IOWA CITY, Iowa
For once, Iowa was the aggressor.
The result was a much-needed win over a long-time rival and, finally, some hope that the next six weeks might not be so bleak after all.
Freshman Luka Garza scored 17 points with a career-high 16 rebounds, Tyler Cook added 17 points and Iowa walloped Wisconsin 85-67 on Tuesday night, snapping a two-game losing streak.
Isaiah Moss scored 15 points for the Hawkeyes (11-11, 2-7 Big Ten), who won for just the second time in seven games and for the first time at home in league play.
"We were able to play ahead the whole time," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. 'I thought we worked and prepared well — and we stayed locked in."
Getting up early was indeed crucial for Iowa, which never trailed after falling behind by at least 17 points in each of its previous six games. The Hawkeyes got off to a scorching start — forcing nine straight Badgers misses to go up by 12 midway through the first half.
Iowa, which jumped ahead by holding Wisconsin star Ethan Happ to just four points in the opening half thanks in part to Garza's defense, made it 50-32 on an Moss 3 early in the second half.
Happ rallied to finish with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals and Khalil Iverson scored 17 for the Badgers (10-11, 3-5). They played their worst game in weeks just four days after throttling Illinois 75-50 in Madison.
"We were never able to establish our footing defensively," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "This group has not taken those steps where we need to take them consistently all year."
THE BIG PICTURE
Wisconsin: The Badgers missed an opportunity for a rare road win in the league, and they're now two games below .500 in conference play. Wisconsin plays six of its last nine Big Ten games at home — but that won't matter if the Badgers perform as poorly as they did in Iowa City. "Their bigs outworked our bigs," Gard said.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes played one of their worst games in recent memory their last time out, an 87-64 loss to No. 3 Purdue in which they trailed 51-20 at halftime. So to jump out to a big lead and keep it was an extraordinarily encouraging sign for an Iowa team that had gone largely backward since Big Ten play resumed. "You can't play like you did against (Purdue) and win in this league...if you play this way, you have a chance to win," McCaffery said.
Iowa was without guard Brady Ellingson and forward Ryan Kriener, both of whom missed the game with concussions. It hardly affected the Hawkeyes, as their starters scored 68 points. Cook turned his ankle late in the second half, but McCaffery said he could have returned should Iowa have needed him too. For once, it didn't.
Jordan Bohannon had 13 points and 11 assists for Iowa, and Cordell Pemsl scored 11 with seven boards. ...Wisconsin was 4 of 18 on 3s and got outrebounded 41-32. ...The Hawkeyes, who entered play with one of the worst Power Five defenses in America, held the Badgers to 40 percent shooting for its biggest win by margin of victory in the series since 1997.
HE SAID IT
"I thought Luka was great. Happ's an All-American and Luka is a freshman," McCaffery said. "I thought Luka slid his feet really well and made it tough for him."
Wisconsin travels to face Michigan State on Friday.
Iowa plays at Nebraska on Saturday