Iowa Men's Basketball

Struggling Iowa puts together a beauty, overwhelms Wisconsin, 85-67

Iowa Hawkeyes forward Luka Garza (55) scores a basket over Wisconsin Badgers forward Nate Reuvers (35) during the first half of their Big Ten Conference basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes forward Luka Garza (55) scores a basket over Wisconsin Badgers forward Nate Reuvers (35) during the first half of their Big Ten Conference basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Hey, Tom Brokaw. The next game is Saturday night at Nebraska.

Can you make it? Pretty, pretty please?

The legendary NBC news man and former University of Iowa student made an appearance Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, recognized with a standing ovation during a first-half ceremony at midcourt.

Coincidentally, the Hawkeyes put together their best Big Ten Conference game of the season, blasting Wisconsin, 85-67. Not bad, as far as good luck charms go and everything.

“A pretty joyful feeling,” said Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon, he of the 13-point, 11-assist double-double. “When you’re listening to a lot of people on the outside who aren’t necessarily trashing you, but they’re getting on your nerves ... We obviously want to win, stay competitive in whatever game we’re in. To know that we finally put a full 40 minutes together as a team is something we can use as a foundation moving forward.”

Iowa (11-11, 2-7) scored the first nine points and led for 38 minutes and 16 seconds. It played the best defense it has played in seemingly forever, which translated into a good offensive night as well.

Bohannon wasn’t the only guy with a double-double, as freshman center Luka Garza played Wisconsin stud Ethan Happ to a push, if not having a bit of an edge. Garza had 17 points and 16 rebounds, Happ 21 and 10, so you decide who was better.

“I feel like I’m starting to play with a lot more confidence,” Garza said, of his second double-double in the last four games. “I’ve had a couple of stretches where I haven’t been that consistent, but I feel like I’m getting better at that. I think I’m playing as hard as I can is helping me do that. It’s a learning experience, and I’m learning, I’m getting better, and I’m going to continue to get better.”

Five Hawkeyes scored in double figures. Tyler Cook had 17 points, taking over on the interior early in the second half as his team essentially put this one away.

Cook only played 24 minutes because of a turned ankle, but insisted he’ll be a full go against the Cornhuskers.

“We just wanted to be focused tonight, be more connected on the defense end,” Cook said. “Just play with more emotion, and I think we did a good job of that tonight. Our energy level was so much better than it has been in the past few games. I just think we had fun with the game tonight. We followed the game plan, we ran and had fun playing.”

Give this struggling club credit for being able to flush Saturday’s 87-64 debacle against Purdue so quickly. Flush most of the previous last three weeks.

“You want to win in this league, that’s how you have to play,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “You can’t play like we did on Saturday and win in this league. It’s that simple ... If you play this way, you’ve got a chance to win. If you don’t, you’re going to get beat.”

This is the worst Wisconsin team in quite a few years, as losing four starters from a season ago has caught up to the Badgers (10-11, 3-5). But don’t discredit the way Iowa took care of business.

It built a 12-point lead in the first half, saw it whittled to four in the final minute, but had Isaiah Moss get a favorable bounce on a corner 3-pointer and drive the lane for two to close the half for a 37-28 Iowa lead. Moss finished with 15 points.

“Defensively, I thought we were all together,” Moss said. “Our key coming into the game was stay in the stance the whole 30 seconds. I thought we did that, and that converted over into offense.”

“I thought they practiced well,” McCaffery said. “I felt like we were going to play well. Typically, I go on how you prepare and how you work. I felt we worked and prepared well and stayed locked in.”

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Guard Brady Ellingson and forward Ryan Kriener both missed Tuesday night’s game with concussions, Kriener’s second missed game in a row. Ellingson was conked on the head toward the end of Monday’s practice and, like Kriener, is in concussion protocol.

“We’re not going to be satisfied, because we’re 2-7 in the league,” Bohannon said. “We think we can have a stretch of games here where we can get back into contention for the middle or even sneak up towards the top. I think this shows us a lot what we’re capable of. We’ve had a stretch of games where we’ve just sucked the past couple of weeks.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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