MADISON, Wis. — A solid first half was marred by a sluggish second, as Wisconsin handed Iowa a 66-52 loss to begin Big Ten play Thursday night in a sold-out Kohl Center.
The Hawkeyes (11-4, 0-1 Big Ten) had a 12-minute drought between the first and second halves and shot just 16.7 percent from the field in the second. Iowa’s 18 second-half points was a new low for a team coached by Steve Alford.
“Our offense just totally shut down in the second half, and it was discouraging in the second half that our defense didn’t tighten up and do the things we needed to do,” Alford said. “You can’t score 18 points in a half and expect to win unless the other team has got 18.”
Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska each put in 11 points to lead the Hawkeyes, but the majority of those came in the first half.
“We were getting wide open shots, and it was just a tough night for everyone tonight,” Horner said. “You’re going to have to find other ways to win when you’re not shooting the ball well. Our defense wasn’t up to where it has been in the past.”
Horner snapped the Badgers’ 13-1 run to start the second half with a 3-pointer at the 11:40 mark, but Alando Tucker nailed back-to-back 3s himself to push the Badgers out to a 51-38 lead with 10 minutes, 27 seconds to play.
Tucker led Wisconsin with a game-high 27 points. Kammron Taylor added another 11 for the Badgers (11-2, 1-0).
“I’d like to say at halftime we made an adjustment, but we didn’t,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “We just played the same way we did in the first half, except we played better. There was better attention given to detail and we followed the rules.”
Iowa got out to as much as a seven-point lead on a Horner 3-pointer early in the first half. But the Badgers responded with a 12-4 run midway through the half to take their first lead, 19-17.
The Hawkeyes reeled off seven-straight points to regain the lead with 9:45 left on the clock and kept a 34-32 halftime lead, despite failing to score in the last four minutes of the period.
Alford said making shots has been a habitual problem for the Hawkeyes.
“The problems we’ve had have been offensively, and it showed again tonight,” he said. “We’ve got to make shots. We’ve got to have guys who can step up and make shots.”
The coach said the “most discouraging thing” was Iowa’s defensive performance. The Badgers shot 46.7 percent from the field, the exact same percentage Iowa had in the first half.
“We’re going to have games where we’re not shooting very well, but that’s when you’ve got to toughen up at the other end,” Alford said. “We’ve done that this year. But we didn’t do that tonight.”
Tucker, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward, had an ability to drive inside as well as hit perimeter jumpers that proved to be a tough matchup for the Hawkeyes.
“He took it to us all night. He was almost unstoppable,” Haluska said. “We’ve got to come back next time and learn from our mistakes.”
“Alando Tucker is one of the best players in the league, there’s no question about it,” the guard said. “He took it inside on us all night. It’s impossible to stop him, and when he’s hitting 3s he’s pretty good.”
Foul trouble also hurt Iowa. Forward Greg Brunner, who’s had seven double-doubles this season, picked up his third foul with 18:24 on the clock in the second and had to sit out the last six minutes of the first half. Haluska fouled out for the first time this season with three minutes to go in the game.
Brunner had eight points for the game, all in the second half.
“It’s very frustrating,” Brunner said. “It could have gone both ways after the first half, and the credit goes to them — they played exceptionally well in the second half.”
Iowa returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a 1 p.m. Saturday game against undefeated, sixth-ranked Illinois, the defending Big Ten Champion.
“We’ve got to put this game in the past,” Horner said. “We can’t start 0-2 this year. To get a split against Illinois and Wisconsin would be pretty good I think.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com