Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky goes to the basket during the first half against Iowa's Zach McCabe Saturday. The No. 16 Badgers defeated the No. 15 Hawkeyes 79-74. (Matthew Holst / Getty Images)
Iowa City, Iowa — The way Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan sees it, the 16th-ranked Badgers are playing better because they’re making shots.
They’re also making plays — and Frank Kaminsky came up two huge ones to beat No. 15 Iowa on Saturday.
Kaminsky had 21 points and a crucial late steal as Wisconsin won 79-74 for its fifth straight win after a 1-5 stretch marked by poor shooting.
Sam Dekker added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Badgers (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten), who swept the season series and moved a half-game ahead of the Hawkeyes (19-7, 8-5) in the Big Ten standings.
“We like to get into our classroom and in the gym and teach guys things. Show them film, work with them,” Ryan said. “Frank is one of those guys that’s doing a heck of a job on his learning curve. He’s really been pretty sharp.”
No one was sharper than Kaminsky in the final 36 seconds.
Josh Oglesby’s jumper with 1:01 left put Iowa up 72-71, but Kaminsky answered with a jumper that gave Wisconsin a one-point lead. Kaminsky then stripped Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble under the basket and hit two free throws as the Badgers went up 75-72 with 24.5 seconds left.
“He was trying to make a play, and he presented the ball and I just hit it out of his hands. That’s one of those plays where it’s kind of up to the (referee) to see what they’re going to call. I thought I got it clean,” Kaminsky said of the steal. “I’m just happy it came out in our favor.”
Marble had 21 points and 11 assists for the Hawkeyes, who lost their third home game in four tries.
Marble could have milked the shot clock down to just over a second on the game’s biggest play. He instead attacked the rim and paid for it with a turnover that the Hawkeyes didn’t recover from.
“You call a play and then he’s got to read it. That’s what he did,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
This was just the second game in two weeks for Iowa. The Hawkeyes were off ahead of last Saturday’s 82-70 win at Penn State, and Tuesday’s postponement at Indiana gave the Hawkeyes an extra week off.
After a rather rusty start, Iowa asserted itself in the second half.
Marble hit a 3 and Aaron White followed with a strong drive to the hoop that put the Hawkeyes ahead 62-58 with 6:27 left. The Badgers seemed flummoxed at times by Iowa’s zone defense, scoring just 20 points in the first 16 minutes of the second half.
Still, Wisconsin tied it at 66-all with 3:18 left on a three-point play by Nigel Hayes, and freshman Bronson Koenig’s jumper put the Badgers ahead 71-70 with 1:21 left.
“He’s a good player. You’re going to see a lot more of him over the next few years,” Ryan said of Koenig, who had a career-high 12 points.
Iowa was forced to make a rare lineup change. Forward Zach McCabe started in place of Melsahn Basabe, who was limited to just a minute because of illness.
Basabe is one of Iowa’s top interior defenders, and the Badgers took advantage of his absence early on. Wisconsin hit 12 of its first 16 shots, and Dekker’s 3 put the Badgers ahead 34-24.
Wisconsin shot 57 percent from the field in the first half, and Koenig matched his previous career high of 10 points in just 10 minutes as the Badgers led 40-31.
But Wisconsin missed its first six shots after the break and Iowa eventually retook the lead, 52-51, with 10:55 left.
Oglesby matched a season high with 17 points for Iowa. But White was held to just four points, and McCabe’s 3-point attempt with less than 20 seconds left and the Hawkeyes down 3 never reached the rim.
“It didn’t come out of his hand cleanly, but he was wide open,” McCaffery said of McCabe. “I don’t think he’ll make any excuses.”
Kaminsky shares Ryan’s assertion that shot-making has keyed Wisconsin’s recent surge. But Kaminsky added that the belief that those shots are going to fall has been what’s really reinvigorated the Badgers over the past three weeks.
“Having the confidence to step up and take those shots is back. I think we had that at the start of the season. It kind of went away for a little bit, and now I think we have that back,” Kaminsky said.
(At) Ohio State 64, Minnesota 46: Sam Thompson scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, leading No. 24 Ohio State back from a 12-point deficit to a victory over Minnesota.
The Buckeyes outscored the Golden Gophers 46-18 in the second half.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 13 points and Shannon Scott 10 for the Buckeyes (22-6, 9-6 Big Ten), who trailed by 10 at the half and by 12 early in the second half before taking control with a 17-0 run.
Andre Hollins had 13 points and DeAndre Mathieu added 12 for Minnesota (17-11, 6-9), which has lost six of its last eight games to slide off the NCAA bubble. The Golden Gophers beat the Buckeyes 63-53 at home on Jan. 16 by forcing 18 turnovers and grabbing 15 more rebounds.
Indiana 61, (at) Northwestern 56: Indiana got scoring from five different players during an 18-4 run midway through the game, then held on for a win over Northwestern.
Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Noah Vonleh and Will Sheehey each had 12 points as the Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) ended a three-game losing streak and extended Northwestern’s (12-16, 5-10) slide to five.
Northwestern’s Tre Demps, who made his first start this season as part of a juggled Wildcats lineup, finished with 19 points. Alex Olah added 17 and 11 rebounds.
The Hoosier’s run started with a 6-2 spurt to close out the first half. Indiana lead 32-30 after 20 minutes after Vonleh hit a layup as time ran out.
The Hoosiers opened up their widest advantage, at 12 points, 7:25 into the second when Stanford Robinson hit a pair of free throws to make it 44-32.