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Hawkeyes will try to crack the Badger code again

[ 0 ] January 4, 2014 |

MADISON, Wis. – Iowa’s last two visits to the Kohl Center have been sweet and bittersweet.

There was a 72-65 upset of No.11 Wisconsin in 2011-12, and an upsetting 74-70 double-overtime loss last season. In between, Iowa has defeated the Badgers twice in Iowa City. The secret to coach Fran McCaffery’s success?

“I don’t think there’s anything scientific to it, to be honest with you,” said McCaffery, whose 22nd-ranked team takes on No.4 and undefeated Wisconsin at 7p.m. today at the Kohl Center. “I don’t want to overdramatize some brilliant scheme we’ve come up with. I don’t think that’s it at all. I think we’ve played hard, we’ve played tough, I think we go into the game respecting what they do and how they do it. And then we take the time to figure out how they do it and combat that.”

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has constructed another outstanding team using his time-tested blueprint for success. His teams value the ball.

Wisconsin leads the nation with just 8.2 turnovers per game. They beat you with balance. The Badgers have had four players score in double figures in 10 out of 14 games. They defend, limiting opponents to 59.8 points a game.

The Badgers spread the floor on offense and get plenty of open looks from the perimeter. Wisconsin’s five starters have made between 13 and 39 3-pointers this season. They always have a go-to guy. This year it’s sophomore forward Sam Dekker, averaging 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds.

“As a sophomore he’s one of the elite players in the country, forget about our league, and I think that’s had a lot to do with it,” McCaffery said of Wisconsin’s success.

And yet Iowa has been able to crack the code of late. And a big reason why is Wisconsin’s lack of success from 3-point range. The Badgers have made just 24-of-92 3-pointers in the last four games with Iowa. Wisconsin enters this game shooting 39.2 percent from long range. The Hawkeyes are ninth nationally in 3-point defense at 27.2.

“We’ll go in there with a solid game plan and an intensity level that will hopefully be successful,” McCaffery said.

This will be the first time Iowa has played a game against a Big Ten foe when both teams were ranked since March12, 2006, when the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes knocked off No.7 Ohio State 67-60 in the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament.

Wisconsin, off to the best start in school history since the 1911-12 and 1913-14 teams finished 15-0, offers an enticing prize for Iowa’s NCAA resume come March.

Iowa, 12-2 overall, is 1-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Wisconsin’s 76-49 victory at Northwestern was its 11th consecutive victory in a conference opener.

The Hawkeyes have lost eight straight games against Top25 teams.

“To me, it’s just another opportunity to see where we are,” McCaffery said. “Playing the fourth-ranked team in the country, who is undefeated, on the road, in a hostile environment, I think will identify who we are. Can we play against a really good team and consistently compete to where we can win the game?

“If you win that game, it obviously has a great impact on how we are viewed.”

That said, McCaffery doesn’t label this a feast-or-famine game.

“You don’t want to make too much out of it if you win,” McCaffery said. “And you don’t want to make too much out of it when you lose, because we have more opportunities exactly like this one coming.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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