With sole possession of the Big Ten lead in their hands and a very formidable foe in the Northwestern Wildcats in town, the No. 7 ranked Wisconsin Badgers gave a poor performance at the Kohl Center, losing 66-59 and ending their streak of 19 consecutive home wins. An injured Bronson Koenig at the point played a pretty big role in this, as did a sustained inability on offense and lack of post defense on the other end.
Team’s offensive inability
For the fourth time in five games, the No. 7 team in the country did not reach 70 points on offense. The one game that they did, they had an extra five minutes to do so due to overtime in Lincoln, and just cracked 70.
For the experience, depth and just flat out talent of this team, that’s not going to cut it, especially if these Badgers really hope to win it all.
The team’s best player during conference season has been Ethan Happ, a sophomore big man on the Wooden Award watch list. He finished with just nine points, including only two in the last 34 minutes of the game. Happ missed a couple shots, but was generally double-teamed throughout the game, which is when his teammates needed to step up.
They did their best, as Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown, Zak Showalter and Trice combined for 45 points, but even they can’t do it all. What’s even worse than the scoring and below 40% shooting percentage from the field is that the Badgers had three different scoring droughts of at least three minutes, including one that took about five minutes. Add those up, and that’s over one-quarter of the whole game, without scoring.
Wisconsin is a very impressive defensive team, which has helped them win many games this year, but they can’t be perfect all the time, and the offense needs to turn it around.
Poor post defense
Overall, allowing 66 points to a likely tournament-bound team is not poor at all.
But for Wisconsin, with a sustained focus on team defense and a struggling offense right now, it was how the Wildcats scored that really hurt the Badgers.
Of the 66 points Northwestern scored, 26 of them were in the paint, compared to Wisconsin just getting 12, which Happ usually tops all by himself.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, it was not just one player messing up or one Wildcat destroying them on the inside, but a collective effort on both accounts, letting men go by, but also not being there to help. Players didn’t rotate like they usually do, or real play off-ball defense at all, especially in the last 12 minutes of the game.
No team is perfect, and Northwestern is one of the best teams that Wisconsin has faced all year, but at home, and with the Wildcats playing without their leading scorer, getting outplayed in the paint is not acceptable for the Badgers.