Author: Zack Cherney
MADISON- After steadily falling towards the bottom of the AP Top-25, the Badgers looked to turn things around. That proved extremely difficult as they had to take on two incredible Big Ten teams in back-to-back games: Michigan and Iowa. Following those two tough games, they got to take a breather when they faced struggling Northwestern.
The Badgers came back home to take on the third-best team in the country: Michigan. The last time these two matched up, Michigan obliterated the Badgers and this was a chance for either revenge for Wisconsin or a season sweep for Michigan. The result was what many expected, but after what occurred in the first half, it was a heartbreaking 67-59 loss for Badger fans. The first half was a battle for both teams. At the 9:09 mark it was all tied at 20, but with under seven minutes to go before halftime it started to spiral out of control for Michigan. With 6:16 to go, Michigan made a bucket to pull within three at 24-27, fortunately for the Badgers, their opponents decided to take a page out of their book of scoring droughts. Michigan scored their next bucket just before the buzzer for halftime. In that span of 6:11, the Badgers went on a 12-1 run. At half the Badgers were sitting pretty up 39-27, a score many did not expect. The Badgers were on fire in almost every aspect. The area that stuck out the most was their three-point shooting which was at a stellar 5-7 (71.4%), including 3-3 from Aleem Ford. Their shooting inside the arc was also a solid 9-19 (47.4%). In total, they were shooting a spectacular 53.8%. Their final 3:47 seemed to foreshadow what was to come in the second half. Their final bucket of the first half came with 3:48, and after that, they went 0-3, and their only five points were free throws. Whatever happened in those two locker rooms will forever be a mystery because the momentum switched almost immediately. After Brad Davison hit a three at the 18:52 mark to make it a 42-29 lead, it was all downhill from there. Their next basket came 3:07 later which was enough time for Michigan to go on an 8-1 run to bring them within single digits. The Badgers lead was quickly deteriorating. Following a made shot by Jonathan Davis at the 10:58 mark to make it a 51-44 lead, it all fell apart. Wisconsin fell quiet, Michigan took advantage. 5:53 later, Hunter Dickinson sank a free throw to cap a 10-3 run and ultimately give Michigan a 54-53 lead, their first lead since 10-9. Jonathan Davis responded right away with a shot to take the lead back at 55-54. Unfortunately, that basket at the 4:45 mark was the last made shot of the game by the Badgers, their last four points were free throws. In that final 4:44, the Badgers went 0-7. As the final buzzer sounded the Badgers had choked harder than they had all season in a second half with a 20 point swing. From a 12 point lead at the half to losing by eight. This was a game that included polar opposites in their halves. Their first half was arguably their best of the season as they came out with haymakers almost from start to finish against one of the best in the country. Then they had an abysmal second half where they were only able to tally 20 points, their worst half of the season (Oddly enough their previous low of 23 was in their first game against Michigan). The second half produced horrific shooting numbers. From behind the arc, they shot 1-12 (8.3%) and their last three came at the 18:52 mark. Inside the arc, they went 6-16 (37.5%). Their total shooting dropped to 25% (28.8% worse than the first half). This team has been defined by their destructive halves, and this game was a perfect representation of this. Despite these failures, the Badgers were still able to get three shooters to finish with double-digit points including D’Mitrik Trice with 16 (11 in the first half), Aleem Ford with 15 (13 in the first half) and Jonathan Davis with 11 (8 in the second half). Each of these top scorers had a half that favored them, but the other three starters did not choose to show up at all. Brad Davison, Nate Revuers and Tyler Wahl have been in extreme slumps for many of the games as of recent and went a combined 3-17 from the field for eight points is unacceptable. A truly consistent game does not appear to be in the Badgers’ arsenal.
Good – Best first half of the season.
Bad – Worst second half of the season.
