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Badgers Basketball Preview: Oklahoma awaits UW in Battle 4 Atlantis semi’s

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The Bahamas have been kind to the Wisconsin Badgers, but will that continue to be the case? 

UW will face another big test after coming out of a mid-second half shooting slump to beat Stanford in the 1st round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. That test will come in the form of a familiar foe — the Oklahoma Sooners. 

The Badgers and Sooners have met in three of the last five seasons, including in the 2014 championship game of this very tournament. Amazingly, these two teams have a pretty similar formula for success as they did back then.

For Wisconsin, it is all about getting production from one of the country’s best big men along with some big help from the perimeter. For Oklahoma, it’s one person doing all the heavy lifting. That man is Christian James, who comes in to this game averaging 21.5 points per game and taken 12 more field goals on the season than anyone else on the team. 

In Oklahoma’s 65-60 win over Florida on Wednesday, Jones had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist. 

Can the Badgers stop another potent player after they rendered KZ Opkala of Stanford ineffective with 11 points on just 2 of 12 shooting from the field? Let’s take a look in to the matchup. 

The game will be seen on ESPN at 12:30pm CT. 

Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 4-0 (0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (61-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Wisconsin has gotten record-setting performances out of big men in the last two games. After Ethan Happ nabbed the career rebounding record against Houston Baptist, it was sophomore Nate Reuvers’ turn. His 9 blocks against Stanford tied a single game record for the Badgers and set the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament record for most blocks in a game. 

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – D’Mitrik Trice – 17.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
G – Brad Davison – 12.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 5.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.2 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 7.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.7 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 17.8 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 5.7 apg

Oklahoma Sooners

Record: 4-0 (0-0 Big 12)
Head Coach: Lon Kruger, 8th year at OU (144-91 at OU, 623-395 33rd year overall)
Notable: Oklahoma used an 11-0 run early in the second half to regain a lead against Florida last time out. It didn’t relinquish the lead after that and held the Gators to 5 of 17 shooting from beyond the arc in the second half of the win. 

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – Aaron Claixte, Sr. — 11.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.7 apg
G – Christian James, Sr. — 21.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg
F – Kristian Doolittle, Jr. — 6.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.0 apg
F – Brady Manek, So. — 11.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.2 apg
C – Jamuni McNeace, Sr. — 8.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 apg

Matchup to Watch: Brad Davison vs. Christian James

For all the talk of Ethan Happ and D’Mitrik Trice’s starts to the season, there’s a third player that has been equally productive and that is sophomore guard Brad Davison. 

Last time out, Davison joined in the fun that Trice had in getting to the rim. He poured in 14 points on just 3-6 shooting but going 8 of 9 from the free throw line. He also kept Stanford in check on the defensive end of the court. 

This will be a big challenge, as Oklahoma’s Christian James isn’t just a scorer, he creates his own shot most of the time. However, Wisconsin has been on fire on the defensive end of the court overall. 

According to KenPom.com, the Badgers own the 14th-ranked defense, with a 91.9 adjusted defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions, adjusted). UW hasn’t allowed an opponent to shoot better than 46 percent from the field and just held Stanford to 27.1 percent shooting (16-59) last time out. 

The point here is that Davison’s work on defense is as impressive as his work on the scoring front and James likely hasn’t seen anyone that can matchup that well with him so far this season. 

Can Davison match James point for point? Likely not, but if Davison can keep James below his season average and get his usual double-digit scoring effort on the other end, it’ll be a huge help to the Badgers hopes of making it to the 

Prediction:

Wisconsin 70, Oklahoma 62

These two teams are defensively-minded, which could make this game really interesting. Which team will stay disciplined enough to not commit fouls and alter their game plan?

So far this season, Wisconsin has shown that ability in spades. The one worry is that they haven’t been able to put their foot on the throat of an opponent when they’ve had them down. 

Expect that to be the case once again as the score is closer than the actual game will be. However, it’s just too hard not to see Wisconsin’s advantage up front and Happ will be the difference once again. 

Season Prediction Record: 4-0 

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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