Author: Zack Cherney
MADISON- Following a strong past two weeks in which the Badgers went 3-1 against Big Ten opponents, they were hit with another postponement following a surge in health issues at Penn State. They took advantage of another day off as they prepared for a tough stretch they were about to embark on, which started with Indiana and then led to two road games at undefeated Michigan and struggling Rutgers.
The Badgers’ 12th game of the season on Thursday, Jan. 7 at home against Indiana was a thriller from start to finish. The two teams went at it all game long and it was only right it went to overtime, but it didn’t stop at one overtime. The Badgers were finally able to pull away in the second overtime as they came away with an 80-73 victory. The Badgers took an early lead but Indiana hung in there, but the Badgers then pulled away to a 12 point lead with 6:50 remaining in the first half. Indiana kept in it close and eventually worked their way to only a five-point deficit at half time. The second half was a back-and-forth affair where the Badgers held onto the lead, but Indiana kept putting up points to keep it close. Indiana then pushed their way into the lead with 8:05 remaining in the game, their first lead since the 10:50 mark in the first half. With 6:02 remaining, Indiana pulled away with a six-point lead, their largest of the game, and would hold that lead until 22 seconds left when D’Mitrik Trice tied the game at 61-61 and forced overtime. In overtime, Indiana held a two-point lead in the final half-minute, but Trice pulled out another clutch shot with 12 seconds left to make it 69-69 and send it to a second overtime. In the second and final overtime, an unlikely hero emerged for the Badgers in Tyler Wahl who in the span of 42 seconds made two three-pointers which proved to be the daggers. The biggest performance came from Trice who finished with 21 points and made the shots when the team needed it most. Tyler Wahl made a statement late as he made the only two threes he attempted and finished with 12 points. In a close game from the start, Indiana struggled in some of the most crucial areas. Indiana turned the ball over 13 times, almost twice as many as the Badgers, had two offensive rebounds, Badgers had nine, and got into foul trouble which led to the Badgers shooting 12 more free throws than them. The Badgers were given plenty of opportunities to run away with the game, but they were still able to hang in there and claim victory.
Good – Made important shots when they mattered most.
Bad – Did not take advantage of Indiana’s mistakes as much as they should have.
The Badgers’ 13th game of the season was a marquee matchup as they went on the road against undefeated No. 7 Michigan. This is a game the Badgers could have won but after a terrible end to the first half, Michigan had no trouble pulling away and beating the Badgers 77-54. Although they trailed early on, the Badgers hung in there. With 6:21 remaining in the first half Nate Reuvers made a layup to make it 23-26, unfortunately, that would be the final points for the Badgers of the half. Michigan went on a 14-0 run to end the half and went to halftime with a lead of 40-23 over the Badgers. In that final six and half minutes, the Badgers went 0-6, including four missed three-pointers, as well as three turnovers which led to four points for Michigan. The Badgers were looking to bounce back in the second half. The Badgers got the ball to start the half and Aleem Ford was able to get the Badgers back on the board with a layup where he was fouled and turned it into a three-point play to make it 26-40. Sadly though, following those three points any hopes of a comeback were destroyed. By the time the next points were scored for the Badgers, 7:20 had flown off the clock and Michigan had gone on a 22-0 run to take a 62-26 lead. The Badgers tried to use the three-pointers to get them back into the game and over the next several minutes the Badgers went 5-7 from behind the arc but it was too little too late. The struggle was obvious at the end as between 2:07 and 1:37 remaining the Badgers missed a shot and then missed two more shots after getting two offensive rebounds. When the buzzer finally sounded, the Badgers had only been outscored by six in the second half but were ultimately killed by their 13 minutes of scoreless basketball. This was a painful game in many regards, but the shooting was the weakest area. The Badgers shot an awful 30.8% from the field and went 9-28 (32.1%) from behind the arc. Trice recorded another 20 point performance and Micah Potter also reached double digits, but the rest of the team as a whole only scored 22. The rest of the starters, Reuvers, Ford and Davison, combined for 12. Although it was such a painful loss, it can be seen as a learning experience. The Badgers have been seen as a top 10 team all season long up to this point and they just saw what other top 10 teams can do to them if they don’t play good basketball.
Good – Got 12 offensive rebounds.
Bad – The offense relied heavily on Trice and Potter.
Following a disastrous loss to Michigan, the Badgers went on the road to play Rutgers. After another extremely tough battle all the way through, the Badgers came out on top at 60-54. Early on this season Rutgers was one of the many Big Ten teams in the AP Top 25, but as of lately, they have faltered which should have made this an easy win for the Badgers, but Rutgers went punch for punch. The Badgers took their biggest lead early in the first half at 17-7, but just like last game, they went on a long scoring drought of four minutes which allowed Rutgers to pull within three. By halftime, the Badgers had a one-point lead at 33-32. After Tyler Wahl made it a 40-36 game 3:40 into the second half, history repeated itself and the Badgers went a staggering 6:49 until they scored again. Thankfully, their opponents were not doing much better. By the time Aleem Ford made a free throw to get the Badgers to 41 points it gave the Badgers a 41-40 lead, as Rutgers was on a scoreless streak of 3:40. The two teams continued to battle it out until history repeated itself again and D’Mitrik Trice finally showed up offensively to give the Badgers a boost. After Rutgers cut the Badgers lead to 46-44, Trice scored the next eight points to expand the lead to 54-44. After some strong free-throw shooting, the Badgers were able to claim their 11th win of the season. The biggest area that ultimately led the Badgers to victory was free-throw shooting, a common area of concern. The Badgers played safe basketball and kept Rutgers off the line giving them only seven chances, but Rutgers did not help themselves as they were only able to make two of them. On the other side Rutgers, although forced to foul at the end, were reckless all game long giving the Badgers 21 chances from the line, 16 of which they converted. In a close game in which the Badgers struggled in several areas, a difference of 14 made free throws was crushing for Rutgers. A second common area of struggle which was beyond unforgiving once again was the three-point game. For some reason, the Badgers continue to spend way too much time behind the arc and in this case, it turned out to be nearly half of their shots (46%). They went an abysmal 6-25 (24%) from three (Davidson: 3; Trice: 2; Reuvers: 1). The rest of their shooting was not much better from inside the arc where they went 13-29. Despite these poor numbers four of the five Badgers starters reached double digits (Ford: 14; Davidson: 14; Trice: 13; Potter 10). The only starter who did not reach double digits was Tyler Wahl who scored four points in replacement of the severely struggling Nate Reuvers. Off the bench, Reuvers went 1-5 and his only made shot was a three-pointer. Looking ahead it will be interesting to see how these starting positions will be handled especially considering the number of other struggling Badgers as of recently.
Good – Badgers shot 21 free throws (made 16) compared to seven (two made) for Rutgers.
Bad – Rutgers got 20 offensive rebounds (Badgers only had eight).
In the fifth AP Poll, the Badgers fell from No. 6 to No. 8 but then in the most recent poll they went down one from No. 8 to No. 9.
Looking ahead, the Badgers will play Northwestern (6-5) at home on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Northwestern is currently on one of the toughest stretches in college basketball as their game against the Badgers will be their seventh straight game against a ranked opponent and so far this season they are 2-4 against ranked opponents with a four-game losing streak where they are losing by an average of just over 17 points per game. They stay at home for their next game against another tough ranked opponent in No. 21 Ohio State (10-3). Then they will have back-to-back road games the first of which is against Penn State (3-4), which is their make-up game following the postponement last week. Their second road game and final game of January is against Maryland (7-6) who will have the edge because they already beat the Badgers earlier this season, but the Badgers will be determined to bounce back.