By TOM LEA
When Iowa strolled into the Kohl Center last New Year’s Eve it did so as a team not many thought stood a chance against a ferocious Wisconsin team inside its historically tough arena.
Two hours after tip off that same Iowa team was the one left smiling, with a 72-65 win it could saunter back to Iowa City.
“I don’t think we did a great job taking care of the ball for the whole 40 minutes,” UW sophomore guard Ben Brust, regarding his team’s eight turnovers in that loss, said earlier this week. “We had some opportunities but we didn’t make some shots.
“All you can do is move on and get ready for this one.”
So often in sports, particularly when a team sees the same opponent it had previously lost to, the word revenge gets tossed around. Though revenge has probably factored into more memorable sporting moments than not, it’s a word this Wisconsin squad would prefer not to use.
The Badgers realize there’s nothing it can do to reverse the outcome of the first meeting with Iowa. There’s nothing they can do to better their miserable 10.7 percent effort from downtown and there’s nothing they can do to improve their 34.8 percent shooting from the floor in that loss.
It’s a moot point now.
Revenge isn’t something that resonates within the Wisconsin locker room.
“I know that doesn’t make you play better,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “If you’re worrying about that part of it you’re not worrying about what you need to take care of. They’re a good team and they’re playing well.
“It’s the next 40 minutes.”
UW’s loss to Iowa spearheaded a three-game losing streak, one that dropped the Badgers into the lower tier of the Big Ten standings through four games of league play. Since snapping that losing streak with a win at Purdue, Wisconsin has won eight of its next 10 games.
It currently sits comfortably in fourth place amongst the Big Ten ranks. And now the same Iowa team that beat the Badgers inside the Kohl Center waits, only this time it does so inside it’s own arena.
It would be the opportune time for a Badger squad that is still clinging to faint hopes of winding up atop the Big Ten conference title race to pull out the revenge card.
But it’s just not going to happen.
“Not (using) that term,” Brust said. “But I think we need to approach it like every other game. Obviously it’s something we want to get back — that game — but you can’t so you’ve just got to move on and get ready for this one.”
Iowa enters Thursday’s contest two games below .500 in the conference standings (6-8) with four to play. With a winning record overall (14-13), the Hawkeyes still have a slight chance of weaseling their way into the field of 68 come March.
Wisconsin enters the game with a 9-5 conference mark, with its only losses during a recent 10-game stretch coming to No. 8 Ohio State and No. 6 Michigan State.
There’s no time for revenge simply because there’s no time to get caught up in that hoopla.
From here on out each win boosts UW’s chances for a better seed in the NCAA tournament. Whereas a loss, especially to an Iowa team ranked 136 in the RPI, would not look good on the resume.
“You’ve got 30-plus games,” Ryan said. “Can you imagine in the NBA if every time somebody beat you you were talking about a revenge game? You’d go crazy, especially some teams more than others.
“Revenge is a word that I’ve never used. It’s a negative word. I don’t use it.”