For as much as the Kohl Center gets knocked, they brought the juice for the Sunday matinee against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Badgers gave the home crowd every reason to rock the Kohl Center en route to a 70-57 massacre of the Buckeyes.
Wisconsin (14-10 Overall, 7-6 Big Ten) welcomed Ohio State (15-7 Overall, 5-6 Big Ten) to Madison on a day where they honored the 2000 Badgers squad that made an incredible run all the way to the final four. UW was an incredible 10-1 at the Kohl Center with their one loss being a one point loss to Illinois. The run at home would continue with the rout of Ohio State.
The return of the 2000 Badgers squad carried over some of the defensive magic that they possessed during their final four run. During their Cinderella run, only one opponent, Purdue, reached the sixty point mark. The 2020 team did their best impression in holding the Buckeyes to 57 points on 37% shooting from the field, 32% from deep and forcing 14 turnovers.
“That’s always been the DNA of Wisconsin and that’s something that we take pride in,” Aleem Ford said after the game. “But today specifically, coach Gard was telling us that we need to be more intense defensively after the Minnesota game and apply more ball pressure, get them out of their comfort zone.”
If there is anything we’ve learned about this Badgers team, is that, well, they have to be the hardest team to predict.
It was another whirlwind of a week for the team with strength coach Erik Helland being put on administrative leave which was followed up with a 70-52 demolition at the hands of the Gophers, but not to worry, the Badgers were back in the safe haven known as the Kohl Center.
The Badgers finished with 70 points for just the seventh time this season but one would have been shocked to hear that if they had watched just the first five minutes. The first 5:32 of game time was a snooze fest with both teams shooting 2-12 from the field along with six turnovers for a 3-3 tie.
From then on in the first half, the Badgers would separate, find their rhythm, and never look back.
UW ended the first half on a 26-5 run in the final 8:42. The first half saw the Badgers hold Ohio State to 32% shooting from the field and force nine turnovers. Conversely, Wisconsin hit eight threes, shot 43% from the field, assisted on 10 of their 13 field goals and turned it over just four times in the first half.
“That’s the biggest thing, some days shots don’t fall but if you’re able to stop the opponent from scoring that’s going to in the long run,” senior guard Brevin Pritzl said when asked what the biggest key when they went on their run. “Obviously, today shots were falling but the biggest key was just locking down”
Shots were falling for the team and the senior was the biggest testament to that. Just four days after failing to find the basket on seven shots, Pritzl was lights out on his way to 19 points which included 5-6 from deep.
Pritzl wasn’t the only Badger who found the bottom of the net on multiple occasions. Wisconsin showed their versatility once more with six of the Badgers in the rotation scoring eight or more points.
Wisconsin surely did not disappoint with the 2000 final four team in town. Greg Gard spoke about how happy the team was with the uniforms, calling them “sharp.” The players voiced their desire to wear them more than just the one time. We will have to wait to see whether or not the uniform is added to the rotation but the message the team left with the 2020 team should stick.
“It’s just about playing for the ‘W’ on the front of your jersey,” junior guard Trevor Anderson said when asked what it was like to talk to the 2000 team. “They just said that they were 11-11 at one point in the season and it just shows that anything can happen when you buy in and play for each other.”
The message rings louder than ever with the current team going through an extraordinary set of obstacles this year.