The Wisconsin Badgers certainly weren’t setting the world on fire, but they did appear as if they would pick up a much needed Big Ten win to stay in the Big Ten title hunt.
Then a play here and play there, a couple of missed free throws and the heroics of an opposing freshman turned victory into defeat as the Iowa Hawkeyes escaped the Kohl Center with a 59-57 win over Wisconsin.
The Badgers suffered their third straight defeat and fifth in the last six games and will now play their final regular season game on Sunday against Minnesota in a battle for the 2-seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers can still secure that with a win on Senior Day.
Purdue clinched the Big Ten title outright with Wisconsin’s latest loss.
The Badgers led by nine points with 4 minutes and 46 seconds left. They were up five with 2:03 left to play. But two turnovers against Iowa’s full-court pressure and the Hawkeyes closed the game on a 7-0 run to pull out the win.
With Iowa down one, Iowa’s Peter Jok missed a jump shot, but Nigel Hayes mistimed his jump for the rebound and Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl chased down the loose ball. Pemsl dished it to freshman Jordan Bohannon and the freshman guard, who grew up cheering for the Badgers, buried the three to give Iowa the 59-57 lead with just under 10 seconds to play.
Bronson Koenig, who led the Badgers with 19 points, had a wide open look from 17 feet but missed it short. It would have tied the game and likely forced overtime.
The Badgers (22-8, 11-6 Big Ten) are now tied with Maryland (3-7, 11-6) for second place.
Sunday’s game against Minnesota has some big implications. If the Badgers lose, they could slip somewhere between the four and six seed, depending on the outcome of other conference games.
Iowa (17-13, 9-8) snapped a six-game losing streak against Wisconsin and won their third straight game overall.
The Hawkeyes bench outscored the Badgers bench 24-4 and Wisconsin converted just 5 of their 14 free throw attempts. Ethan Happ (11 points) finished 1 for 7 and is now shooting 48.5% from the line this season. Nigel Hayes had 10 points and went 2 for 4 from the line. His season free throw percentage is 59.5%. The Badgers as a team are just 65%.
A win Sunday against the rival Gophers on senior day at the Kohl Center would be huge for the Badgers. They need some momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament, as well as the NCAA tournament. At this point in time, you can’t help but think that the Badgers post season will be a quick one.