After Wisconsin’s loss to Northwestern at home Sunday, following about a month of just squeaking by in games with poor offense, there was a certain feeling locally that “the sky was falling” in terms of how good this No. 11 team in the country really is. With starting point guard Bronson Koenig out and yet another poor performance Thursday in the Badgers’ nationally televised loss to Michigan, that feeling has only increased among Badger fans.
Wisconsin has a 21-5 record and still sits tied atop the Big Ten Conference, but with recent play and no great wins on the résumé, things are getting a little shaky in Madtown.
Over-reliance on Happ
Over the course of the last month, when the Badgers were struggling, they would rely on Ethan Happ to get them out of it. For the most part, like in come from behind victories at Minnesota and Rutgers, Happ delivered on both ends, winning back-to-back Big Ten Honors and garnering a lot of national recognition.
The problem is, Happ cannot constantly do everything by himself, and this issue certainly came to light Thursday evening.
He got a little help from Khalil Iverson off the bench who scored ten for the Badgers, and together the two sophomores combined for 32 points, which was over half of the team’s total. Even more alarming, Happ and Iverson together shot a terrific 15-20 (75%) from the field. The rest of the team: 8-39, barely above 20% shooting as a team.
The rest of the regular starters only combined for 14 points, which included an 0-5 shooting performance from Vitto Brown, and only seven shots attempted by All-Big Ten performer Nigel Hayes.
Wisconsin’s defense kept them alive, and Michigan was certainly hungry for a necessary good win for their résumé, but if the Badgers want to make any noise during tournament season, they desperately need other players to step up in Koenig’s absence and take some pressure off Happ, especially with so much experience of their own.
Poor three-point shooting
Wisconsin lost to Michigan at Crisler Arena by six points, 64-58. Ironically, both teams made the same number of total field goals (23), as well as free throws (9). The only difference: the Wolverines made six more three-point shots than the Badgers.
That’s truly all this Big Ten showdown came down to. Wisconsin is not a great three-point shooting team, and it certainly hurt that they were without Koenig, one of the most proficient shooters in school history.
That being said, the Badgers shot an abysmal 3-15 (20%) from deep. Most were good looks, but some were certainly taken too quickly in the possessions with plenty of time on the shot clock.
On the other side, Michigan put up 23 shots from deep, majority contested but some very open looks, and hit nine of them, which is a very respectable 40% from long range.
If and when Wisconsin gets Koenig back, they will certainly get a boost in this department, which will also help take pressure off of young players like Iverson and D’Mitrik Trice to fill the void. But until then, the Badgers need to start hitting their open shots, as that not only contributes to winning individual games, but truly the outcome of Wisconsin’s season.