IOWA CITY — A roaring, sellout crowd for once. A chance for a huge win at home to start Big Ten play.
An opportunity to keep all of this early season non-conference momentum rolling. An opportunity to officially flush a bad week off the court.
No. On all of that.
It was Wisconsin that made plays down the stretch and handed No. 15 Iowa its first loss of the season, 72-66, Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Brevin Pritzl’s 3-pointer from the corner with 1:34 left put the 22nd-ranked Badgers on top for good.
“We played hard, fought against a great team that came in this building tonight,” said Iowa’s Tyler Cook, who statistically won the battle of All-Big Ten guys against Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. “It always hurts when you have a chance to win down the stretch. A couple things we did or didn’t do pretty much decided the game. It’s frustrating, but it’s also encouraging at the same time to know that we’re right there. We’ve just got to find a way to seal the deal.”
Iowa (6-1), which plays Monday night at Michigan State, built an eight-point lead of 46-38 on Luka Garza’s spinning and-one shot down low with 12:56 left, but Wisconsin (7-1, 1-0) was able to regroup and eventually take the lead back. Freshman Joe Wieskamp’s drive through the lane for an and-one three-point play gave Iowa a 61-60 edge with 3:13 to go.
But he helped too heavily defensively inside on Happ a couple of minutes later, who kicked it out to Pritzl for his wide-open, game-winning trey. That shot gave Wisconsin a 63-61 edge.
“I just made a mistake,” Wieskamp said. “I’ve just got to learn from it.”
Garza had an open look from the top of the 3-point circle on Iowa’s ensuing possession, but the ball wouldn’t drop. That was the story of this game, as Iowa shot just 39 percent, including 6-of-24 from range.
“We didn’t do some things down the stretch we wanted to do,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “But we also did some things we wanted to do, and just ... we ran some good action, the ball just didn’t go in. So that’s frustrating.”
“We just didn’t make some shots,” said Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon, who was 3-for-12 from the field, 3 of 8 from 3-point range. “We had a lot of open shots. Especially myself, I had so many good looks tonight. I just couldn’t get anything to fall tonight ... If I could fix it, I would. It’s just pissing me off. I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve just got to keep working.”
Cook was a manchild at times here, recording a double-double of 19 points and 15 rebounds. He added four assists, almost single-handedly putting Wisconsin into foul trouble by drawing 11 of them.
Happ fouled out with 45 seconds left and his team ahead, 65-61. He had 13 points and seven boards.
“From a fan standpoint, Happ against Cook, it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard. “Two of the better players in the country.”
While Iowa contained Happ, it couldn’t say the same thing about guard D’Mitrik Trice, whose game-high 20 points for Wisconsin included some dagger 3s, one with 20 seconds left over Iowa’s Connor McCaffery that gave his club a 68-63 lead.
“Trice played really well. Got to his spots, hit a couple of 3s that were really big,” Garza said. “When we had that run in the second half and got up a little bit, I think we should have done a better job containing that lead. Nevertheless we had a shot at it late. We just didn’t execute down the stretch. That’s what cost us the game.”
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“We’ve got to get ready for Monday,” Bohannon said. “As much as we want to dwell on this loss, we were there the entire game, should have had them. We’ve got to find a way to move on and get ready for Michigan State.”
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