Western Kentucky’s offense exploded for 53 points in the second half to hand the Badgers their third loss of the year, 83-76. All three of Wisconsin’s losses have come away from the Kohl Center. The Hilltoppers had four players with at least 15 points.
Ethan Happ versus Charles Bassey was the matchup in Saturday’s game, especially with Western Kentucky being without Lamonte Bearden and Marek Wilson. The shorthanded Hilltoppers pulled off the victory. Bassey was an efficient seven-of-eight with 17 points, while Happ struggled missing 14 shots.
Brad Davison led the Badgers with 26 points and was magnificent all day. Overall, however, the Hilltoppers just looked like the more complete team even without two rotation players. The balanced attack from WKU just devastated Wisconsin. Four starters scored in double-figures, and the fifth, Dalano Banton had 13 rebounds and ten assists.
The Badgers led at the break thanks to a monster half from Davison. Davison has been quiet over recent weeks in the scoring column, but the sophomore guard had 13 points with three threes in the first half. Ethan Happ sat the final six minutes of the half due to foul trouble. The Hilltoppers outscored the Badgers by two during this timeframe.
Even when Happ was in, Western Kentucky and Bassey, who is one of the best players you have not heard of, made the senior center struggle. Happ was just three-of-nine from the field during the first twenty minutes. Even though Bassey outplayed Happ in the game’s most important matchup, Wisconsin still led most of the half. The Badgers only had two turnovers to Western Kentucky’s eight.
The Hilltoppers came out of halftime and immediately took control. Western Kentucky scored 13 of the first 17 points of the half and took their first lead of the game since the opening minutes. Wisconsin helped their cause turning the ball over three times (including Davison and Trice on back-to-back possessions) at the beginning of the half, which was already more than the aforementioned two turnovers during the first twenty minutes.
A Josh Anderson steal and dunk gave Western Kentucky a five-point lead and forced Greg Gard to call a timeout with 16:45 remaining. The Hilltoppers scored on six consecutive trips.
Western Kentucky had a few easy buckets on runouts that the Badgers defense did not get back on defense for, but Happ and Iverson (who scored in double-figures for the first time this season) kept it close. Happ had 15 points as the Badgers tied the game back up at 52-52.
The teams traded threes to keep it tied, but then Western Kentucky went on an 8-0 run to take back control. The Badgers defense could not keep up with the Hilltoppers who only missed three shots in over ten minutes, including going a perfect four-of-four from beyond the arc. It really seemed like Western Kentucky’s night when a three banked home after rattling around the rim.
With the Badgers trailing, Gard’s squad went nearly four minutes without a basket made. The Badgers needed a run to edge back into the game, but Wisconsin’s offense just was not there on Saturday. Wisconsin cut a ten-point deficit into three, but Western Kentucky abruptly ended things after Taevion Hollingsworth canned two jumpers.
The Badgers are back at the Kohl Center on January 3rd. Wisconsin resumes Big Ten play against Minnesota.