IOWA CITY — "It started with stops," Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp said, and that oxymoron was right on the money.
But the Hawkeyes’ 68-62 men’s basketball win over Wisconsin Monday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena pretty much ended because a Badger got too grabby.
The two teams’ shooting was ugly, and the interaction between them was unseemly late in the game. It was a slog of a game, but it ended beautifully as far as the Hawkeyes were concerned.
A flagrant foul called on Wisconsin’s Brad Davison during a timeout with 32 seconds left basically was a final kick in the, uh, head to the Badgers.
An officials’ review determined Davison poked Iowa screener Connor McCaffery in the — shall we say upper leg area on the play Wieskamp scored on immediately before the timeout to give Iowa a 62-59 lead.
Davision was given a flagrant 1, which meant two free throws to the player who was fouled and the subsequent possession going to his team. McCaffery made a free throw off the flagrant and Iowa went on to make four more foul shots in the final 32 seconds to keep the Badgers at bay.
“He grabbed me right in the — where you don’t want to be grabbed in,” McCaffery said about Davison. “He does that. He’s marked for doing that. He’s the type of player, unfortunately, who feels the need to do that stuff. Tonight he cost them the game.”
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“I asked the referee Bo (Boroski) what happened,” Davison said. “He said I wrapped his leg when I came around the screen. I’m not sure that was a flagrant foul.”
Uh, look at this video clip and make your own determination.
What put Iowa in position to be ahead at the time of Davison’s misdeed was defense. The Badgers scored five points in the game’s last seven minutes.
Iowa trailed 57-45 with 7:13 left, but used a 12-0 run over the next 4:55 to tie the game. Joe Toussaint’s three-point play off a basket in the paint gave the Hawkeyes their first lead of the second half, 60-59, with 1:20 to go. Joe Wieskamp knifed for a score with 35 seconds left to up the lead to 62-59, and Wisconsin called time after getting the ball into the frontcourt.
Then came the flagrant foul call, and what was left to unravel unraveled for the Badgers. No. 18 Iowa improved to 15-5 overall and 6-3 in the Big Ten with its fifth-straight win, putting it a game out of first-place. Wisconsin is 12-9 and 5-5.
Easy for Iowa, this game obviously was not. The Hawkeyes seldom controlled the tempo, and their shooting was poor. They were an icy 33.3 percent from the field and a frigid 15 percent (3-of-20) from 3-point range.
However, the Badgers shot a mere 37.5 percent from the floor themselves.
“I think you saw in the last eight minutes a lot of grit, a lot of toughness, a lot of getting after them at the defensive end,” said Iowa’s CJ Fredrick. “We got them to miss shots, we got rebounds, and we executed.”
“I thought we defended coming down the stretch,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “23-5 to end the game is typically more of an indication of your defense than it is your offense, and I would say that’s the case.”
“We dug in and grinded on defense,” Connor McCaffery said. “A big thing was playing good defense. We secured rebounds, too.”
Iowa’s Luka Garza had 18 rebounds, matching his career-high. He had to work hard for his game-high 21 points, and made just 6 of 17 shots. But he got that 21, and he drew a dozen fouls.
Freshman guards Fredrick and Toussaint had 17 and 11 points, respectively. Toussaint provided the game’s superior point guard play down the stretch.
“He changed the whole complexion of the game in that last four minutes,” Fredrick said.
“His decision-making today,” Fran McCaffery said, “was spectacular. That’s who he has to be.”
Davison made a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute of the second half to give the Badgers a 36-30 lead. It was 43-36 at the media timeout with 14:52 left, in no small part because Iowa had missed all but one of its first 14 3-point attempts.
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Things didn’t get better for the Hawkeyes, and they found themselves behind 57-45 with 7:13 left when D’Mitrik Trice sank a 3-pointer.
It was the Badgers’ last basket for 5 minutes and 25 seconds.
Iowa’s next game is Thursday night at No. 15 Maryland (6-3, 16-4). Then, No. 19 Illinois comes here Sunday at noon.
The Hawkeyes played Monday’s game wearing Kobe Bryant’s signature Nike shoes. Their head coach wore a pair, too, to honor the NBA superstar who died Sunday in a southern California helicopter crash. Bryant and Fran McCaffery grew up in Philadelphia.
“He and I played for the same AAU coach, Sam Rines,” Fran McCaffery said. “I knew his dad really well, Joe Bryant. ... I recruited him when I was at Notre Dame, spoke to him on the phone, went and saw him, took my head coach to go see him in the Palestra when he played against Rip Hamilton, one of the best high school games I ever saw.
“I watched Kobe grow up, I watched him in high school, I watched him when he was a kid. But these guys (his players), it really hit home for them and when they had the idea to wear the Kobes, I said ‘I’m on board, I’m going to wear the Kobes as well.’”
It was Connor McCaffery’s idea.
“It’s not who he was to me,” Connor said, “it’s more just who he was to basketball. He was a legend, was a hero to so many people.
“He brought a new look on defense, work ethic. He would change the game in so many ways.
“He was the greatest at locking up the other team’s best player. The best. We needed to lock in on that side of the floor tonight and I feel like we did that.”