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For the second time in as many weeks, the Wisconsin Badgers travelled to a top-10 opponent’s gym and pulled off the upset. The 67-59 victory over the 8th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes moves the Badgers exponentially closer to clinching a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Badgers were led by Bronson Koenig, who scored 15 points. Despite Koenig’s performance though, it was the production from some unlikely places that clinched the Badger victory Wednesday night. Wisconsin received 9-point performances from Jordan Hill and Khalil Iverson of the bench. Iverson, who threw down several electric dunks, showcased the athleticism that has had Badger fans excited all season. The Badgers also got 7 timely points from Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter. Brown and Showalter’s contributions seemed to come at some of the most crucial junctures Wednesday night.
Iowa was led by Peter Jok, who scored 21 points. Adam Woodbury was a force on the glass all night as well. He collected 18 rebounds for the Hawkeyes. Jarrod Uthoff did chip in 11 points of his own, but the Badgers held the Big Ten’s second leading scorer to 7 points below his average. Uthoff was frustrated all night by the defensive exploits of a variety of Badgers including Nigel Hayes. Jok scored 21 points on the night but the Badgers largely shut him down in the second half. Jok managed just 4 points in the second stanza.
The game was exciting throughout with both teams going on runs and the other team reeling them back in. For every punch each team threw, the other had an equal or stronger counter punch. The largest first half lead was 5 points, which Iowa held by scoring the first 5 points of the game. The Badgers took a 35-34 lead into halftime.
The second half was more of the same. The Hawkeyes jumped out to an early 6-point lead, but the Badgers didn’t give in. The teams continued to jostle until a Koenig 3-pointer with 4:50 to go gave the Badgers the lead at 59-56. The Badgers wouldn’t relinquish the lead from there. Wisconsin got crucial buckets from Hayes and Showalter with under 2:00 to play to secure the victory.
Wednesday night’s game was not a must-win for the Badgers, but their victory in Iowa City will go a long way in guaranteeing them a spot in the tournament. With their win over 8th-ranked Iowa, the Badgers now have three wins over top-10 opponents, including two victories on the road.
Wisconsin closes the conference slate with games against Michigan, Minnesota and Purdue. First up for the Badgers are the Michigan Wolverines Sunday. The Badgers and Wolverines tip off at 5 p.m. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
Stats: uwbadgers.com and bigten.org
Feature image: host.madison.com