The Badgers have been on a win one, lose one streak over the last eight games, but it was snapped once Iowa came to town for their first matchup of the season. Iowa showed very little struggle in their 77-62 stomping on the Badgers. In the first few minutes, it was clear this was going to be an uphill battle for the Badgers because at the 15:22 mark Iowa star Luka Garza hit a three to give Iowa a 14-3 lead. Instead of the Badgers continuing to slump they went on a 7-0 run to make it a game again at 14-10. Unfortunately, the momentum switched again and Iowa went on an 8-0 run. Iowa was able to hold on to a strong lead which was at 31-18 with four minutes until halftime, but in the final four minutes, the Badgers went on a 9-5 run which brought them within nine at the half at 36-27. Just as against Michigan, the second half started off as bad as possible for the Badgers. At the 17:22 mark, Luka Garza made a basket to cap off a 7-0 run for Iowa which pushed the lead to 43-27. Just when it seemed Iowa would run away with it, the Badgers showed up in a big way. Over the next 8:24, the Badgers stormed back with a 19-6 run which brought them to within three, an unthinkably low deficit. Sadly though for the Badgers, their run came to an end and Iowa was able to pull away once again. At the 5:46 mark, Micah Potter hit a shot to bring the Badgers within nine, but after that shot, their chance of another comeback was squandered. Their next basket came with 1:50 to go in the game. In that span of 3:56, Iowa was able to go on a 10-2 run which gave Iowa a 73-56 lead which proved to be insurmountable for the Badgers giving Iowa an easy win and a chance for the season sweep at the very end of the season. The first thing that should be said about this wild game is that the Badgers were not given much of a chance to win, but even as they faced huge deficits they never gave up. There is much to criticize, but if they were able to get a few more shooters going this could have been a feasible win. As long as the positive aspects are being examined it would be a crime not to mention Micah Potter. After a few rough games, Potter was placed on the bench and against one of the best teams in the Big Ten, he made the most of his time on the. He recorded yet another double-double with 11 rebounds (six offensive and five defensive) and 23 points. He shot 8-15 from the field, including 3-6 from three, and was the only Badger to shoot 100% from the free-throw line at 4-4. Another strong performance came from Brad Davison who was just a few rough performances away from losing his job as a starter. Much of his problem has been with his tendency to take almost all of his shots from behind the arc which is sad because he normally misses them all. Although he took eight of his 11 shots from behind the arc, he was rather successful at 5-8 (62.5%) giving him 15 points (The last time he recorded 15 was against Nebraska on Dec. 22). The one other positive area was offensive rebounds. The Badgers finished with 17 and Iowa only had seven. Unfortunately, this is where the extensive criticism begins. The first matter of business is scoring droughts. There were four droughts which span from 3:00 to 3:42 and they add up to a total time of 13:22 (10:22 in the first half) which is almost 67.5% of the entire game where Iowa could go on a run (33 points in that 13:22). If the Badgers are going to compete against top-tier teams, they are going to have to clean up this kind of a mess. When they were scoring it was most likely Potter and to end the game that was exactly the case. In the final 5:46, all 10 points for the Badgers were courtesy of Potter. The rest of the team went 0-11 from the field and not surprisingly, nine of those were three-point attempts. Despite Potter’s hot hand, he did not miss a shot in that span which raises the question of why he did not get the ball more. Crazily enough they had a bit of a Groundhog Day type sequence between 4:03 and 3:42 where they missed a three, got the offensive rebound, and then repeated that exact pattern three more times (Total of five missed threes and four offensive rebounds on the first four misses). To continue on the conversation arc of shots from behind the arc the Badgers once again spent an absurd amount of time from that range: 48.6% of their shots. After constantly pleading for the Badgers to shoot no more than 15 times from three-point range they decided to shoot 34 of their 70 from behind the arc. Although, they did make 13 which happened to be their main source of points because inside the arc was as ugly as it gets. They are usually highly efficient inside the arc but this time around they were only able to go 8-36 which is a truly sad 22.2% (Potter was responsible for five of those eight). The final area to note was the defensive glass where they were outrebounded by 14. Getting offensive rebounds is important, but if they are unable to battle on defense, it is nearly impossible to compete on Iowa’s level. This game has plenty of good, but based on how the past couple of months have been going, was majorly overshadowed by the terrible mistakes which ultimately cost them the game.
