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Hawkeye hoops hoping to sweep Badgers

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | FEBRUARY 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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Wisconsin stands as the modern model of consistency in the realm of Big Ten basketball. Tonight presents Iowa — a program marked by inconsistency this year under second-year coach Fran McCaffery — with a chance to slightly disrupt the Badgers' stable season.

The Hawkeyes (14-13, 6-8 Big Ten) host the 16th-ranked Badgers (20-7, 9-5) at 8:05 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A win would mark Iowa's first season sweep of Wisconsin since 1994-95 — when Iowa freshman forward Aaron White was 2.

"It would mean a lot," said White, who scored 16 of his 18 bench points in the second half of a 72-65 win in Madison on Dec. 31. "A program like Wisconsin's been there for years making the [NCAA] Tournament. [Coach] Bo Ryan has had a lot of success there.

"They're going to come out and be ready for us, since we beat them the first time."

Ryan, now in his 11th season, has anchored Wisconsin's success. The Badgers have claimed three Big Ten Titles with Ryan at the helm. They've finished as runners-up on two other occasions and never worse than fourth. They average 12 Big Ten wins a season. After dropping two more games immediately following its loss to Iowa, Wisconsin has won eight of 10 and is close to putting a bow on another impressive Ryan-led campaign.

"They're playing as well as anybody in the country," McCaffery said.

The steadying force behind the Badgers' surge is point guard Jordan Taylor, who has lived up to his pre-season All-American billing from the AP. Taylor is averaging 14.3 points and 4.2 assists per game.

McCaffery especially lauded the senior's affinity for hitting timely shots, something the Hawkeyes are all too familiar with after their last meeting in Iowa City on Feb. 9, 2011. Taylor's basket with 28 seconds left forced overtime before Wisconsin eventually claimed a 62-59 victory.

Conversely, Iowa's Bryce Cartwright missed shots both at the end of regulation and overtime that would have won or extended the game. Cartwright extracted a measure of redemption in the first meeting this season, recording 17 points and 5 assists while outplaying Taylor.

But Cartwright may not be fit for the rematch. He hasn't played since suffering a sprained ankle in practice on Feb. 11. The senior point guard said on Tuesday he "has a chance" to play, but McCaffery didn't sound so optimistic.

"I think he would make a big impact in the game," McCaffery said. "But I'm not sure he's going to be able to play."

A healthy Cartwright would improve Iowa's chances of asserting its pace, which was essential in the first meeting.

"That's probably the biggest contrast in styles in the Big Ten," White said.

Iowa seized a 14-2 edge in fast-break points. Cartwright accounted for 12 of those points, either scoring or passing for an assist. The Hawkeyes' 72 points remain the most surrendered this season by Wisconsin, which allows the lowest scoring average in the country (51.1 points).

White said Iowa's key to establishing its tempo was winning the rebounding battle (41-39), which created open-court opportunities. Doing that again tonight could propel the Hawkeyes to the elusive sweep.

"If you get a stop and score in five seconds, it kills their momentum. It kills what they're doing," White said. "Next time they come down, they might want to quick shoot the ball or something like that.

"The biggest part is rebounding. If we out rebound them, we'll get our chances in transition."

Follow DI men's basketball reporter Jordan Garretson on Twitter.


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