Iowa falters down the stretch and loses Big Ten opener to Wisconsin

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Tyler Cook drives to the basket against Wisconsin. Photo by Jeff Yoder.

By Tyler Devine

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa and Wisconsin played a basketball game on Friday night in the same physical fashion they played each other in football about two months ago.

Unfortunately, for Iowa, the result was the same in both sports.

The 14th-ranked Hawkeyes faltered down the stretch in a back-and-forth matchup and fell in their Big Ten opener 72-66 in front of a raucous crowd of 15,056 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We didn’t do some things coming down the stretch that we wanted to do,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We also did some things we wanted to do, and just -- we ran some good action, the ball didn't go in. So that's frustrating, but if you execute, you're not too upset."

Junior forward Tyler Cook was a physical force on both ends of the floor for Iowa.

The 6-foot-9 Cook finished with a team-high 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the field to go along with a career-high 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.

“Cook was tremendous,” McCaffery said. “I love his activity on the glass, 19 and 15, four assists. I thought he played with great pace.

“You can’t just put your head down and go against this team. They’re going to be in the lane. They’re going to be in your way. You’ve got to wait and then go and he did a great job of that.”

Cook inflicted most of his damage while either guarding or being guarded by Wisconsin preseason All-America forward Ethan Happ.

In total, Cook drew 11 fouls against the Badgers, helping to force Happ to foul out with 45 seconds remaining in the second half.

Iowa was able to cut the Wisconsin lead to 65-63 with a pair of free throws by junior guard Jordan Bohannon, but Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice hit a dagger of a three-pointer to put the Badgers up by five with just 20 seconds left to play.

Iowa held Happ to 13 points and seven rebounds. He came into Friday averaging 18 and 12.3, respectively.

“I think we did a pretty good job (guarding Happ) in most regards,” Cook said. “We limited his touches pretty well. He can put the ball on the deck in terms of backing down and stuff like that.

“He got a few easy ones around the basket that we wanted to avoid letting him get but good players are going to find ways to at least get a couple easy ones and that’s what he did.”

McCaffery has noticed a significant change in the way Cook handles himself in certain situations, especially with regard to using his large frame and his decision-making.

“He's much more under control,” McCaffery said. “He has great speed -- for a guy that big -- phenomenal speed and quickness. And he's figured out how exactly -- used to just use his athletic power and beat you in the post and dunk the ball.

"He's figured out how to do it off the dribble, how to do it coast to coast, how to recognize, okay, I thought there was space and there was no space, move it. Don't just be the -- just don't spin in traffic and knock three guys over. His decision-making is really good now.”