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Badgers Basketball Preview: Grambling State edition

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Finals are finally over (see what we did there) and the No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers will be back on the court on Saturday morning.

Last we saw UW, they were demolishing Savannah State in a 101-60 victory at the Kohl Center. Up next is a date with Grambling State out of the SWAC.

This will be the third meeting all-time between the Badgers and Tigers, with Wisconsin owning a 2-0 record in the series.

Will the fog be lifted after the long layoff and the brain power spent on finals or will the Tigers catch UW off its game? The answers will come at 11am CT on BTN with former Badgers player Ben Brust on color commentary alongside Chris Vosters on play-by-play.

Let’s take a look inside the matchup

No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 9-2 (2-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 4th year at Wisconsin & overall (66-38 UW and overall)
Notable: Senior forward Ethan Happ needs just six more rebounds to hit the 1,000-rebound mark in his career. Should he do it, he would be just the 15th player in Big Ten history to accomplish that feat. Happ also ranks in the top 3 in the conference in scoring, rebounds and assists.

Probable Starters:

G – D’Mitrik Trice – 16.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.8 apg
G – Brad Davison – 9.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.9 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 5.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.2 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 7.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.1 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 19.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 5.0 apg

Grambling State Tigers

Record: 6-6 (0-0 SWAC)
Head Coach: Donte’ Jackson, 2nd season at GSU (22-20 at GSU, 148-93 overall)
Notable: Don’t let the 6-6 overall mark or the fact that Grambling State won the SWAC last season fool you, this Tigers team isn’t exactly battle tested. Only three of their six wins so far this season have come against a D1 opponent — over Niagara, Portland and Southeastern Louisiana.

Probable Starters:

G – Ivy Smith Jr., Jr. — 18.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.8 apg,
G – Anthony Gaston, Jr. — 5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.1 apg,
G/F – Dallas Polk-Hilliard, Jr. — 13.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 0.7 apg
F – Devante Jackson, Jr. — 8.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.7 apg
C – Travon Bunch, Jr. — 5.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.4 apg

Matchup to Watch: Happ vs. Bunch

It’ll be an exiting time for Tigers center Travon Bunch, who is a Racine, Wis. native. But, it’ll also likely be his worst nightmare having to go up against Ethan Happ.

Should the Badgers control this contest, look for this matchup to be the reason why. Happ has to be liking his chops at going up against a first-year D1 player who has struggled to be a focal point of anything for the Grambling State offense and can’t control the glass on the other end of the floor as well.

Wisconsin won’t have to alter its game plan much and that means it could be a big day for Happ down low.

Prediction:

Wisconsin 98, Grambling State 58

What do you expect when the Badgers are facing the team ranked 310th in the country in Adjusted Offense and 207th in Adjusted defense by KenPom.com?

Just like the matchup with Savannah State was a massive mismatch, this could be even uglier when all is said and done. UW gets to ease its way back in to the rhythm of playing games again and will dominate from start to finish.

Merry Christmas you amazing Badgers fans!

Season Predictions Record: 10-1

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers late comeback falls short against Terps

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Live by the three, die by the three.

The good news for the Wisconsin Badgers was that they lived and thrived on the three-pointer during a crazy second half comeback. The bad news, they had a 21-point deficit to overcome.

In the end, the Terps hung on for a 64-60 win after squandering that lead and allowing a late one-point lead to the visiting Badgers.

Wisconsin started the game 0-10 from beyond the arc. After that they went 11-20 in a second half outburst.

However, a pair of missed three-pointers in the final minutes gave Maryland the opening it needed to re-take the lead.

Wisconsin’s comeback was guided by sophomore forward Nate Reuvers, who put up all of his team-high 18 points in the second half. He was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc and 7 of 11 from the field in the half.

Reuvers was the only Badgers player in double figures in the second half, but was one of four players in double figures on the night.

D’Mitrik Trice (13), Brad Davison (11) and Ethan Happ (10) also joined him in double figures.

All of that almost didn’t matter thanks to UW’s horrible start from beyond the arc and an inability to hit from anywhere else in the first half.

Much of that was triggered by Bruno Fernando — the Badgers couldn’t figure him out on either end of the court early on and it cost them mightily in the first half.

His energy on both ends of the court as well as his 4 points, 2 blocks and 2 rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the game helped the Terps pull out to a 22-10 lead and it was seemingly all over after that.

Wisconsin was so out of sorts, it took over 7 minutes of the game for any points to come on the board as well. By that point, the Badgers were down 24-12 with just 7:13 to play in the first half.

The lid didn’t come off the rim for the Badgers following the make either, as UW went just 2-12 from the field during its bigger scoring issues of the half.

However, a cooled off Terps got hot between UW’s two made field goals and the lead went form 24-12 to 33-15 with 3:20 to play in the half.

