Jordan Taylor had a difficult time explaining one of the most shocking defeats since coach Bo Ryan took over the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program more than a decade ago.
The best the senior point guard could do after the No. 11 Badgers’ 72-65 loss to Iowa Saturday afternoon before a stunned crowd at the Kohl Center was point out the obvious.
“They made more plays than we did, that’s what it came down to,” Taylor said. “Hats off to them for coming in here and being ready to go, and we weren’t quite as ready.”
Freshman forward Aaron White scored 18 points in 20 minutes, and senior guard Bryce Cartwright added 17 to spark the Hawkeyes’ first victory in Madison since 2000.
Taylor scored 17 points to lead the Badgers, who saw their six-game winning streak snapped and lost their Big Ten Conference home opener for the first time since 1999. Junior forward Jared Berggren had 12 points and sophomore guards Josh Gasser and Ben Brust added 11 apiece for UW (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten), but the Badgers were a miserable 3-for-28 from 3-point range.
Offensive slumps are nothing new to a team that relies heavily on its streaky shooters. The real head-scratcher was watching UW’s defense look as bad as it did against Iowa, a 16½-point underdog.
The Hawkeyes (9-6, 1-1) only made two 3-pointers and still averaged 1.11 points per possession, the first time this season a team averaged better than 0.98 against the Badgers. Iowa scored on seven consecutive possessions late in the game and shot 49.2 percent overall to produce the most points by a UW opponent this season.
“They’ve got playmakers,” Taylor said. “They did a great job of making plays. When it came down to it, they were the ones that got it done.”
White and Cartwright helped Iowa’s bench outscore UW’s 37-16, and both players made some big shots at key moments to help the Hawkeyes score 41 points in the second half.
“I sort of expect that my team is going to respond off the bench,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They know that I’m going to play 10.”
White’s 3-pointer with 16 minutes, 10 seconds left in the game ended a run of 11 consecutive possessions without a point for the Hawkeyes and stopped an 11-0 run that gave UW a 38-31 lead, its biggest of the game.
Another 3-pointer by White later in the half completed a 7-0 run that gave Iowa a 61-50 lead with 4:45 to go. UW rallied, with Gasser scoring six points on one possession after Iowa sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe was whistled for a technical foul. Gasser made four three throws and a layup to help UW pull within 64-58 with 3:11 to go.
Taylor hit a 3-pointer with 52.5 seconds left, ending a run of 14 straight misses from behind the arc for UW, to cut Iowa’s lead to 68-63. Brust followed with a steal and layup with 49.2 seconds left, and suddenly it was a one-possession game.
All UW needed to do was the thing it does best – keep the other team from scoring. But the Badgers failed in that mission.
Iowa sophomore guard Devyn Marble drove past Brust, pulled up and hit a jumper to give Iowa a 70-65 lead with 19.5 seconds left. It was a dagger shot by the son of Roy Marble, Iowa’s all-time leading scorer.
Any chance of a miraculous comeback for the Badgers ended when Berggren missed a 3‑pointer on the next possession. He finished 0-for-5 behind the line, while Brust was 1-for-9.
“Just one of those days,” Berggren said of UW’s shooting woes. “You can’t really explain it. I guess sometimes it’s just the way the ball is going to bounce. On a night like that, we’ve got to do a better job of getting the ball inside, not settling for jumpers as much, and do a better job on defense.”
The Badgers were shooting 40.2 percent from beyond the arc coming into the game. They had some wide-open looks against the Hawkeyes but couldn’t capitalize.
“I’ve never over-analyzed a game, so this won’t be the first, but you’ve got to hit some of those shots – it takes away the effectiveness of transition,” Ryan said. “If you hit shots, it’s amazing how much better your defense looks.”
Losing at home to a team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten was a horrible way for UW to end the first week of league play. The Badgers will get a chance to bounce back on Tuesday when they host Michigan State.
“I guess the Big Ten’s going to be like this the whole year,” Ryan said. “I just think there are so many teams that are kind of equal, and if you have a cold night, you’re not going to walk away on the left-hand side.”