floor, but did go 5/5 at the stripe. Payton Sandfort was the only other Iowa player in double figures in scoring with 10 points on 4/9 shooting.

Kris Murray had his worst game of the season by far. Murray had just 5 points on 2/10 shooting, along with 5 rebounds, an assist. He spent the last eight minutes of the first half on the bench with two fouls and never seemed to be able to get into the flow of the game. Wisconsin's Jordan Davis gave him some trouble on defense at times, but Murray, like the rest of the team, also just missed a lot of open shots and good looks. His bad game came at a very inopportune time for the Hawkeyes, especially with everyone else on the team also struggling to make shots.


That's the million-dollar question after a shooting performance this terrible, isn't it? Was Iowa just horrifically unlucky on offense in this game, or is this game -- and the Northwestern game before it -- a sign of bigger problems? It's hard to look past the fact that Iowa's offense was getting good shots on a lot of possessions in this game -- those shots just weren't falling.

There were certainly possessions where Iowa's offense went stagnant and things ended with a rushed shot or a bad look, but that didn't seem to be a common problem for Iowa in this game. If Iowa was really struggling to get decent looks, then you'd certainly point the finger at the offense and try to determine if the players or the schemes were more at fault for the offensive struggles. But when you're getting decent looks that simply aren't going through the hoop, that starts to feel more like truly rotten luck.

That said, are there things Iowa could have done differently on offense with 3-pointers falling so rarely in this game? Probably. Rebraca was one of the few Hawkeyes able to make shots in this game; trying to feed him more (especially early in the second half) might have been helpful. Likewise, getting the ball to Murray more early in the second half might have helped him find a comfort level in the game after a scoreless first half. Perkins, Ulis, and Sandfort are all good free throw shooters as well; attacking the rim to try and draw fouls might have been an effective way for Iowa to score points in a game where field goals were hard to come by.

There's also the fact that this ice-cold offensive showing only continues what's became a pervasive trend for Iowa's offense: unstoppable at home, invisible on the road.

Iowa: Home vs Away Scoring (Big Ten Games)









Iowa's offense has been over 20 ppg worse in Big Ten road games than home games this season. The Hawkeyes have also shot the ball about 10% worse, both from the field overall and specifically from 3-point range. Iowa's offense is the incredible Hulk at home, but tiny Bruce Banner on the road in Big Ten games. It's a fairly inexplicable trend, given that it's persisted against multiple opponents and over the course of several months. Unfortunately, Iowa's also rapidly running out of time to reverse the trend.


Iowa returns home to face Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, February 25. The game tips off at 11:00 AM CT and will be televised on ESPN. The Spartans are 17-10 overall and 9-7 in Big Ten action. This game certainly takes on even greater importance after Iowa's last two ugly road defeats.