Maryland used a hot start from beyond the arc to push that lead as well, shooting 5 of 10 from the three-point line in the first half.

Wisconsin trailed by as many as 21 points following a 5-0 run by the Terps to start the second half.

But, that is when everything flipped.

UW chipped away at the lead, knocking the lead down to 15 points with just over 14 minutes left and to single digits with 7:25 to go in the game.

Four three-pointers in the next five minutes helped the Badgers finish off the comeback. The final of those came from Davison, who gave UW a 60-59 lead with 2:01 to play in the game.

The two teams failed to convert on good looks on either end over the next minute plus, but it was Terps star Anthony Cowan who broke the scoreless streak.

His three-pointer with 44.9 seconds to play gave Maryland a 62-60 lead and UW couldn’t find a way back as it looked to go back to the three-pointer well.

Wisconsin was kept in the game after a missed free throw from the Terps with 33 seconds left. However, Reuvers missed a wide open look in the final seconds and Maryland added another free throw for the final scoreline.

The Badgers will be looking to put an end to a two-game losing streak as it takes on undefeated Michigan on Saturday at the Kohl Center. Tip is scheduled for 11am CT on ESPN.

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Badgers Basketball Preview: 5 things to know vs. Maryland

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Since the return to Big Ten play, life hasn’t been easy for the Wisconsin Badgers. They currently sit with a 1-2 record in the month of January and the schedule doesn’t get any more kind.

Up next on the docket is a date with the Maryland Terrapins in College Park, Md. and it will be a crucial test for a Badgers team trying to show they can challenge at the top of the conference.

Maryland comes in 5-1 in Big Ten play, while the Badgers are 3-2 overall in league play. A win would give UW a chance to stay at the top of the conference pecking order.

This matchup is also part of a brutal two-game road trip that will also feature a visit to Ann Arbor to take on the undefeated Michigan Wolverines.

But, today’s focus is on the next opponent, the Terps. Maryland and Wisconsin will tip off at 7:30pm CT on FS1. But, before that let’s take a look at 5 things you should know about this matchup.

5: Maryland has a five-game win streak going

Not only are the Terps 5-1 in Big Ten play, they are also in the midst of a five-game win streak overall.

That streak includes wins over then top 25 teams Nebraska and Indiana, as well as road wins at pesky Rutgers and Minnesota. Maryland also had a non-conference win over Radford to complete the five-game win streak.

The average margin of victory during this streak has been 9.6 points per game too. So, the Badgers are coming up against one of the hottest opponents they have played so far this season.

However, the Badgers are also red hot on the road, winning their last five Big Ten road games heading in to this contest.

4: UW is averaging 4.0 blocks per game

Wisconsin hasn’t been known as a great protector of the rim as a team, ranking just 9th in the conference in blocks. But, it’s 4.0 blocks per game is better than opponents on the season.

Badgers opponents are averaging just 3.2 blocks per game against them, which will get a big test tonight as Maryland ranks second in the conference with 5.6 blocks per game.

Additionally, both Maryland (3.3) and Wisconsin (3.2) have dropped off a bit in league play when it comes to blocked shots.

3: Wisconsin has won 3 of last 4 against the Terps

Few top teams in the Big Ten have been as kind to the Badgers as Maryland has over the last few years. Yes, the record stands at 3-3 in the series since the Terps joined the Big Ten, but UW has those three of four to tie the series up.

Last time these two teams met at the Xfinity Center was a 68-65 win for the Terps last February for the lone Terps win in the last four games.

Wisconsin also owns the all-time series between these two at 8-5.

2: Wisconsin is 2nd in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting

One of the biggest storylines of the 2018-19 season for Wisconsin has been the vast improvement in three-point shooting. It’s given UW a chance to defeat opponents when they over play Ethan Happ down low.

It seems hard to believe given the shooting from beyond the arc as of late, but on the season, UW is still one of the most lethal teams in the country when it comes to three-point shooting.

Wisconsin is hitting at a 39.4 percent clip this season after being 11th in the conference last year at 33.5 percent.

1: Ethan Happ leads the country in double double’s this season

Wisconsin’s big man has been a versatile force and despite everyone knowing he’s their main focal point on offense, he’s been able to lead the country in double doubles with 11 on the year.

However, Happ has struggled to get to the double double mark in Big Ten play so far. He’s got just one double double in his first five league contests, coming in the last outing against Purdue where he had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.

Happ also has scored in double figures in every one of UW’s games this season.

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Purdue outlasts Badgers in OT thriller

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Carsen Edwards vs. Ethan Happ lived up to advanced billing, but in the end it was Edwards and his Purdue Boilermakers that came away with an 84-80 overtime win.

