MADISON, Wis. - After holding the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers to just 26.7 shooting from the floor in the first half it looked like the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes might cruise to a road upset in the Kohl Center.
The Hawkeyes looked like the more confident team throughout the first half - they pushed the Badgers around in the paint and out-worked UW for rebounds. Wisconsin looked out of sorts, and not at all like the team that started the season 14-0.
The Hawkeyes took a 35-24 lead into halftime, but Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery changed the game after the Badgers started on a 15-6 run in the second half. The fourth-year head coach went ballistic after Gabriel Olaseni was called for a foul with 11:52 left in the second half, and bumped an official after he was cited for his first technical foul. The bump, which McCaffery said he didn't feel, led to McCaffery's second technical foul and an ejection.
Wisconsin senior guard Ben Brust hit all four of Wisconsin's free throws after McCaffery's ejection, giving the Badgers their first lead since the game's opening minutes. The Hawkeyes cut into Wisconsin's lead at times over the rest of the game, but Badgers held on for a 75-71 win and moved to 15-0 on the season.
McCaffery said after the game that his two technical fouls didn't cost the Hawkeyes the game, but the Badgers seemed to build on their momentum after that turn of events.
"I'm sure he regrets that," junior guard Josh Gasser said after the game. "[It was] probably not the smartest thing in the world, but it helped us out. I am not complaining."
Wisconsin outscored the Hawkeyes, 36-30, after McCaffery's ejection, and made 21-of-26 free throws in the second half as a whole. Brust led the Badgers with 19 points in the game, with all of them coming in the second half.
Brust said his four free throws were the hardest ones he's attempted in his life, and he credited his team's second half turnaround to their halftime adjustments.
"I think we just kind of stopped thinking out there and went out and played basketball," Brust said. "I think collectively all of us, we didn't play basketball in the first half. We were just kind of playing tentative and not being ourselves."
The Badgers also had to make the most of their offense on a night where star forward Sam Dekker had trouble getting normally easy layups to fall. Dekker's first field goal came with 2:21 left in the game, and he finished the game with just eight points on 2-of-12 shooting from the floor.
Dekker's first field goal came at a convenient time for the Badgers, though. Josh Gasser found Dekker for a 3-pointer that extended Wisconsin's lead to 67-63, just after Iowa's Roy Devin Marble hit a 3-pointer of his own.
"I knew I [hadn't] hit a shot yet," Dekker said when asked what he was thinking after his ninth shot of the night found the bottom of the net. "I didn't know how many I missed. That's basketball. It's going to happen once in a while. All of my shots felt good tonight. It's not like I felt like it wasn't there. I just wasn't hitting them.
"Usually I don't show much emotion after a 3-pointer, but if you saw me in that corner I yelled pretty loud there. There was a lot of frustration coming out of me."
UW finished the game shooting just 37.7 percent from the field, even after shooting 52.2 percent in the second half. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, shot just 31.3 percent after halftime, and made just 17 of their 25 free throws.
"I think we lost the game at the start of the second half," McCaffery said. "We got Brust going, we don't pick him up, we quick-shot the ball. You can't go on the road against a ranked team and quick-shoot the ball when the momentum is shifting. It's hard one because it's not like you'd say any of those shots we took were horrible shots. Good players were taking pretty good shots, but we didn't do anything like we had done in the first half."
But while McCaffery might believe that his two technical fouls and Wisconsin's four ensuing free throws didn't cost the Hawkeyes the game, the Badgers weren't afraid to point to the Iowa head coach's implosion as one of the game's turning points.
"There was a swing of momentum there in the second half," Brust said. "We just kind of rode it and took advantage of it."
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