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December 31, 2011

UW off the mark versus Iowa

MADISON -- It's no secret that 3-point baskets are a key part of the offense for No. 11 Wisconsin. The Badgers have made 121 of 315 attempts beyond the arc this season, and their shooting typically is especially impressive at home.

So, when those outside shots aren't falling, UW has to adjust.

Facing an Iowa team that had yet to win away from home on the season -- and was winless in Madison since 2000 -- Wisconsin looked out of sync Saturday throughout a stunning 72-65 loss.

Wisconsin took care of the ball, played adequate defense, and was effective moving the ball offensively. But the Badgers shot just 34.8 percent for the game, including a 3-for-28 mark from 3-point range.

"You've gotta hit some of those shots. It takes away some of the effectiveness of transition," said UW head coach Bo Ryan. "If you hit shots, it's amazing how much better your defense looks. It's never changed. 1891 it started."

Thanks in part to Iowa's defensive effort, Wisconsin missed six times from beyond the arc before Ben Brust connected for the team's first 3-pointer just under 11 minutes into the game.

The Badgers added three more misses from outside over the next four minutes until a 3-pointer by Jordan Taylor gave Wisconsin its first lead of the game with 5:17 to play in the first half.

"Just one of those days," said forward Jared Berggren, who missed all five of his 3-point attempts. "You can't really explain it, I guess. Just, sometimes, it's the way the ball's going to bounce. On a night like that, we've got to do a better job of getting the ball inside, not settling for jumpers as much. And do a better job on defense."


Though it seemed they could not do much worse from 3-point range than 2-for-14 shooting in the first half, the Badgers struggles outside only got worse after the break.

Over the first 19 minutes of the second half, Wisconsin missed 11 times from beyond the arc. When Taylor hit a three with 54 seconds remaining -- cutting the Iowa lead to just five points -- it snapped an 0-for-14 stretch from 3-point range for the Badgers.

Shooting just 10.7 percent from 3-point range, Wisconsin posted its worst mark since hitting just 9.5 percent (2-of-21) of its 3-point shots against Penn State in the 2011 Big Ten tournament. UW also lost that game, 36-33.

But as much as poor shooting contributed to the Badgers' loss, the team's other strength -- it's defense -- was not able to pick up the slack.

"Not shooting the ball well, that's going to happen," Taylor said. "But not being able to get stops, especially down the stretch [was disappointing]."

Through 14 games, Wisconsin had allowed an NCAA-best 44.4 points per game this season, while also leading the nation in field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to just 33.3 percent.

Iowa easily surpassed both of those marks, putting up 72 points -- 11 more than any other Wisconsin opponent this season -- while shooting at a 49.2 percent clip. Even when UW cut the lead late from a game-high 12 points to just six, later three, Iowa responded with big shots on the other end of the floor when it needed them most.

With a 41-39 advantage on the boards, the Hawkeyes also were the fifth team to outrebound the Badgers this season.

"You can't come in here and lose the battle on the glass and expect to win," said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. "We out-rebounded them and we chased them off the three. We contested the three, and then we executed the offense by pushing the ball."

The loss was the Badgers' first in a Big Ten home opener during Bo Ryan's tenure as head coach. It also marks the first time since the 2008-09 season that Wisconsin has lost two home games in a single season.

UW lost at home for just the 13th time in 11 seasons under Ryan, and just the seventh time in Big Ten play at the Kohl Center.

"The Big Ten's going to be like this the whole year," Ryan said. "I just think there are so many teams that are equal [that] if you have a cold night, you're not going to walk away [with a win]. Defensively, we had some breakdowns, but I think a lot of that was caused by what we weren't able to do on offense."

***

Notes:

- Saturday marked the Badgers' first home loss in Big Ten play since a 63-56 defeat against Illinois on Feb. 9, 2010.

- Wisconsin had won 12 consecutive Big Ten home openers prior to Saturday's loss.

- The Badgers and Hawkeyes are now deadlocked at 77-77 in the all-time series after Iowa won for the first time in Madison since Jan. 29, 2000.

- UW is now 160-13 (.925) at home under Bo Ryan, including a 78-7 (.918) mark in Big Ten play. UW's home winning percentage of .925 since 2001 ranks fourth in the nation over that span.

- Saturday snapped a streak of 18 consecutive games in which the Badgers had held opponents to 65 or fewer points, the longest in the NCAA.

- Wisconsin went 14-of-17 at the free throw line Saturday, good for it's highest FT percentage (82.4 percent) of the season.

- Jordan Taylor now has 1,192 career points, moving him into 20th place on Wisconsin's all-time scoring list.

- Taylor also moved into second place all-time at Wisconsin in assists with 391, passing Mike Heineman (388).

- Jared Berggren scored in double digits for the 10th time in 15 games this season.

- Josh Gasser equaled a season-high with eight rebounds, while shooting a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line.


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