By JAMES ALLAN
INDIANAPOLIS — The fifth-ranked University of Iowa men’s basketball team is on to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2006.
The Hawkeyes advanced after completing the three-game season sweep of Wisconsin with a 62-57 victory on Friday night in the B1G Tournament quarterfinals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Iowa will now face second-seeded Illinois on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (CT).
On a night when Iowa couldn’t buy a 3-point field goal – the Hawkeyes finished just 2-for-20 from long range – Iowa won with its defense. The Hawkeyes limited Wisconsin to one field goal over the final 9:21 and held the Badgers to a 38.6 field goal percentage for the game.
“It was an unreal win, it was ugly, but you have to give a lot of credit to our defense,” said senior Jordan Bohannon. “We really locked down this past month or so. You have to give credit to guys in the locker room, we have battled our butts off every day in practice to be considered one of the better teams in the country defensively.
“Our defense has shown in the last month that we can be like that.”
Senior Luka Garza paced the Hawkeyes with 24 points and nine rebounds. He made 10-of-15 field goals in the game. Bohannon scored 11 points and junior Joe Wieskamp scored 11 and had seven rebounds in his first action since rolling his ankle in the regular season finale.
After leading 32-26 at the break, Wisconsin pushed its lead to 34-26 early in the second half on a Nate Reuvers jumper. Iowa cut the deficit to 34-28 on a Garza layup on the next possession and Bohannon hit the Hawkeyes’ first 3-pointer at the 17:01 mark to get Iowa to within 34-31.
The Hawkeyes fought back to take the 44-43 on a third chance layup from Garza following three offensive rebounds. After four lead changes and a tie, Joe Toussaint put Iowa back on top with a pullup jumper at the 8:30 mark.
Wisconsin stayed around, tying the game on two Micah Potter free throws in the middle of its drought with 3:26 left before Wieskamp put Iowa on top for good. He scored back-to-back layups on assists from Connor McCaffery and CJ Fredrick in a span of 26 seconds.
The Hawkeyes got off to a solid start in the game, jumping out to an 18-11 lead 10 minutes before Wisconsin reeled off eight straight points to take a 19-18 lead. Wisconsin led 32-26 at the break after limiting the Hawkeyes to 39.3 percent shooting, including 0-of-10 from 3-point range.
Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice scored 19 points to lead the team, while Potter had 17 points and eight rebounds.
QUOTING HEAD COACH FRAN MCCAFFERY
“We took care of business; that’s a really good team we beat. We shot 2-for-20 from 3. In the first half we missed 17 shots, only got three back, and had eight turnovers. It’s going to be tough to beat Wisconsin doing that.
“In the second half we got nine offensive rebounds, had zero turnovers and had all the blocked shots and our defense coming down the stretch was really good. I was impressed with the defensive effort against a really good team.”
JBO – ‘THAT WAS AWESOME’
For the first time this season, the Hawkeyes were playing in front of fans, albeit in a limited capacity, but Bohannon and the Hawkeyes noticed.
“To walk on the court and see people yelling your name, cheering for you and seeing family there, it was surreal,” said Bohannon. “It felt l like a dream, knowing as a country what we’ve been through these last 12 months and to see things return to somewhat normal. It was a cool sight to see.
“I know the first time I stepped on the court, I turned to CJ and said this is awesome. We have been waiting for this.”
EXCITED FOR ROUND 2
The first meeting in January in Champaign was an entertaining, up-and-down game, one where Illinois prevailed 80-75. The Hawkeyes are excited for Round 2.
“Illinois is a great team, we have a lot of respect for them and what they’ve accomplished this year,” said Wieskamp. “At the end of the day, we’re not satisfied with the outcome the first time and we’ll be ready tomorrow.”
• Iowa has won eight of its last nine contests, dating back to Feb. 10.
• Luka Garza totaled 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and a game-best four blocks tonight. Garza has scored 22 points or more an NCAA-best 18 times this season. Garza’s totals from tonight moved the All-American into eighth place in Big Ten scoring history surpassing five players tonight (PSU’s Lamar Stevens; PSU’s Talor Battle; Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker; Michigan’s Gary Grant; Michigan’s Louis Bullock).
• Iowa rejected a season-best 10 shots, the most by a Hawkeye team in a Big Ten Tournament game, besting nine versus Purdue on March 9, 2007.
• Iowa held Wisconsin to one field goal over the last 9:20 of the second half.
Saturday’s semifinal game will start at approximately 2:30 p.m. (CT). It will be televised nationally on CBS.
- Iowa has won eight of its last nine contests, dating back to Feb. 10.
- Luka Garza totaled 24 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and a game-best 4 blocks tonight. Garza has scored 22 points or more an NCAA-best 18 times this season. Garza’s totals from tonight moved the All-American into eighth place in Big Ten scoring history surpassing five players tonight (PSU’s Lamar Stevens; PSU’s Talor Battle; Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker; Michigan’s Gary Grant; Michigan’s Louis Bullock).
- Iowa rejected a season-best 10 shots, the most by a Hawkeye team in a Big Ten Tournament game, besting nine versus Purdue on March 9, 2007.
- Iowa held Wisconsin to one field goal over the last 9:20 of the second half.
No. 5 Iowa will face third-ranked Illinois tomorrow in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 2:30 p.m. (CT) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will be televised nationally on CBS.