A snowy Iowa evening, a subterranean field house full of drunken students, a semi-en fuego shooting night from a few upperclassmen, lots of things were looking right for the Iowa Hawkeyes' men's basketball team last night. Thankfully, generally solid defense and icily competent free throw shooting late allowed Wisconsin to pull out the victory.
Iowa's Tony Freeman hit 5 three-pointers, and Hawkie's unfortunate looking senior center, Gorney, played the first half of his life. Nonetheless, though they looked staid and out of sorts, UW kept in it-- the lead was only three at half-time, and Iowa's biggest lead was five. Then in the second half, the defense really clamped down, and the Badgers were able to score enough, especially from the line, to pull away. After Hughes missed 2 of 3 free throws, and the front end of a one and one in the late second half, I started freaking out, but eventually the team started raining them down. Even Krabbenhoft, who sometimes displays a painful shooting touch, nailed two clutch free throws. Redemption at the charity stripe was sweet, given that two of Wisconsin's losses (to Marquette and at Purdue) can be closely tied to iffy free throwing.
That much of the clutch free throw shooting came via native Iowan Jason Bohannon (6 for 6 in the last few minutes) made the victory even more satisfying. As many UW fans know, Bohannon's dad was the starting QB for the Hawkeyes in the early 80s, and Jason was offered a scholarship there. Since he chose to go to UW instead, for most of the game, the Iowa students, all of whom were admitted free to the game since massive snowfall through the area had prevented many folks from coming, heckled Bohannon. At the start, there were chants of "traitor! traitor!" when he entered the game, and then throughout just a general chorus of boos whenever he touched the ball. Personally, I find this a bit tiresome and pathetic, particularly because Iowa has some pretty good guards in Justin Johnson and Tony Freeman. Thus, my reaction to the chants and the booing was "get over it, you friggin' losers." To be fair though, the Wisconsin equivalent is the Wes Mathews, Jr. situation, whose dad starred at UW in the 70s, and who was born and raised in Madison, but decided to go to Marquette. Both Bohannon and Mathews were high profile recruits, who were their respective states' player of the year as seniors. I can't remember what happened this December, but I do know that the students roundly mocked Wes upon his first game in Madison two plus years ago. He probably didn't deserve it then, and whatever grief came his way two months ago was also probably undeserved. Kids should be able to find their own paths. Although I hope not to be referencing Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster or his family very often, his son Nolan, who chose to accept a scholarship to play football at Texas instead of playing for his dad, had it right-- "College is where you have to go out and do your own thing." Lets leave these kids alone about this stuff.
A few other observations from this game--
- Even though that arena was far from full, it seemed very loud. Just goes to show you how overly quiet a lot of season-ticket holding adults are, and how effective rowdy students can be. That thought reminded me of the Kohl Center a bit, and the impassivity of the red sweater crowd, although that place was good and loud for the Indiana game. I hope it's the same way on Saturday night for Purdue.
- UW only had 7 turnovers. In a low possession game, that was enormous. Wisconsin managed 1.12 points per possession, which was greatly inflated by the low number of turnovers and the hot free throw shooting down the stretch. Iowa averaged 1.01, which is high for UW, and which was inflated by the number of threes the Hawkies hit (7) and their generally good free throw shooting (76%).
- Iowa can be a dreadful team to watch, since they play quite slowly, working to get open looks off of screens, and play very solid, basic defense. Coach Linkliter is not going to help the Big Ten improve the pace of its games. He will, however, improve the quality of the Iowa teams, I predict. They look a heck of a lot better than they did a month ago. I'm glad UW has now played them twice, since they'll likely continue to improve.
- The contribution of older, allegedly neutral, white men to the game was laughable. The refs were completely inconsistent, and just generally all over the place. One type of foul, a not direct charge, would be called one on end, then the same play would happen on the other, not a foul. I'm thinking of the charge they called on Bohannon, and then the charge they didn't call on Flowers late in the game. Both guys didn't directly run into the defender, and were both in the same area of the lane, against the same guy Gorney. One got a call, and one didn't. Plus, the refs would blow a whistle, look at the other refs to see which way they were going and then make the call. That's ridiculous. If there's a whistle, you should already know what the call is.
The other old white male problem was the Big Ten Network announcers. They were openly rooting for Iowa. They praised Iowa so much for just keeping it competitive, you would have thought, if you were just listening, that Iowa was stomping UW. Plus, a play would happen, and a call would be made that you couldn't make out on TV, and they wouldn't explain what had just happened. Totally frustrating. Plus, they called every white player on Wisconsin "Butch" and every black player on the Badgers "Landry". Nice work, guys. Maybe they just wanted a close game, and that's understandable from a ratings perspective, but still. I know half a dozen untrained people that could have done a better job. Hell, Andy North is a golf announcer, and he did a better job when he came on for two minutes.
Next up, Purdon't in Mad-town. Two somewhat unlikely teams tied for the Big Ten lead. Should be fun stuff to watch. I suspect this game will be called a little tighter than the contest in W. Lafayette, where Purr-do was allowed to hand check and forearm shiver every ball-handler for every second of the game. If that's the case, it should be advantage UW.