For the fourth time in the last five games, the Wisconsin Badgers lost to a Big Ten conference opponent. On Sunday, the loss came at the hands of the unranked Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, where this group of Wisconsin seniors still have not won.
Michigan helped the Badgers out on Saturday, knocking off Purdue and giving Wisconsin a shot to tie for the lead in the conference, but they could not take advantage. The Badgers are now a full game out of first place after the loss, caused mainly by more poor shooting and a lack of bench production.
Poor shooting all around
Overall, Wisconsin shot 43% from the field for the game, which, when compared to that of Michigan State at 47%, seems reasonable. However, two of the Badgers’ season long problems have not gone away, those of three-point shooting accuracy and free throw shooting.
Wisconsin shot an ugly 28% from deep at 5/18 (Bronson Koenig alone was 1/9), and an atrocious 52% (13/25) from the free throw line. Some of the three-point attempts were prayers thrown up in near garbage time, but the team still was not accurate throughout the contest. And for a tournament bound team, or really any competitive basketball team, it is very tough to win, on the road no less, making just half the attempts from the charity stripe.
On the other side, Michigan State shot a solid 41% (7/17) from three-point range, and an impressive 91% (21-23) from the free throw line.
So, two more points from deep, and eight more from the free throw line, and that’s ten, the final margin of the contest. Quite simply, that is the game. With the number of attempts the Badgers have been getting at the line, they absolutely need to capitalize, or this won’t be the type of tourney run Wisconsinites have become accustomed to the last few seasons.
Lack of bench production
Along with poor shooting, another lasting problem for Wisconsin all season has been bench production, specifically on the offensive end. Unfortunately for the Badgers, that trend did not change at the Izzone on Sunday.
Michigan outscored Wisconsin’s bench 30-10 in East Lansing, a huge margin of 20. Even worse, they literally tripled the Badgers’ production from the bench.
Of the five players off the bench that played for Wisconsin on Sunday, only two of them registered a field goal attempt, consistent contributors D’Mitrik Trice and Khalil Iverson.
Iverson and Trice combined for nine points off the bench, which is not too far off of their combined season average of a fluctuating 9-10 points per game. That being said, three other players that combined for nearly 25 minutes on Sunday had zero shot attempts, and only scored one point.
In the Big Ten and beyond, a total of ten points from the whole bench is not going to cut it, as that seems to be a common trend with this team.
With a record of 22-7, the Badgers have obviously done at least just enough to win a lot of games. Unfortunately, that number in the winning column won’t increase by much if the team doesn’t play to its potential, especially on the offensive side of the ball.