IOWA CITY, Iowa – It took the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team until the first day of March last season to win its fourth game away from home.
The Badgers accomplished that feat in the 2018-19 campaign before the calendar even flipped to December.
Sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice scored 20 points to help No. 22 UW put a capper on an impressive opening month of the season with a 72-66 victory over No. 14 Iowa Friday night in a Big Ten opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Senior center Ethan Happ added 13 points and five assists before fouling out as the Badgers improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 away from the Kohl Center. UW already has posted five wins over opponents from power conferences and now has a win over a ranked team on its résumé.
“We knew obviously we were going to be very well tested before we got here,” UW coach Greg Gard said. “How we were going to be (record-wise) once we got here, you didn’t know as you looked at the schedule as it unfolded. But I felt coming into tonight having been where we had been and who we had played, we were ready for this.”
The Badgers are now 2-0 in true road games, adding the win over the Hawkeyes to a victory at Xavier on Nov. 13. UW finished 4-11 in road/neutral site games en route to a 15-18 overall finish in 2017-18.
To get this one, the Badgers had to overcome foul trouble to a handful of players. UW was called for 24 fouls in all and its frontcourt was affected the most, forcing Gard to use small lineups for significant stretches.
Iowa junior forward Tyler Cook, who finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, drew 11 fouls on his own.
The constant whistles, combined with Iowa using a 10-2 run to grab a 46-38 lead with 12 minutes, 56 seconds to go, tested the Badgers’ composure. But just like earlier this week, when UW overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half to beat previously unbeaten North Carolina State at the Kohl Center, the Badgers showed they have plenty of resiliency in reserve.
Junior guard Brevin Pritzl thought Friday’s comeback was the more impressive of the two because UW was on the road and “figuring out how to overcome adversity. We had a lot of fouls early and we had to battle through not getting calls. It was really just about battling through that.”
Wisconsin State Journal reporter Jim Polzin asked Badgers fans on Twitter what they thought of No. 22 Wisconsin's 72-66 win over the 14th-rank…
Pritzl certainly did his part. After not making a 3-pointer and scoring a total of four points over the previous three games, Pritzl connected twice from beyond the arc and finished with 12 points against the Hawkeyes (6-1, 0-1).
“You’ve just got to keep shooting and stay ready,” he said.
The biggest shot by Pritzl was a 3-pointer from the left corner that gave UW the lead for good with 1:35 remaining, but Gard was just as happy with all the other ways Pritzl contributed.
“I thought he defended well, he rebounded really well,” Gard said. “He was really engaged. He’s physical. He did a lot of good things other than just make shots.”
Happ fouled out with 45.8 seconds remaining and the ensuing two free throws by Jordan Bohannon cut UW’s lead to 65-63.
If the Badgers were going to survive, they were going to have to do it without their best player. And yet nobody on the UW sidelines seemed to be all that concerned.
“It’s awesome,” Happ said. “I go to the bench and the whole bench and coaching staff are telling me, ‘We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine. We’ve got the guys that can play.’ That’s a very true statement. We’ve got guys other than myself that can come up with big shots and big plays.”
Trice picked up the slack in the closing minute while making up for an earlier gaffe.
UW had battled back to take a 58-56 lead on a pair of free throws by Trice with 6:22 left and had a chance to build on that lead when Trice stole the ball and had an open path to the basket.
Instead of an easy layup, Trice went for his first career dunk. He lost the ball on the way up and, after grabbing the offensive rebound, ended the possession by missing a 3-pointer.
“Kind of a big possession, honestly,” Trice said. “I wish I could have it back and just made the layup.”
The 22nd-ranked Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team opened Big Ten play with a 72-66 victory over the 14th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday …
Perhaps, but Trice totally redeemed himself in the final minute. After Happ fouled out, Trice worked the shot clock and drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Badgers a five-point lead.
Bohannon answered with a 3-pointer of his own to make it 68-66 with 16.6 seconds remaining, but UW sophomore guard Brad Davison made two free throws and, after a miss by Joe Wieskamp, Trice sealed the win with two more free throws.
“I love where this team is at, honestly,” Trice said. “Just our confidence level, the way we’re playing, the way we’re sharing the ball, the way the coaches believe in us and the way our players are believing in each other. I think that’s going to go a long ways, and December will also be a good month for us.”