By RICK SOLEM
While all eyes were on the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, it was the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team that should be getting headlines in the state.
The Badgers overcame an early deficit, got a little help from a coaching tirade that wasn’t from Bo Ryan and remain unbeaten to match their best start in over 100 years of UW basketball.
Fourth-ranked Wisconsin won 75-71, but the question will be whether that would have been the outcome had Iowa coach Fran McCaffery not gone crazy midway through the second half.
The 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes were controlling the Badgers for the most part when McCaffery was called for a technical foul after his player, Gabriel Olaseni, was called for a foul on a Nigel Hayes' post shot. On the possession before, Olaseni appeared to be fouled on a similar play.
McCaffery went a bit nuts, was called for a technical, then blew up, bumped another referee and was immediately ejected.
The result was four Ben Brust free throws, which he made and the Badgers went from trailing to never trailing again.
It was Wisconsin’s first lead since 35 seconds into the game and it took that momentum to go up 57-49 with 7:47 remaining.
That, however, wasn’t the end of Iowa. Without its coach on the sideline, the Hawkeyes regrouped and got as close as a point on the Badgers after a Roy Devyn Marble 3-pointer with 3:00 to go.
That was it, however, thanks to Sam Dekker.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore picked a good time to make his only two baskets. He nailed a 3-pointer to answer Marble’s bucket and then got a three-point play the old fashioned way to go up seven with 1:06 left. Free throws after that kept Iowa at bay.
The win matches both the 1911-12 and 1913-14 teams for best start to the season (15-0). Wisconsin (2-0 Big Ten) is now two wins away from its most wins in a row (17) set in 2006-07.
The records don’t stop there. Wisconsin is now 146-60 (.709) in Big Ten games under Ryan, the second-best winning percentage of any coach in conference history.
Iowa (12-3, 1-1) held Wisconsin to 1-of-13 shooting to start the game and took a 17-6 lead. That, however, was immediately followed by a Wisconsin 14-4 run to pull within a point.
But the Hawkeyes were the team in control. They regained composure and went into the locker room up 35-24.
The Badgers chipped at the lead after halftime, pulling within 41-39 with 13:16 remaining and then things fell apart for Iowa - McCaffery’s technical fouls and ejection.
Dekker finished 2-for-12 from the field. The two makes, of course, some of the biggest of the game. Wisconsin shot 37.7 percent, but held Iowa to 39.1.
Brust had 19 points. He went 6-for-6 from the line, including those four technical shots. Josh Gasser had 14. Marble, a 6-6 senior guard, was 10-for-24 from the field and 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in scoring 27 points.
La Crosse’s Bronson Koenig, the freshman Badger guard, played 8 minutes. He went 1 of 3, scored two points, had two rebounds an assist and three fouls.