The 2011-2012 season was a special one for the Iowa Hawkeyes, including four wins against ranked teams, the victory over Illinois in the Big Ten tournament, the NIT appearance and the memorable senior season by Matt Gatens. There were also the two straight wins over Wisconsin, something the Hawkeyes hadn’t accomplished since [insert a time that was really long ago], arguably costing the Badgers their shot at an outright Big Ten Championship.
That was the Badgers primarily motivation heading into Saturday night: revenge. At 4-0, Wisconsin was the best team in the conference and wanted some payback last season. Iowa, had another type of motivation.
January 19th, 2013, signaled the 20th anniversary of the death of Chris Street. If you’re an older Big Ten fan you undoubtedly remember Street, but if you’re younger and didn’t attend Iowa it’s likely that you don’t recognize the name. Hailing from Indianola, a town about 20 minutes south of Des Moines, Street played power forward for the Hawkeyes under Dr. Tom Davis. During his junior season, he was leaving a team dinner when his car was struck by a snow plow, killing him and severely injuring his girlfriend. Tom Davis had to say this about Street:
Chris represented all that is good about the Midwest and the state of Iowa. He was open, caring, honest, loving and lived life to the fullest every day."
Wisconsin played for revenge. Iowa played for Street. Street won.
The first quarter was nothing short of perfect for the Hawkeyes. Behind Mike Gesell’s sharpshooting, Aaron White getting to the line and Iowa’s swarming defense, the Hawks jumped out to a 20-6 lead only 10 minutes into the game. Oh, and the box score doesn’t do the defense justice. There aren’t stat lines for breaking through screens, making excellent transitions into double teams and completely shutting down the interior. Guys like Bruesewitz, Evans and other members of the Stupid Hair/Stupid Name Club were nowhere to be found for the Wisconsin.
Former Iowa commit Ben Brust arguably had the toughest time on Saturday night. The Carver Hawkeye Arena crowd, but primarily the students, rained down boos whenever he touched the ball. In 33 minutes Brust only had 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers. He did make an excellent half court shot just before half…but it didn’t count.
Despite the raucous home crowd and excellent defense the Hawkeyes went cold towards halftime and the Badgers cut the lead to 14 before Roy Devyn Marble hit a floater with almost no time left on the clock, securing a 34-18 lead.
The second half was much more to the Badger’s liking. Sam Dekker started hitting three pointers, George Marshall came alive and the Badgers took advantage of Adam Woodbury/Zach McCabe’s defensive "deficiencies." By the first TV timeout the Badgers had cut the lead to 38-25, until Melsahn Basabe dunked everyone’s face off:
As time wore on you could feel the tide turn. Iowa continued to get to the line but between the missed free throws and Wisconsin knocking down three pointers, anxiety grew in Carver Hawkeye. With just over a minute left the Badgers cut Iowa’s lead to 6 and the free throw game began. And it figured. It figured that Iowa would honor Chris Street, a player who was known for his excellent free throw shooting, by going 9-10 from the charity stripe in the final minute. Iowa won, 66-70.
Things don’t get any easier for the Hawkeyes, now 13-5 (2-3), as they travel to Columbus to take on #11 Ohio State at the Value City Arena on Tuesday. Wisconsin 13-5 (4-1), takes on Michigan State, the (new) number one team in the Big Ten.