Iowa travels to Wisconsin tonight

BY SCOTT MILLER | MARCH 03, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter has won 15 Big Ten games in his nearly three years in Iowa City, but none of those have come consecutively.

His team’s big victory over Michigan State in 2008 was followed by a close loss to Purdue. Similarly, three days after upsetting Wisconsin in early 2009, the Hawkeyes fell to Penn State by four points.

And this season, Iowa suffered a 23-point loss at the Boilermakers just four days after downing Northwestern at home.

Consistency — or at least winning consecutive games in conference play — has been a virtual impossibility for Lickliter’s squad, which is coming off a 73-57 win over Indiana on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes (10-19, 4-12) will try to alter their inconsistent nature today — while also hoping to avoid becoming the first team in program history to lose 20 games in a season — at 7:36 p.m. against No. 15 Wisconsin (21-7, 11-5) in the Kohl Center.

Bo Ryan’s Badgers will send off seniors Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes tonight. The two are 63-6 in their home arena during their career.

“They’re as poised as any team that I’ve had the opportunity to watch throughout the years,” Lickliter said. “They’re to be commended on that.”

Under Ryan, Wisconsin has been the picture of consistency, reaching the 20-win plateau in seven of Ryan’s nine years in Madison. Part of developing that consistency has been reloading the lineup with experienced players.

Besides Bohannon and Hughes, Ryan starts two other upperclassmen, Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. The quartet makes up for more than 75 percent of Wisconsin’s scoring.

“They can play early in the shot clock offensively but are very, very comfortable playing late [in] the shot clock and shooting,” Lickliter said. “You’ve got to be willing and even eager to defend late into the shot clock.

“Obviously, the system is well-run, and it’s one that has been successful. And in the Kohl Center, it’s been even more successful.”

Perhaps strengthening the Badgers’ home-court advantage, Iowa has lost 15 of its last 16 Big Ten road games over the past two seasons. Its lone conference road win came against Indiana on Jan. 24.

While the losses have continued to pile up in Lickliter’s third season, the head coach’s confidence in his young team has never wavered. In fact, the recent emergence of sophomore Aaron Fuller, who is averaging 13.3 points and 8.5 rebounds over the last six games, has given the Hawkeyes a viable inside presence.

“We just have to be aggressive in order to be successful,” said junior Jarryd Cole, Fuller’s partner in the post.

Iowa’s offense will face its biggest challenge yet against the Badgers, who allow 56.7 points per game, the lowest mark in the Big Ten.

Usually one of the Hawkeyes’ strengths, perimeter shooting has been a problem of late. Over the last two contests, Lickliter’s squad has shot a combined 6-of-38 (16 percent) from 3-point range. But for the first time since Lickliter came to campus, Iowa doesn’t rely heavily on its long-range shooting.

“Although we’re not shooting it very well, I think there’s still respect for the way we shoot it,” Lickliter said of his team’s success inside. “People aren’t comfortable with sagging off, so the spacing [inside] is good.

“I really think you’ve probably got to make some jump shots against [Wisconsin].”

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