The Badgers defeated Northwestern 76-48 on Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Here are some key takeaways from the big win.
Badgers defense stuffs Northwestern
The Badgers defense gave up nothing easy this time around .
Northwestern scored 65 points against the Badgers in the Kohl Center when they beat the Badgers during the regular season, but on Saturday, came nowhere close to that number. The Badgers held the Wildcats to just 7/27 shooting from the field during the first half, allowing Wisconsin to get out to a big lead.
Northwestern shot just 34% from the field overall and 3/14 from beyond the arc.
Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points against the Badgers during that first matchup and he also scored 27 points against them during last year’s regular season. Yesterday, I wrote that containing him would be the key to today’s game, and the Badgers managed to finally give him some struggles.
McIntosh was just 4/12 from the field, scoring eight points. McIntosh led the Big Ten in assists this season but only had one on Saturday. Zak Showalter gave him fits.
48 points is the lowest total Northwestern has been held to all year. There is no doubt that the fact this was Northwestern’s third game in three days and their second game in the last 24 hours, but you still have to give credit to Wisconsin.
Ethan Happ converts from the free-throw line
Ethan Happ is shooting just 47.5% from the free-throw line this season.
On Saturday, Happ went 8/11 from the charity stripe.
His eight free throws totaled half of his points, 16. If Happ can continue to be successful at the line, it changes the game for Wisconsin. It also allows Happ to force more contact and get to the line more instead of being afraid of going to the free throw line, and it also allows him to stay on the floor at the end of games in free throw shooting situations.
The Badgers were the Big Ten’s second-worst free throw shooting team, but to win in March, it’s going to take some consistency on the freebies.
Balanced offensive showing
The Badgers scored 76 points, their highest point total since January 21st when they scored 78 points against Minnesota, and that took an overtime period to do so.
The Badgers scored 70 points against Indiana, making this back-to-back 70-point games for the Badgers.
Nigel Hayes and Happ were ultra-efficient, scoring a combined 34 points on 11/17 shooting.
Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Vitto Brown, D’Mitrik Trice, and Nigel Hayes all converted two 3-pointers apiece.
The Badgers 12/29 3-point totals would have been a lot better had Koenig not shot 2/9.
The Badgers’ win puts them in the Big Ten Championship for the second time in the last three years and the third time in the last five.
Wisconsin beat Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game two years ago, as Koenig and Hayes had major roles as sophomores.
Ohio State is the only Big Ten team with more berths in the championship game (8) than Wisconsin (7).
Wisconsin and Michigan face off at Verizon Center in D.C. at 2:00pm CT on Sunday, right before brackets are released.