It was a tale of two halves, but it was the team who got out to the better start — Minnesota — that took home a 59-52 victory in the return to Big Ten play.
The Gophers (12-2, 2-1 B1G) survived a tough second half thanks to an even rougher first half by the Badgers (10-4, 2-1 B1G) and an inability to shoot well from the free throw line by the hosts.
Wisconsin managed just 14 points in the first half, shot just 23.1 percent (6 of 26) from the field and were out-rebounded 25-12 en route to being down 15 points at 29-14.
Despite coming much more alive in the second half, the hole proved to be too much to dig out of. It was Wisconsin’s first loss in conference play and the first loss to the Gophers in the last nine games.
Senior center Ethan Happ put his team on his back early in the second half, but once the game got close he became a liability from the free throw line.
Happ would finish the game just 1 of 7 from the line and even his 17 points seemed too little, too late. Fellow senior Khalil Iverson didn’t help from the line either (1-4) and Wisconsin would end the game just 7 of 17 from the free throw line.
Minnesota was led by just a pair of players in double figures, but they were key to the contest.
First it was Amir Coffey, who poured in a game-high 21 points (15 of them in the first half), and then it was Dupree McBrayer, who salted the game away with a pair of buckets after turnovers in the final 90 seconds and had 14 points in total.
Wisconsin started the game on a 6-2 run and appeared poised to control the visiting Gophers from the get-go.
But, that was the extent of the good for the Badgers, as they managed a meager 14 points in the half and trailed 29-14 when the horn sounded to head to the locker room.
There is no sugar-coating what took place in the first half. Wisconsin was just awful. It was a shame too, because Minnesota wasn’t exactly lighting it up offensively either.
Amir Coffey was the trigger for the Gophers in the half, as he outscored the Badgers on his own (15-14). However, as a team, Minnesota shot just 40.7 percent from the field and had just six made baskets by anyone not named Coffey in the half.
Wisconsin came out of intermission and missed its first three shots of the second half, but Happ put the Badgers on his back, scoring 7-straight points to put the game at 31-21 with 16:53 to play.
That sparked the rest of the team, as UW would cut the Gophers lead in half once again at 31-26 in the next 90 seconds or so.
But, for much of the rest of the half, the Badgers struggled to get much closer.
UW made a big run late, cutting the Gophers lead to just two points on a D’Mitrik Trice jumper with 2:05 to play.
That capped off a 9-0 run by the Badgers, but McBrayer pulled it right back with eight straight points to end the game, including four made free throws in the final 17 seconds.
McBrayer started that scoring run off with two key fastbreak lay-ins off Wisconsin turnovers with his team up just 51-47 and the Badgers looking to get within a bucket.
For the second-straight game the Badgers struggled to find things from beyond the arc and with the game slipping away they couldn’t find a way to get going at any point from the three-point line.
UW ended the game just 5 of 22 on the night from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin will return to the court looking to end a two-game losing streak when it goes to Penn State on Sunday. The tip is scheduled for 6:30pm CT on BTN.
Badgers late comeback falls short against Terps
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.
Badgers Basketball Preview: 5 things to know vs. Maryland
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.
Purdue outlasts Badgers in OT thriller
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.
Nate Reuvers becoming force for Badgers basketball
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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