Michigan State was supposed to beat Wisconsin on Friday night and that’s exactly what they did, winning 76-61 at the Breslin Center.
It was the third straight loss in the series with the Spartans and the fifth in the last six games for Wisconsin. The Badgers drop to 3-6 in Big Ten play and are two games under .500 overall on the season. As for the Spartans, it was a much-needed win with all that is surrounding the athletic department and the program specifically.
So, what do we take away from yet another loss for UW? Let’s get in to our three takeaways from Friday night.
Effort was there against an elite team
Yes, this is where the Badgers program is at this season — we’re talking about effort.
Unlike the last few times Wisconsin has played against the upper echelon of college basketball, at least this time they put up a big fight and made Michigan State work for it. Blowouts to Ohio State, Purdue and Marquette earlier in the year suggested this one was going to be over before it even started.
However, the Badgers fought hard and clawed their way to within single digits at points throughout the game. UW was down just 46-40 with just under 10 minutes to go in the game, but the Spartans responded right back to make it a nine-point game and the Badgers never got closer.
Michigan State had an answer for every run the Badgers made, but this was a strong showing in terms of a full team effort in this one. That’s a positive and if they can play with this effort against the rest of the Big Ten, there may be an upset or two brewing for this team.
Perimeter Shooting Sucks Again
As much as the defense has been the Badgers Achilles heel this season, so has the shooting from anywhere not within 5-feet of the basket.
That was on brutal display against Michigan State, as the Badgers shot an awful 36.2 percent from the field and an even worse 20.8 percent from beyond the arc. UW made four three-pointers in the first half, but only mustered up a single made basket from beyond the arc in the second half.
It’s a shame too, because there were plenty of good looks and this was a game just begging for those shots to go down for Wisconsin. Make three or four more and a 15-point loss would’ve been a very different game.
Point guard Brad Davison’s shoulder is clearly affecting his long-range shooting, while Brevin Pritzl can’t hit the broad side of the barn when it matters most. The two combined to go just 3 of 15 from beyond the arc, with Davison shooting a woeful 0 of 6 on his end of the deal.
While nothing at this point isn’t an unknown with the Badgers, this game highlighted the fact that a perimeter game is badly needed. Simply put, Wisconsin had a legit shot to win this game if it could’ve strung together anything from the outside.
UW couldn’t and here we sit with a pat on the back for a nice effort in a losing situation.
Gard Through In the Kitchen Sink
No seriously, he couldn’t have thrown anything more at this game in terms of trying to get something consistent going from beyond the arc.
Case in point…Andy Van Vliet actually made a token appearance in this game. Sure, he only played two minutes of the game but he’s been buried so far on Gard’s bench that any sighting is worth noting. He didn’t take a single shot, but did record a rebound for his time on the court.
Beyond that, Alex Illikainen saw 14 minutes, Charles Thomas saw 11 and T.J. Schlundt saw 10 minutes too.
If that isn’t throwing everything in hoping to get a positive result somehow, I don’t know what is.
Clearly Gard is frustrated because he knows there are winnable games happening but his team is simply not performing up to standard. That’s how you get completely underperforming players like Illikainen, Thomas and Schlundt coming in for double-digit minutes in the middle of a road game in which you are contending, but just can’t get over the hump.
At this point, there really isn’t much more that Gard can do if the players he is putting in won’t show up the way he needs them to.