Marquette has owned the Badgers as of late, winning two of the last three meetings at the Kohl Center alone heading in to Saturday’s rivalry matchup. A less than full-strength Badgers team going against a red-hot MU team didn’t look good on paper heading in to the game.
It was even worse than expected as the game went along though, with Marquette blowing out the Badgers 82-63 at the Kohl Center and extending the streak to three of the last four in Madison.
With both D’Mitrick Trice (right foot surgery) and Kobe King (a knee injury suffered in practice on Friday) announced as out indefinitely on Saturday morning, the prospects for beating the visitors from Milwaukee were low to begin with. But, the Badgers just couldn’t keep up with the sharp-shooting perimeter game of Marquette.
The Eagles shot 14-22 from beyond the arc, with Andrew Rowsey leading the charge. The junior scored a game-high 24 points and was 5-6 from beyond the arc. Wisconsin countered by only hitting 4 of 12 three-point attempts on the game.
Even when Brevin Pritzl got hot and led the Badgers to within six points twice early in the second half, it didn’t matter. Marquette had quick answers and would stretch the lead right back to double digits.
Rowsey was joined in the 20-point club by fellow guard Markus Howard (23) and Sam Hauser also contributed 16 points in the winning effort.
Wisconsin was led by Brad Davison’s 20 points, 11 of which came at the free throw line. Ethan Happ had 17 points and 9 rebounds, while Pritzl was able to chip in 10 points in his return to the starting lineup.
The problem is that was all the Badgers had on offense and they played some of the worst defense we’ve seen from a Badgers team in decades. In fact, the win was Marquette’s largest over the Badgers since the 1982-83 season.
It was certainly a showpiece for the visitors and a loud statement of where these programs currently stand.
Will Anyone Follow Davison’s Lead?
No one can say Brad Davison is not a leader for this Badgers team. He led UW is scoring on Saturday, but his effort was also exceptional. With both Trice and King out, Davison was forced to basically play every minute of this game and it was an all-out effort from the freshman. He added three rebounds, four assists and a steal to the 20-point effort on the offensive end of the court and could be seen hustling after balls even when he had nothing left to give.
The problem was, few others came along for the ride. Happ wasn’t scoring when Davison needed the help, fellow freshman Nathan Reuvers struggled through a 2 of 8 day from the floor and Aleem Ford and Kahlil Iverson combined for just eight points.
Davison is doing a rare thing and stepping up as a leader in his first season. Will anyone follow his lead is the big question? The answer so far this season seems to be no one wants to also step up along side of him in the backcourt and that’s troubling.
Where is the 2015 Class?
When you have a 5-man class in college basketball, you better hit on that class. One look at the Badgers roster this season shows a severe deficit from that class.
Sure, it was nice to get 10 points from Pritzl, but Iverson hasn’t been a consistent scorer to compliment anything up front. That’s not to make any mention of the fact that both Aaron Moesch and TJ Schlundt are getting playing time over Charlie Thomas and Alex Illikanen. Need we make mention of the fact that Illikanen came in to Madison as a 4-star recruit alongside Pritzl?
There was supposed to be stretch-four in the mix as well with Andy Van Vliet. He’s still on the roster, but he was the first one out of the starting lineup as he struggled shooting from distance and keeping up on the defensive end of the court. It’s been an utter disaster from this group.
With a young group of players having to step up, now would’ve been the perfect time for the guys in their third year in the program to step up. Instead, that group is largely shrinking under the weight of this season. Minutes are there to be had for anyone willing to step up, yet this group isn’t doing that.
If you want to know why the Badgers are 4-7 this season, look to a lack of anything from a class that should be the backbone of a team steadying itself and at least playing good basketball. We certainly can’t say that after the start this team has had and the run of awful basketball that has been played in December so far.
Gard Has Chance to Show His Chops as a Head Coach
Tough times make the man, and the Badgers are hitting some of the toughest times they’ve seen since the Kohl Center opened back in 1998. Wisconsin has no home court advantage anymore, as Ohio State and Marquette have come to the Kohl Center and just destroyed the Badgers — something that was a rarity for more than a decade or so.
It isn’t good news for a program that is supposed to have its share of high-valued recruits on the roster. There are five players on the Badgers roster that were part of the 247Sports’ Top 247 in their respective classes. One can say only Brad Davison and Nathan Reuvers – both freshmen – are even close to showing the potential that their recruiting rankings showed.
That’s a major problem, one that requires quality coaching to overcome. Now is a good time for Gard and his staff to show their coaching chops.
But, so far that has been a questionable situation in 2017. There was the inability to see Davison needed to start from the beginning, the reliance on the likes of Thomas and Illikanen up top early on and now the desperation of taking the redshirt off of Reuvers (even though that was the right move).
Those haven’t been good decisions made.
Wisconsin also has a major problem this season — no one is developing.
This is supposed to be a program built on developing players while others are starring. Where has that been this past year? It sure appears non-existent from what we’ve highlighted before.
Right now the fanbase is searching for answers, and so too is Gard. Sure, he may say there wasn’t any time to prep a rotation for tonight with the losses of King and Trice, but that’s a flimsy excuse for getting blown out. It only works if you are losing a close game, and Wisconsin has done plenty of that before the month of December.
Gard hasn’t found an answer and he really needs to quickly in order for the Badgers to avoid missing out on the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years. If he can right the ship, get something resembling quality consistent play, perhaps the season is salvageable. If not, you can bet the questions about Gard as the right man for the job are going to grow from a Twitter minority to a majority in the fanbase.
Such is the nature of what Dick Bennett and then Bo Ryan built in Madison.
There’s little excuse for the talent that was brought in to this program to be executing in such poor fashion. It’s time for Gard to pull out some real coaching magic. Does he have it in him?