MADISON – Northwestern handed Wisconsin its fourth straight loss as they steadily defeated Wisconsin 60-52. Dererk Pardon was a force down low for the Wildcats going perfect from the field and scoring 17 points. The loss drops Wisconsin to 10-14 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten, and now the Badgers have dropped seven of their last eight.
On Monday night, Nebraska ended the game with a 30-8 run to escape with a victory in a game that the Badgers controlled for the first 30 minutes. On Thursday night, Northwestern started the game out on an 18-1 run, in what was a nightmarish start for Wisconsin.
“We’ve been talking so much recently how you start games…,” Doug Collins said of his team’s hot start. “My dad said basketball is not a fourth quarter game, it’s a first quarter game… It’s all about setting the tone early.”
Northwestern was 6/7 by the time of the first media timeout, meanwhile the Badgers had only attempted one shot from the field and had four turnovers. After the 18-1 start, Wisconsin went on a 10-1 run to make things mildly interesting.
The Wildcats’ hot start was a mix of tough shot making and some errors by the Badgers defense. Vic Law Jr. hit some tough pull-up jumpers and three, scoring nine points in the first nine minutes. Wisconsin struggled defending the ball screen, one example being Pardon beating Nate Reuvers to the rim on a pick-and roll resulting in an easy dunk.
The Badgers got hot from beyond the arc to get back within single digits before halftime. Aleem Ford hit a pair of treys and Davison added another to make the score 35-26 with 2:29 remaining in the first half. Pardon would end the half with another easy dunk, beating the Badger bigs off the ball. Scottie Lindsey dished it to him at the perfect time. That dunk gave Pardon him 11 points in the first half, matching his season average per game. Pardon and Law combined for 9/9 shooting in the first half.
UW’s defense tightened up to start the second half, not allowing a Wildcats bucket until the half was over four and a half minutes old when McIntosh and Pardon again beat the Badgers defense on a pick and roll for a Pardon finish. The Badgers got within seven after Ford’s third three of the game and a finish by Iverson, which was their closest margin since the start of the game.
Aleem Ford hit a three with 1:21 remaining to bring the Badgers within six. Northwestern was on a scoring drought of over three and a half minutes allowing the Badgers to stay in it. After the Wildcats hit two free throws, Happ hit a hook shot to bring the deficit back down to six. The next possession down, the Badgers elected not to foul allowing Northwestern to run the clock down, and Davison fouled McIntosh with four seconds left on the shot clock. McIntosh hit the two free throws giving the Wildcats an eight point lead with 30 seconds remaining, effectively ending the game.
Wisconsin played much better after the first ten minutes, but unfortunately they dug themselves to deep of a hole in the opening minutes to have a shot at winning the game.
Head coach Greg Gard said: “If you don’t dig yourself an 18-1 hole, it’s a lot easier to come back.”
Northwestern significantly out shot Wisconsin from the field, going 21/42 compared to Wisconsin’s 19/58. The Badgers only had four players score: Iverson (15) Happ (14), Ford (12), and Davison (11). Pritzl was 0/11 from the field (0/9 from deep) as he was visibly frustrated with himself, as was Davison as the final buzzer sounded.
Up next, the Badgers play at Maryland on Sunday.