IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)—Wisconsin victories aren’t always artistic. That doesn’t matter to the Badgers, who have relied on their defense to move back into a tie for first place in the Big Ten.
Marcus Landry scored 16 points, Brian Butch added 12 and No. 8 Wisconsin held off Iowa 60-54 on Wednesday night for its 13th victory in 14 games. Joe Krabbenhoft had eight points and eight rebounds to help the Badgers (19-3, 9-1 Big Ten) pull even with surprising Purdue in what’s shaping up to be a tight conference race.
Iowa didn’t make it easy on Wisconsin, staying within one score for most of the second half. But the Badgers—the nation’s leader in scoring defense entering play—held Iowa to 35.4 percent shooting and hit 10 straight free throws in the final 3:29 to seal their 10th win in 11 meetings with the Hawkeyes (11-13, 4-7).
It was a typical low-scoring Big Ten affair, and nobody is better at those than Wisconsin. After losing at Purdue on Jan. 26, the Badgers have won three straight and held their opponents to 50 points a game.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Landry said. “It’s all about executing and making them hit the tough ones. I’m really proud of everyone on the team, because we stuck this one out. We ground it out and we got the win.”
With Iowa down 54-51 with 59 seconds left, Wisconsin’s Marcus Landry blocked Tony Freeman’s layup, giving possession back to the Badgers. Jason Bohannon hit two free throws, but Iowa’s Jeff Peterson answered with a 3 with 25.6 seconds left.
Krabbenhoft hit another pair from the line to make it 58-54. Justin Johnson then missed a 3, and Landry finished things off with two free throws.
Bohannon, an Iowa native, had six of Wisconsin’s final 10 free throws, and he did it under duress. He played his prep ball at nearby Linn-Mar High, and the brave Iowa fans who fought through a snowstorm to attend the game booed him every time he touched the ball.
Bohannon rewarded them by reminding them why they wanted him to play for Iowa.
“We struggled some times offensively from the field tonight, some of shots weren’t falling. So to get 10 points right there…that was really big thing for us,” Bohannon said.
Freeman led Iowa with 18 points, 12 of which came in the first half. Cryus Tate added 15 points and eight boards. The game featured 13 lead changes and seven ties.
“You know it was going to be a low possession game and every possession was going to be valuable,” Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said. “We had three or four that were bad decision on our part. In a game like this, it’s hard to have those and win.”
Iowa had pulled to 48-47 on Johnson’s only 3 of the night, but Wisconsin hit four free throws to take a 52-47 lead with 3:17 left. Flowers cut through the lane for a layup to push that lead to 54-49, but Tate’s putback cut it to 54-51 with 1:33 to go.
Wisconsin jumped ahead briefly, 35-34, on Michael Flowers’ 3. But Iowa went back in front 40-37 when Seth Gorney, who was left all alone in the paint, grabbed a rebound and hit a putback midway through the final half. Wisconsin went up 43-40 on Hughes’ free throw with 8:43 left, but Iowa quickly pulled even.
From there, neither team led by more one score until Butch drilled a 3 that put Wisconsin ahead 48-44 with 5:21 left. But Butch picked up his fourth foul on Iowa’s next possession and was forced to the bench.
Iowa led 29-26 at the break. Freeman drilled his fourth 3 of the half with 21 seconds left to give Iowa a five-point lead, its largest of the game.
Landry had the hot hand for Wisconsin in the early going, scoring 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half. His long jumper with 7 seconds left before the intermission brought the Badgers within three.
Johnson, who led Iowa past Ohio State last Saturday by going 8-of-13 from 3-point range, scored just three points on 1-of-9 shooting.
“We missed a lot of big shots,” Freeman said. “Against a team like that, you’ve got to hit shots.”
Eastern Iowa was hit by as much as a foot of snow in the 24 hours leading up to the game, forcing Iowa to cancel classes on Wednesday. But the Hawkeyes—who are on pace for the lowest average attendance in the 25-year history of Carver-Hawkeye Arena anyway—let students in for free. Hundreds took the school up on its offer, giving the gym a more rousing feel than could have been expected on such a lousy night outside.
Carver-Hawkeye has been one of the toughest arenas in the Big Ten over the last few years, but not for Wisconsin. The Badgers have won seven of their last nine in Iowa City.
Iowa, winners of 41 of its last 49 at home, has been known to rattle the opposing team into making mistakes. It didn’t work with the Badgers, whose late free throws kept the Hawkeyes from making a final push.
“I’d like to say that we did something different or we did some hocus-pocus,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “But in practice we’re just trying to get them some confidence.”