When he sank his game winning three-pointer from the corner to send the Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen this past March, Bronson Koenig cemented himself as a Badger folk hero. This season, Koenig has continued to add to that legacy with several impressive late-game performances. In each of Wisconsin’s last two victories, Koenig has taken the game over late to lift the Badgers past opponents.
Against the Wolverines, the Badgers were sluggish in the first half but managed to lead by five at intermission. The sloppy play continued, and at the under 12 minute timeout they had seen their five point advantage turned into an eight point deficit. They managed to cut the lead to four, and after that Koenig ripped off ten straight points and the Badgers did not trail after that. Bronson Koenig scoring in bunches is not something incredibly unique, but it was the way that he was getting his points that made the night special. He rained two highly contested three-pointers and snaked to the hoop for a couple of buckets at the rim. When the game seemed to hang in the balance, Koenig pushed his chips to center of the table and bet on himself to bring the victory home.
His heroics were once again evident against Minnesota on the road. Ethan Happ led the Badgers in scoring, but Koenig’s two late threes in overtime were the biggest shots of the game. Koenig had only 11 points on the night, but his six in overtime were crucial.
It’s great that Bronson Koenig has emerged as the Badgers late game go-to guy, but there is a tendency for the offense to bog down and rely too heavily on him in crunch time. This was especially the case in the Michigan game, where the offense went very isolation-heavy during Koenig’s breakout stretch. Part of that is natural, when a guy is shooting well it makes sense to let him have some space to operate and trust that he going to get a good look. On the other hand, if Koenig is not hitting those high degree of difficulty shots those possessions look very stagnant.
The best version of the Badgers offense involves fluid motion that helps create easy looks for players. They do an excellent job screening for not only guards, but having front court players screen for each other in order to get deep post position. It’s important that they do not stray away from running legitimate offense in late game situations. Koenig going one-on-one will always be an option, but as the season progresses, asking him to carry the offensive load on a night-to-night basis does not bode well for postseason success.
The emergence of Happ and the steady presence of Nigel Hayes lighten the load for Koenig, but it is imperative that Coach Gard emphasizes the importance staying within the offense even in late game situations.