MADISON – Wisconsin won their third straight game to climb back to an even record, 7-7, as they beat Chicago State in a half-court brawl (just 13 transition points scored combined) 82-70 on Wednesday night. Wisconsin was favored by 30 and didn’t even come close to that margin of victory, but the win to get back to a .500 record is satisfying.
All Wisconsin starters were in double figures. Ethan Happ led the way for the Badgers with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. Iverson tallied 17 points, while Davison scored 15, Ford had 11, and Pritzl added 10.
Wisconsin held Chicago State to just nine three-point attempts while hitting seven of their own. The 12 point difference from deep made up for the points in the paint statistic which the Badgers usually own but didn’t tonight, as they tied Chicago State in that statistic. Additionally, Wisconsin made more free throws (23) than Chicago State attempted (17).
Freshman phenom Brad Davison’s shoulder injury has undoubtedly caused Badger fans some anxiety. Shortly into the game, Davison got tangled up playing post defense and injured his shoulder again, causing him to exit and get checked in the locker room. Similar to every other time Davison’s tweaked his shoulder, he would come back to a roar from the Kohl Center crowd. In his first possession back, Davison stepped into a three-pointer and hit nothing but net.
“Brad is a tough dude,” Happ said. “When it’s a shoulder injury we’re not surprised (when he comes back) because we’ve seen it before.”
“He’s a tough competitor, one of the toughest I’ve been around,” head coach Greg Gard said of Davison. “He competes, I know that.”
Aleem Ford started out strong for the Badgers. After Khalil Iverson made a strong move to the hoop for a bucket to start out the game, Ford dominated a few possessions. The freshman forward blocked a shot at the rim, and on the ensuing trip down the other end, Ford snagged an athletic offensive rebound and got fouled. He hit both of his free throws. Ford’s next two buckets came quickly via the three-point line. Ford has been stroking it from distance as of late, going 10/17 from beyond the arch in the past six games.
After getting up 17 with less than 10 minutes to go in the first half, the Badgers, just like in their last outing against Green Bay, suffered a drought. The Badgers went nearly four minutes without scoring, allowing Chicago State to climb back within ten points. Wisconsin would hit eight free throws in the final four minutes of the half, increasing their lead back to 17 at halftime, 41-24.
Brevin Pritzl had two highlight plays during the first half. Pritzl, known for his shooting from deep, ironically made two nice plays at the rim. First, Pritzl went behind the back as a defender went for a steal on a fastbreak take and smoothly finished with his left hand for an and-one opportunity. Minutes later, Pritzl received a nice pass from Alex Illikainen as he was wide open under the hoop for an easy dunk.
Both teams started out the second half 7/11 from the field. Nate Reuvers canned back-to-back threes to keep Chicago State a comfortable distance away as they started to chip into the Badgers’ lead again. After the Reuvers threes, the Cougars went on a 9-0 run to cut the score to 57-48 with 10:18 left.
“We weren’t having any problems offensively, it was defensively,” Happ said of Chicago State’s run. “We’ve got to be better… It’s lapses.”
Wisconsin would score 11 of the next 15 points of the game to take control as the Badgers held the Cougars scoreless for nearly three and a half minutes. More crucially, Davison drew a foul on Deionte Simmons, Chicago State’s leading scorer with 19 points on 8/12 shooting. Without him, the Cougars became stagnant.
The official nail in the coffin to end the night was right where the game started: Aleem Ford. Ford hit a wide open three from the right wing to put the Badgers up 72-58 with just 3:30 remaining.
Without D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King due to injuries, a young, thin roster became even thinner. This is most obvious with the bench, as Pritzl slid into the starting lineup and not having King, one of their key reserves. But on Wednesday, the bench was noticeably absent. The bench didn’t even record an official field goal attempt in 26 minutes during the first half, and only scored two points on Aaron Moesch free throws. The bench’s only two field goals were the pair of Revuers’s threes.
Even more concerning, when Davison went out with an injury, Walt McGrory was forced to play extended minutes. McGrory is a walk-on freshman who wasn’t even an active member of the roster until a few games ago. As Big Ten season is coming shortly, even with a healthy D’Mitrik Trice, the bench continues to be a major issue for Wisconsin.
“Our margin for error is slim,” Gard said. “We’re down a couple of bodies.”
Wisconsin has one non-conference game remaining before they enter Big Ten play for the rest of the season. The Badgers host UMass Lowell at 3 p.m. on Saturday.