IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)—Wisconsin eclipsed the best start in school history by relying on the formula that got it there.
Defense, poise and a whole lot of Alando Tucker.
Tucker scored 27 points, Brian Butch added 13 points and 14 rebounds and No. 2 Wisconsin beat Iowa 57-46 on Sunday, topping the school’s old mark of 20-1 set in 1915-16.
Tucker went 11-of-14 from the floor for the Badgers (21-1, 7-0 Big Ten), who also extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games and improved to 5-0 on the road.
“For me as a player to be a part of this, it’s special,” Tucker said. “This is a special team, and I have a gut feeling that we have so much more to accomplish. But it just feels good to know that we’re setting records here at Wisconsin.”
Tucker’s had a lot to do with that.
The favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year honors was at it again against the Hawkeyes. He set the tone by scoring 17 points in the first half—more than a few of which came in traffic—to help give Wisconsin a lead it never relinquished.
“The best in the country. He basically put this team on his back and carried us,” said guard Kammron Taylor. “This is just another example of what he can do, especially in big games.”
Up four at halftime, Wisconsin quickly pulled ahead by 10, 32-22, as Tucker followed two field goals from Butch with a bank shot in the paint. Butch added threes on back-to-back trips down the floor to push the Badgers lead to 42-31.
Butch had just three points at the break. But he came out firing following a brief and colorful halftime chat with coach Bo Ryan. He went 4-of-7 from the field in the second half, stretching an Iowa defense that already had its hands full with Tucker.
“I can’t use the language…(I said) just shoot the ball. Just shoot it. Don’t think about it,” Ryan said. “He made really good decisions, played great defense.”
Iowa answered with a 10-3 run, pulling within 45-41 on a Kurt Looby floater. But Tucker sandwiched a turnaround jumper and a 15-footer around Marcus Landry’s 3-point play, helping the Badgers move back ahead 53-41 with 3:58 left.
That run epitomized Wisconsin’s afternoon. Every time Iowa began to threaten the lead, the Badgers stayed poised and took a sellout crowd out of the game with defensive stops and key baskets from Butch and Tucker.
“When Brian becomes that consistent third scorer, this team really has a chance to advance deep into the tournament,” Alford said. “They’re definitely the class of our league right now. Any time they can get Brian doing the things that he does, that’s a plus.”
Iowa (11-10, 3-4) was held to 28 percent shooting—including 2-of-14 from 3-point range—and was held under 50 for the first time all season.
“The experience definitely helped us. Experience and depth is what we’re banking on right now,” Ryan said. “They beat us on the offensive boards. They forced more turnovers. But that shooting percentage is what it is.”
Adam Haluska scored 16 points to lead the Hawkeyes, who saw its 12-game home winning streak against Big Ten opponents snapped. Iowa fell for just the second time in 30 games at home.
Iowa’s top two players, Haluska and freshman Tyler Smith, both had miserable shooting efforts. Smith missed his first 12 shots and finished 3-of-17 from the floor. Despite scoring 16, Haluska was worse. He went 3-of-18 from the floor and 1-of-7 from 3-point range.
“I think there were stretches where our shot selection wasn’t really good,” Alford said.
Tucker scored 14 of Wisconsin’s first 20 points and keyed a 14-0 run that gave the Badgers and early 11-point lead. He hit back-to-back 3’s—one that hit nearly every part of the rim before falling through and another right in Haluska’s face—and tipped in a botched alley-oop as Wisconsin jumped ahead 23-12.
“I really like the things he did. He worked so hard away from the ball to get post position and separation out on the perimeter,” Ryan said of Tucker. “And defensively, I thought he did a great job.”
Though the Hawkeyes pulled to within four on a couple occasions, the Badgers held the lead the rest of the way.
Wisconsin is now 7-0 in the Big Ten play for the first time since they went 12-0 in 1914. The Badgers are well aware of the history they’ve made so far, but they insist that they haven’t done anything yet.
“It’s something to be proud of. I don’t want to play it off as no big deal. But for us, we’re not concentrating right now on that,” Butch said. “Maybe when the season is over with and we have time to look back at what we’ve accomplished, if anything, we can look back at it. But right now we’re on wave and just trying to keep on doing what we’ve been doing.”