63 field goal attempts.
39 three-point attempts. 11 makes.
Five free throw attempts.
Bronson Koenig had 13 three-point attempts. Nigel Hayes had 9 three-point attempts. Ethan Happ had five total field goal attempts.
The Badgers lack of balance was glaringly obvious in their 79-67 loss to #22 Creighton.
The Badgers were trigger happy from beyond the arch. The problem with the Badgers being THAT trigger happy, is that the Badgers aren’t necessarily a great shooting team. Beyond Bronson Koenig, the rest of the shooters that the Badgers have are, at best, streaky. For example, Hayes made his three of his first four three-point attempts and missed his last six. When Hayes missed, the shots often clanked off the backboard or missed the hoop completely.
The other problem with being that trigger happy is that it takes the reigning Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten Ethan Happ right out of the game. Happ now has nine field goal attempts in the first four halves of the season, a number shockingly low.
Creighton did an excellent job with their defensive scheme. They doubled down on every post touch the Badgers had knowing that it would force them out of the paint and shoot more threes. However, the Badgers can’t let the opponents dictate what they do. In addition to Happ only having five shots, Hayes only took four two-point shots.
The Badgers have to get back to getting Hayes and Happ the ball on the block and letting them work. Even on nights where they aren’t scoring, both players have showed the vision and ability to make kickout passes to anywhere on the court. The inside out game from the post to Koenig or Showalter is where the Badgers are most dangerous. Not only will the Badgers have more balance and get more quality shots, it will increase their free throw attempts. Getting the offense back to that is priority number one.
On the defensive end, the Badgers showed no ability to stay in front of Maurice Watson Jr., who had 17 points and 10 assists on Tuesday night. Watson was able to penetrate against whoever guarded him, whether it be Koenig, D’Mitrik Trice, Zak Showalter, or Jordan Hill. Watson Jr., is a very good player, and one of the best point guards they’ll play all year, but he won’t be the only creative point guard they play all year. By the time Maryland and Melo Trimble come around on the schedule, the Badgers are going to have play a lot better on-ball defense than they did tonight. Ethan Happ also struggled tremendously on the defensive end, giving up lightly contested post moves and not forcing much resistance in Creighton’s big men catching the ball where they wanted to.
Creighton was an awesome November test for the Badgers. Creighton will probably make the NCAA Tournament; it wasn’t a bad loss for Wisconsin by any means. The Badgers play a lot of players regularly, and it is probably going to result in some early season clunkiness. Getting used to your teammate’s tendencies takes time. Even though this is basically the same roster as last year, it features a lot of new roles for players. Additionally, it is going to take Gard awhile to determine which lineups work best and which players play the best together. This is harder when you play eleven players regularly, and that’s without Brevin Pritzl and Andy Van Vliet seeing any minutes.
Last year it took a few months for the Badgers to get it rolling and to get it figured out. A lot of people assumed that they would keep the momentum moving forward into this year. I wouldn’t be shocked if the months of November, December, and January have some struggles for the Badgers again (not near as bad as last year with losses to teams like Western Illinois and Milwaukee, but struggles nonetheless). If Dillion Brooks is back for the Oregon Ducks next week in Maui, that is going to be a really hard game for the Badgers to win.
Bottom line, in November, Creighton was a better team than Wisconsin. The Badgers are still sorting a lot of issues out, and will continue to do so. I would love to see a rematch of Wisconsin and Creighton in March.