No. 15 Iowa's hopes for a Big Ten regular season title took a hit Saturday when the Hawkeyes failed once again to finish off an opponent in a close game.
Iowa made one field goal in the final 2 minutes and lost to a surging Wisconsin team 79-74 to fall two games behind Michigan and Michigan State who meet on Sunday in Ann Arbor. The Hawkeyes dropped to fourth place in the conference, which means they still would get a bye in Big Ten tournament if the season ended today, but they will need a strong finish to hold on to that spot..
Obviously there is still plenty of time to change that with five games to play over the next two weeks, but the Hawkeyes appear to need a closer when they find themselves in close games.
Five of the Hawkeyes' seven losses this season have been decided by five points or fewer and all seven have been decided by eight points or fewer. When Iowa wins it's generally in convincing fashion. Only three of its victories have been decided by single-digit margins.
The Hawkeyes have strong 3-point shooters and a go-to guy in Roy Devyn Marble, who scored 21 Saturday, but they haven't been able to close out the tight ones this season, which is a potential red flag heading into tournament time in March.
Meanwhile, 16th-ranked Wisconsin continues to look like it's finding itself after a rough patch in January. The Badgers won their fifth straight and swept the Hawkeyes in the season series, in large part because of their offensive versatility. Three of those wins have come against ranked opponents.
Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker led the way. Kaminsky scored 21 with seven rebounds and Dekker had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. They were two of four Badgers to score in double figures.
Wisconsin is solidly in third-place in the Big Ten with three of its final four games against opponents in the bottom half of the standings.
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