MADISON – Nate Reuvers doesn’t need to grab a notebook and review the video of Wisconsin’s loss last season at Iowa to remember the gory details.
“We got smacked,” UW’s sophomore forward said.
UW missed its first nine shots, fell behind by 9-0 just 3 minutes 39 seconds into the game, trailed by nine at halftime and lost by 18.
“We didn’t have our best game,” redshirt sophomore forward Aleem Ford said, “and they came out and smacked us in the mouth.”
The manner in which UW suffered that 85-67 loss last January should be remembered this week.
The 22nd-ranked Badgers (6-1) open Big Ten play at 7 p.m. Friday at No. 15 Iowa (6-0).
UW is 1-1 in its last two games and each time has trailed by halftime.
The deficit was 15 against No. 4 Virginia in the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis and UW lost by seven.
The deficit was seven Tuesday against North Carolina State – and reached 12 points 59 seconds into the second half – but UW rallied to win by four.
UW shot 36% in the first half (9 of 25) against Virginia and 35.7% in the first half (10 of 28) against North Carolina State.
UW shot 38.7% in the first half of its 18-point loss last season at Iowa.
Reuvers missed four shots in the lane, including back-to-back tips, in the opening minutes and finished 1 of 7 overall. Ethan Happ missed three shots in the lane.
“You can’t let a team get up on you like that, especially on the road,” said Reuvers, who finished with five points and four rebounds in 25 minutes in the 18-point loss. “At home, you’ve got the crowd behind you and you can get energized.
“When you’re on the road and you get down like that, it is tough.”
Iowa is coming off a 69-68 home victory over Pittsburgh in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Hawkeyes faced a 46-40 halftime deficit after Pittsburgh hit 19 of 31 shots (61.3%) but limited the Panthers to 29.2% shooting (7 of 24) and 22 points in the second half.
“I wasn’t real pleased with our performance in the first half on a number of different levels,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We weren’t battling the way we need to battle against a team of this caliber.
“They scored 22 points in the second half. You know, we slid our feet. We battled on the glass. We got to the floor, and we really fought. When you win a game like this, it’s a great feeling in the locker room because it certainly was not a thing of beauty by any means, but that’s how games are sometimes.”
Reuvers played only 11 minutes in the victory over North Carolina State because coach Greg Gard used a small lineup to combat the Wolfpack’s quickness and pressure.
Happ and Reuvers both will need to play big minutes against Iowa’s front featuring Tyler Cook (14.8 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game) and Luka Garza (14.3, 4.5).
That duo combined for 34 points, on 14-for-22 shooting, and 21 rebounds in the victory over UW last season.
Can Happ get off to a faster start than he has in some games?
Happ hit just 3 of 11 shots in the first half against North Carolina State before hitting 5 of 7 after halftime. He hit just 2 of 6 shots in the first half at Iowa last season before rebounding to hit 6 of 8 in the second half.
“I’ve always felt more comfortable in the second half after being able to see how teams are reading me,” Happ said after the victory over North Carolina State. “But that shouldn’t happen every game where I struggle in the first and pick it up in the second half. It was barely enough for this game.”
To their credit, the Badgers have shown they have the versatility to win by hitting shots from the perimeter or by pounding the ball inside. They have shown the ability to dig in and battle back from a halftime deficit.
“You can be in situations where things don’t go as you planned and don’t go as you want,” Gard said. “But to have the fortitude to keep fighting back and keep rallying is a good trait to have.”
The Badgers would be wise to avoid having to rely on that trait Friday.
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