Good – Never gave up.
Bad – Failed to get defensive rebounds.
After two taxing games for the Badgers, they were finally able to have a solid all-around performance against Northwestern. The Badgers finished their season sweep of the Wildcats with a dominant 68-51 victory on the road. Northwestern came into this game on a 12 game losing streak, but they have played relatively well against four tough opponents so far in February, and with the way the Badgers have been playing this could have been an upset. For the majority of the first half Northwestern was battling it out. With 6:05 to go before halftime, Northwestern hit a bucket to tie the game at 20. Neither team was able to break away and go on a large run, but that changed rather quickly. In the final six minutes, the Badgers were able to take control and end the half on a 14-4 run putting them up by 10 at the break. Despite a long scoreless drought of 5:45 (13:06-7:21), the Badgers were able to shoot relatively consistently which was crucial as Northwestern faltered near the end of the half putting the pressure on their opponents for a change. As the second half began, Northwestern inched closer as the Badgers took 3:44 to make their first bucket of the half. Following the short lull, the Badgers got right back at their consistent scoring making it a frustrating half for Northwestern. Northwestern had a scoring drought of their own which proved fatal. At the 12:59 mark, Ryan Young of Northwestern made a free throw which brought them within seven at 46-39. Northwestern’s next bucket came with 7:04 to go. The 5:53 in between was enough time for the Badgers to go on a 12-1 run and push it to a 59-40 lead. For the Badgers, any fear of an upset was put to rest as they were able to glide to the finish line and come away with a 17 point victory. Despite the one long drought and few short droughts throughout, this was an extremely well-played and smart game from the Badgers who were in desperate need of a blowout victory. To show how consistent the Badgers played they scored 34 points in the first half and 34 in the second half. Coming into this game it was rare to see a game with more than just a couple of strong offensive rebounds, but this game saw an unordinary amount. Three starters and two bench players finished with double-digit points including Tyler Wahl (10), Jonathan Davis (12), Brad Davison (12), D’Mitrik Trice (13) and Micah Potter (19). It was a welcome sight to see Davison and Wahl making an impact because both have been having a difficult time getting anything going. Davison continued to spend too much time behind the arc, but he was still able to make a couple of threes and went 4-4 from the free-throw line which resulted in a nice game. Wahl since being given a starting spot has been useless, but he was able to shoot 50% from the field which resulted in a much-needed double-digit point total. Additionally freshman Jonathan Davis was able to take advantage of his time on the free-throw line, where he went 6-7 resulting in half of his points and continuing his powerful first season. Taking the top spot is Micah Potter, who after a 23 point performance last game, finished one point away from another 20 point game and two rebounds away from another double-double. He went 7-8 from the field including 3-3 from three-point range and 2-2 from the line. Having a game with this many strong all-around performances can feed the team confidence and get them back on track as the regular season comes to a close in the next week. Another successful area was their ability to capitalize on Northwestern’s turnovers. They turned the ball over 14 times, and the Badgers were able to get points on nine of them (64.3%) where they scored 21 points. Being able to make something out of the opposing teams’ mistakes will be crucial for success because good teams do not make as many mistakes. A huge win does not mean it is time for the Badgers to relax, instead, it is time for them to learn how to play this style of basketball as they face off against stronger Big Ten opponents.
Good – Took advantage of takeaways.
Bad – Nate Reuvers continues to struggle (FG: 1-6; PTS: 2; REB: 1).
In the AP Poll, the Badgers stayed steady at No. 21 but then in the most recent poll they went down from No. 21 to No. 23.
Looking ahead, the Badgers will come back home for their final game at the Kohl Center of the season to take on No. 5 Illinois(16-5), who obliterated the Badgers three weeks earlier. They will then head on the road for their final two games, the first of which is against Purdue (15-8) that will be their only matchup of the season. To finish the regular season they have to go up against No. 9 Iowa (17-6) who just recently put the hurt on the Badgers. It will be a tough ask, but if they can keep it a close game it will fare well for them as they head to the Big Ten tournament.