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Iowa’s Big Ten title hopes take hit with loss to Wisconsin

[ 0 ] February 22, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Home sweet home? Not exactly.

No. 15 Iowa lost at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the third time in its last four Big Ten basketball games Saturday, following a script that has become painfully repetitive.

Stretches of uninspired play on defense, and an inability to score when it mattered most, led to a 79-74 loss to No. 16 Wisconsin.

With the sellout crowd fully engaged and Iowa taking a one-point lead into the final minute, what could have been a definitive victory turned into a crushing loss for a team that had Big Ten title hopes when the day started. Wisconsin improved to 6-1 against rated teams. Iowa fell to 2-6. One of those wins, an 85-67 romp over No. 10 Michigan, was Iowa’s only home victory in the last four games.

Iowa guard Mike Gesell and Iowa guard Josh Oglesby try to take the ball away from Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Iowa City, Iowa, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)

Iowa guard Mike Gesell and Iowa guard Josh Oglesby try to take the ball away from Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Iowa City, Iowa, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)

“We’ve got to make plays down the stretch,” said Iowa’s Devyn Marble, who scored 21 points and added a career-best 11 assists. “They did.”

The Hawkeyes entered play Saturday one game back of Big Ten co-leaders Michigan State and Michigan. But Wisconsin made that task even more daunting now with several clutch plays down the stretch. Iowa fell to 19-7 overall and 8-5 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are 4-3 at home, 4-2 on the road. A pattern?

“Yea,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We lost to three good teams.”

The Hawkeyes weren’t able to score on the last possession of regulation against No. 6 Michigan State and lost in overtime, 71-69. They made just three of 20 3-pointers and didn’t bring it defensively in a 76-69 loss to Ohio State.

And then Saturday, when Wisconsin got off to a fast start by making 14 of its first 19 field-goal attempts, survived Iowa’s comeback from a nine-point halftime deficit and then scored on its last four possessions in the final minute to improve to 9-5 in the Big Ten and 22-5 overall with its fifth straight win.

“When they took the lead, our guys didn’t blink,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.

Carver-Hawkeye was electric after Marble hit a 3 in transition and then passed to Aaron White for a fast-break basket and a 62-58 lead with 6:29 to go. Iowa had four turnovers in the game at that point. But it turned it over on back-to-back possessions, and Wisconsin caught its second wind.

Down, 64-60, Wisconsin scored three points on each of its next three possessions – Josh Gasser made a pair of 3-pointers over Iowa’s zone, sandwiched around a Nigel Hayes conventional 3-point play when Zach McCabe was called for a blocking foul when they collided in the lane with 3:18 to go.

Red-hot Josh Oglesby, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half on seven-for-nine shooting, gave Iowa its last lead at 72-71 on a jumper with 1:04 to go.

After a time out, Gasser lofted a perfect pass over the defense to 7-foot Frank Kaminsky deep in the paint. He scored for a 73-72 lead and :37.4 left.

“I should have fouled him,” said Iowa’s Gabe Olaseni.

Iowa called time out, then a crucial empty possessions fouled. Marble tried to drive and got stripped in the lane by Kaminsky.

“We were trying to get the ball to Whitey (Aaron White),” Marble said. “They played that. Whitey had his guy sealed and I thought I could get around him. He (Kaminsky) just swiped down.”

Kaminsky, who finished with a team-high 21 points, was fouled and made two free throws for a 75-72 Wisconsin lead at the :24.5 mark.

Iowa had a chance to tie, but Zach McCabe airballed an open 3-pointer.

“I was going up and it just slipped,” a disconsolate McCabe said.

Traevon Jackson knocked down two free throws at the :13.9 mark, and Iowa had to swallow another bitter Big Ten pill.

McCabe, who made his first start of the season after Melsahn Basabe fell ill Saturday morning and was receiving an IV when the game started, tried to put the loss in perspective.

“We played as crappy a basketball as we could in the first half,” McCabe said. “Coming back from that, up four, we made some costly mistakes that just killed us. We didn’t play like the team we are.”

The loss overshadowed Oglesby’s second-half performance, which looked like it was going to the winning edge until the final minute.

“I hate losing,” Oglesby said. “Everyone involved does, too. We’ve got a tough stretch ahead of us, so we’ve got to put this game behind us.”

Iowa now plays at Minnesota and Indiana and returns home for a game against Purdue in a six-day stretch starting Tuesday.

Box score: Wisconsin 79, Iowa 74

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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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