IOWA CITY — The Wisconsin Badgers do not live by Ethan Happ alone. They showed that Friday night.
The Iowa basketball team did a good job of controlling the former Rockridge High School star, holding him without a double-double for the first time this season and eventually getting him to foul out.
But Brevin Pritzl and D’Mitrik Trice knocked down devastating 3-point field goals in the final two minutes, and the Badgers made enough plays to grind out a 72-66 victory over the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"Even though it may look like we are very dependent on Ethan, I think we had confidence even when he went out that we could get the job done," said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, whose 22nd-ranked team improved to 7-1.
Iowa was left feeling as though it let one slip through its fingers. The 14th-ranked Hawkeyes (6-1, 0-1) had the biggest lead by either team (eight points) in the middle of the second half but couldn't hold on.
"It’s frustrating but it’s also encouraging because we were right there against another great ranked team," junior forward Tyler Cook said. "We just need to find a way to seal the deal."
The Hawkeyes still had the upper hand after Joe Wieskamp drove for a 3-point play to give them a 61-60 lead with 3 minutes, 13 seconds to go.
But they struggled to stop the Badgers after that. Pritzl reclaimed the lead for Wisconsin with a wide-open 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:35 remaining, and when Luka Garza missed a 3-point try at the other end, Wisconsin called a timeout with 1:11 to go.
Happ then drove past Garza to make it 65-61 with 51.9 seconds left, but he hacked Jordan Bohannon just a few seconds later for his fifth foul.
Bohannon made two free throws, but Trice, who led both teams with 20 points, drilled a 3 with Connor McCaffery in his face. Bohannon followed with a quick 3 of his own, but Brad Davison made two free throws with 0:15.5 remaining to restore the 4-point lead.
After Wieskamp missed a step-back 3, Trice grabbed the long rebound, was fouled and wrapped up the win with two more free throws with 6.6 seconds left.
"Overall, I was impressed with our fight," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "We didn’t make some plays down the stretch and they did. That’s why they won."
McCaffery felt his team actually executed fairly well in the final minutes
"We ran some good action," he said. "The ball just didn’t go in."
The Hawkeyes trailed for much of the first half, but led by Garza and Cook, they bounced back to grab the lead in the second half.
They pushed it as high as eight points (46-38) on a 3-point play by Garza with 12:56 to go before Trice, Davison and Pritzl gradually whittled down the margin.
"We’ve got to do a better job of controlling the lead," said Garza, who finished with 11 points. "Nevertheless, we had a shot down the stretch, and we didn’t execute. That’s what cost us the game."
Iowa forward Nicholas Baer, who provided a second-half spark and finished with eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, said the Hawkeyes need to develop more of a killer instinct.
"One thing we need to learn is to bury teams," he said. "I think a couple of times we were up by eight and couldn’t put them away."
Happ still finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists but he was more than matched by Cook, who collected 19 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and four assists.
"Cook is an absolute load," Gard said. "For the fans, to get to see him go against Happ … I don’t know if it gets much better than that. That’s two of the best players in the country."