Wisconsin vs. Iowa: So Much For That Northwestern Miracle
Here's the weird thing about last night's Wisconsin-Iowa game--if I wasn't a huge Wisconsin fan and was simply a disinterested party tuning in to watch a random hoops game, I'd have been cheering for Iowa. The Hawkeyes' toughness and hustle were apparent on a night when they needed every ounce of effort. The refs weren't doing them any favors, and Wisconsin certainly didn't let up with its physical play. Iowa had the underdog thing going for it heading into the game, and the way things played out, it became even tougher not to root for them. Because I’m not some disinterested party, I was still screaming my head off with joy when Jordan Taylor hit is wild three-pointer. And if pressed, I'd tell you that neither team played a particularly pretty game, but I gained a lot of respect for Iowa's toughness last night. I had written them off as just a notch above Indiana this year, but who knows--maybe Iowa will squeak out an game or two more than I thought. Last night sure came as a surprise.
As always, a few nots on things that I saw:
1) Kevin Gullikson started the game? This may be the first time that I’ve ever seen Bo Ryan change his starting lineup for non-injury related reasons. Next thing you know, the Badgers are going to be testing out a 1-3-1 zone.
2) I'm not sure which aspect of last night made me feel more sorry for Matt Gatens--the fact that Wayne Larrivee kept jinxing his free throw shooting (a 97% shooter coming in according to Larivee, Gatens missed three of them last night), or the fact that he seemed to be continually getting called for fouling Joe Krabbenhoft by thrusting his face into Krabbenhoft's elbow. The glazed and astounded look on Gatens face every time he hit the deck after a whistle told the story. Here's hoping that after some of the doubt raised during the game, all of his teeth are still in place.
3) In his limited time, I thought Keaton Nankivil looked pretty good offensively, showing some of his solid post moves and impressive shooting range for a big man.
4) Jake Kelly had a nice game, but his shoulder tattoo on his smallish arms is what stood out to me most, as it gave him the physical appearance of one of my favorite silly-looking basketball sights: the scrawny, tattooed division three backup guard who's a lot less bad-ass than he thinks.
5) The announcing crew clearly had their minds on Mike Kelley, the former Badger guard and occasional ESPN regional color commentator last night, referring to both Iowa’s Jake Kelly and sideline reporter Mike Hall as “Mike Kelley” at different times during last night’s broadcast.
6) I’m hoping that this is the first and last time that Jason Bohannon gives the introductions of the team’s starting lineup for the Big Ten Network broadcast. Bohannon is just such an awkward looking guy when you see him up close that’s it’s hard to believe that he’s an athlete. I’m sure that in person he seems much bigger and more athletic (athletes always seem strangely more impressive when you have to stand next to them and confront your own shortcomings), but in isolation or among other athletes, I just find myself thinking that he’s lucky he’s good at basketball, because otherwise I suspect he’d be picked on a lot.
7) I’m not going to blame the broadcast team for giving more camera time to Bohannon’s parents than they did to some of the actual players in the game. Normally I’d be annoyed by this, but I’m willing to concede that the fact that Bohannon’s dad was the quarterback for one of Iowa’s better football teams remains a pretty interesting dynamic.
8) Obviously I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the fact that Jordan Taylor’s crazy shot to tie the game at the end of regulation and subsequent excellent play in overtime made him the star of the night for Wisconsin. Taylor probably should have been rattled more by the breakaway layup that he had blocked by Aaron Fuller just minutes prior, but he just kept on pushing through. That’s what I’ve loved about Taylor all season long–the fact that he operates at a higher maturity level than any freshman has a right to. It didn’t hurt that he started hitting three-pointers last night, either.
9) Speaking of Aaron Fuller’s block of Jordan Taylor’s layup, that was pretty clearly the turning point in the game, and is one of the things that made me think I’d be cheering for Iowa were I just a disinterested fan who happened upon the game. Taylor’s steal on the perimeter looked like it was going to put Wisconsin up by four points with the clock winding down. This would have been a huge advantage at that juncture in the game. Instead, Fuller refused to give up on the play, made a spectacular (and totally clean) block from behind. Not only did his block prevent Wisconsin from scoring, but it directly led to Bo Ryan drawing a technical foul for complaining about the play (I’m just assuming that’s what the technical was for, but I think it’s a pretty safe assumption). Fuller’s hustle play basically led to a four-point swing, which turned out to be huge down the stretch for the Hawkeyes. I hated to see that play, but still must admit that it was a thing of beauty.
10) Devan Bawinkel may have the most fun name in the entire Big Ten.
11) I’m not as overly concerned about Trevon Hughes taking a seat on the bench during overtime and ceding his minutes to Jordan Taylor. It’s no secret that Hughes is in a bit of a slump, but I’m fully expecting Hughes to come out it at some point. Taylor played excellent basketball last night, and I was glad to see him on the floor. But if March comes around and the Badgers are in overtime again, I’d be pretty shocked if Hughes isn’t out there. Perhaps Taylor will be out there next to him in crunch time by that point...
12) Kudos to the Iowa band for closing out the win by playing "In Heaven There Is No Beer" immediately after the final buzzer went off. Perhaps they close out every victory in this manner, but I’d say that when you’re playing Wisconsin, playing that particular song is a nice, subtle way of twisting the knife in further after your team has beaten them.
So, the Badgers fell in overtime and made last night’s shocking Northwestern win at Michigan State a lot less exciting to Wisconsin fans. Here’s hoping that the Badgers can get back on track against Illinois this weekend. It’s pretty clear that there are no more games that they can take for granted (well, except those against Indiana).