Edwards had 36 points, the final two of which came with eight seconds left to give Purdue the final margin of victory. He was just 10 of 26 from the field and 6 of 14 from beyond the arc.

Ryan Cline (14) and Nojel Eastern (10) chipped in double digit scoring efforts for Purdue.

Wisconsin countered with Happ, who had 31 points on 14 of 17 shooting from the field. He added 13 rebounds and six assists, but his eight turnovers were killer.

He got help from D’Mitrik Trice (17) and Brad Davison (13), but it just wasn’t enough to overcome late mistakes and poor execution of the offense down the stretch.

It was the first road win of the season for Purdue and Wisconsin’s second home loss in Big Ten play.

It took all of Happ’s effort to keep the Badgers in the game during the first half. Well that and Purdue going ice cold in the final five minutes of the half to get UW from an 11-point deficit to a 32-28 lead with 2:41 to play in the half.

Purdue led 27-16 with 8:15 to play on a Matt Haarms lay-in, but the Badgers offense woke up shortly after that.

A 16-1 run in just over five minutes gave the Badgers a 32-28 lead with 2:39 to play in the half. Purdue ended it with a quick 4-0 run, but Happ would have the answer and keep UW in front late in the half.

Instead of a large lead, the Boilermakers went in to the half up just one at 37-36.

The lead would change hands only twice, but neither side would lead by more than seven points in the second half.

Purdue was up 67-60 with 4:49 to play in the game on a Ryan Cline three-pointer.

Wisconsin fought back with a quick 7-0 run of its own and tied the game up with just 2:32 to play.

The two teams would keep it close to the bitter end of the second half. However, it appeared Edwards had killed any Badgers hopes with a deep three-pointer to go up 72-68 with 45 seconds to play.

Trice hit right back though, knocking down a triple with 22 seconds to play. It wasn’t his last trick of the game though, as he would nail a step-back three-pointer with 15 seconds to go to tie it up at 74-74.

Edwards would give UW hope at the end thanks to an ill-advised shot that missed everything and gave the Badgers the ball with 3.8 seconds to play. However, the inbounds saw no chance for a quality look at the basket and overtime was necessary.

Wisconsin fought to a 79-77 lead on a Happ basket with 2:03 to play in overtime. It capped a 4-0 run from the Badgers and it appeared things would be over at that point.

Instead, Purdue fought back on both ends of the court and the Boilermakers were able go on a 7-1 run of free throws to ice the game away over the final 1:41 of the overtime period.

Wisconsin will look to get back to winning when they go to Maryland on Monday. Tip is scheduled for 7:30pm CT on FS1.

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Nate Reuvers becoming force for Badgers basketball

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The reality of life without Ethan Happ is inching closer and closer for the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program. How will the Badgers replace a multi-time All-American after the 2018-19 season is over?

We don’t know if anyone will totally be able to step in to those big shoes, but as Nate Reuvers sophomore season reaches the halfway point, it is becoming clear his game may be able to help fill what will be missed.

On Sunday against Penn State, Reuvers was a vital force on both ends of the court. He was one of just three players in double figures for the Badgers, putting up 11 points, and he had five blocked shots in the 71-52 victory.

Even after the loss to the Gophers earlier in the week, Reuvers performance was pointed to as one of the silver linings by head coach Greg Gard.

“I like what he can do and potentially what he can bring, specifically in the paint,” Gard said. “I think he’s got a chance to be a pretty good consistent player inside.”

“I thought he was much more physical in the paint. That’s what I think Nate of the future will continue to look like as he gets more opportunities there.”

He has been getting those opportunities and has been making the most of them. Over the last seven games, Reuvers has five double digit scoring games and has been shooting an impressive 52 percent from the field.

He’s also been able to showcase a very different game than Happ employes. Reuvers can stretch a front court with his three-point shooting ability and he can hit a jumper while moving inside the three-point line.

However, it has been his improved work down low that has gotten the most attention as of late. It’s a good thing, because in the last seven games, Reuvers is just 6 of 21 from beyond the arc.

While Happ can create with his ability to dribble and with his variety of post moves, Reuvers shooting prowess had caused teams nightmares in recent weeks as well.

It’s also clear that his teammates are trusting his game more as well. He has attempted at least six shots in each of the last seven games. Prior to that, Reuvers had just three games in which he attempted six or more shots.

He also had just two games in double figures over those first eight games, coming against Houston Baptist and Oklahoma.

After being thrown in the fire as a true freshman, Reuvers has shown the kind of growth you would have hoped to have seen.

With upcoming games against Purdue, Maryland and Michigan, his emergence couldn’t have come at a better time either. It will also be the best test of his recent success and if he can begin to stand tall on both ends of the court against better overall competition, Wisconsin may have found the second post option they have been looking for for the better part of two years now.

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