On Sunday, the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (21-5, 10-3) will look to snap out of a two-game losing streak against the No. 23 Maryland Terrapins (22-4, 10-3) at 12:00pm CT at the Kohl Center (TV: CBS).
Both teams trail No. 16 Purdue by half a game in the Big Ten standings. With only five more games left in conference play, this game is a near must-win for the Badgers. Wisconsin plays vs. Maryland, at Ohio State, at Michigan State, vs. Iowa, and vs. Minnesota, none of which are guaranteed wins.
This will be the first and only matchup between the Badgers and Terps in the regular season. Junior Melo Trimble, a Wisconsin killer, leads Maryland at 17.2 points per game (ppg), with freshmen Josh Jackson (11.0 ppg), Anthony Cowan (10.7 ppg), and Kevin Huerter (9.0 ppg) all contributing in their first seasons. While the Badgers start four seniors and redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ, the Terps start Trimble, three freshmen, and senior rim protector Damonte Dodd. The Badgers will need to use their experience and home court to their advantage to secure the win.
Bronson Koenig, who missed Thursday’s loss at Michigan with a calf injury, practiced on Saturday, though a decision on whether or not he will play on Sunday has yet to be made. Wisconsin’s offense has struggled throughout conference play, with the defense keeping them in games. On Thursday, the Badgers missed Koenig with freshman D’Mitrik Trice (2/15 shooting) struggling in his place. Both players, if Koenig gives it a go, will play a lot on Sunday regardless.
As Nigel Hayes told reporters on Friday after practice, he had a conversation with Greg Gard after the loss on Thursday about playing more aggressive on offense. Hayes only took seven shots in Koenig’s absence and did not step up as much as Gard had hoped. Look for Hayes to ask for the ball more down low and get back to playing the effective point forward style ball he had going earlier in the season.
Per usual, Happ will be asked to do a lot down low for the Badgers, but expect Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter to have scoring opportunities in their matchups against younger, inexperienced players. Showalter will get to guard Trimble, a matchup that will be worth watching every possession.
If the Badgers can contain Trimble, get Dodd in foul trouble, and physically overpower Maryland’s freshmen, they will have a very good chance of getting back to winning ways.
This is as much of a must-win as the Badgers have had all season, and it’s time to get back to the Wisconsin Badgers brand of basketball that has been so successful for almost two decades.