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Badgers end skid with narrow win over Penn State, 64-63

Wisconsin escapes the Bryce Jordan Center with a narrow win over a talented Penn State squad

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Something scary always seems to happen when the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Penn State for a basketball game. It almost happened again on Monday night as Wisconsin blew a 17-point lead only to hang on for a 64-63 win over the Nittany Lions.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak by the Badgers and gave UW its first win in Big Ten play this season. It was a nice rebound after getting blown out by Ohio State on Saturday in the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin was up by as many as 17 in second half, but foul trouble for some of the biggest names on the team and Penn State’s ability to hit anything and everything made it in to a game. UW got big nights from two unlikely contributors on the score sheet.

Junior forward Khalil Iverson led the Badgers with 16 points and reserve forward Nathan Reuvers added 11 points in the winning effort. Both were needed as Ethan Happ battled foul trouble and a bad night on the defensive end of the court. He finished the game with 9 points and 10 rebounds, but was just 3 of 12 shooting on the night.

Penn State countered with a great night from its big man, as Mike Watkins poured in a game-high 22 points to lead three Nittany Lions in double figures.

In the end, Penn State’s furious comeback just wasn’t enough though as UW made enough of its free throws to keep the lead and force Penn State in to desperation mode in the final minute of the game.

The Badgers will stay in Pennsylvania for a game on Wednesday at Temple. Tip is scheduled for 6pm CT and will be shown on ESPNU.

 

Iverson Finally Woke Up

Khalil Iverson has been one of the more frustrating players to watch so far in 2017. He’s shown all the flashes of athleticism we saw his first two seasons in a Badgers uniform, but he hasn’t been able to finish around the rim and been a defensive liability at times. That wasn’t the case at all against Penn State.

Iverson finished the game with 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half. That was good news, because Happ was struggling to find open looks on the offensive end and couldn’t keep pace with Mike Watkins on the other end. Happ was in foul trouble too, and Iverson capitalized on being in the right positions to receive passes from Happ all night long.

Wisconsin needs to see more of the kind of consistency they saw out of Iverson tonight if they want to continue winning games in conference play.

Curse of Bryce Jordan Center Nearly Happened Again

Even the best of the Badgers teams we’ve seen over the last decade have gone to Penn State and had massive trouble against the Nittany Lions. Early on it looked like the curse was going to rear its ugly head, but then a big spurt on offense gave the Badgers a 17-point lead in the second half.

Anyone that has paid attention to how games go at the BJC with the Badgers and Nittany Lions knew it wasn’t going to be over though. That’s exactly what happened, as Penn State whittled away at the lead and eventually were within a bucket with just under 2 minutes to play.

However, unlike in years past, the Badgers found a way to scrap and claw victory from the jaws of defeat. Whether that was via bad officiating at times (see ball on the end line and Brad Davison fouling out for no reason), ungodly shooting or loose balls bouncing away from the Badgers, somehow all of it was able to be put to side.

Wins like this can really galvanize a young team, let’s see how the Badgers respond when they face another tough test against Temple on Wednesday night.

Youth Finally Served to Opponents

We’ve seen pops of brilliance from the Badgers foursome of freshmen — Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, Kobe King and Nathan Reuvers — but we haven’t seen that group take over the game. That stopped on Tuesday night, as Reuvers put up double figures (11) and the trio gave UW 24 points combined (8 points for King and 5 from Ford, while Davison didn’t get on the score sheet).

Reuvers’ contributions were huge, as Ethan Happ faced foul trouble in the second half and he stepped up to replace the missing scoring. King also hit some big buckets as the Badgers needed the points in the second half and Ford contributed a solid four rebound game as well.

If this group can give the Badgers 24-30 points per game its a recipe for success. The problem is, this group is still growing and inconsistent play has been the norm so far. Let’s see if they can turn the page and become consistent players as the bulk of Big Ten play awaits in January and February.

 

Grades:

Ethan Happ: B – 

It’s hard to be really harsh on the guy who carried this team and pulled down 10 rebounds. However, foul trouble hurt him and he was just 3 of 12 from the field. Not his beset night by far.

Khalil Iverson: A

This was by far his best night in a Badgers uniform. He spaced the floor well, used his athleticism to contribute on both ends and lifted the team up when it needed it as Happ struggled offensively. Iverson was a super-efficient 7 of 8 from the field in the winning effort.

Alem Ford: B +

He wasn’t asked to do a ton of scoring, but he did hit two important shots and contributed four rebounds. There was also an assist and a steal to his name. Overall, a nice night for a role player on the starting lineup.

Brad Davison: C 

Davison has really struggled since picking up two shoulder injuries in less than two weeks time. I love his gritty game and willingness to play through injury, but he’s basically a one-armed player at the moment and you have to think some time off to heal up would be helpful. He took just four shots and missed them all. Luckily, his hustle turned in to a pair of rebounds, assists and one steal.

D’Mitrick Trice: C +

Scoring 9 points isn’t bad, but doing it while shooting 2 of 9 from the field and getting five of your nine points from the free throw line? Not exactly how you draw it up for your point guard. If Davison was 100 percent, it would be interesting to see if Trice would even be starting at this point. He hasn’t shown he deserves it in the past few weeks.

Brevin Pritzl: A

He wasn’t asked to shoot the ball a ton, but he did manage to hit an important triple and he was highly efficient from the free throw line. Oh and Prtizl threw in 5 rebounds for good measure. It was one of his better overall nights in Big Ten play in his career. More of that overall effort and he’ll see more minutes too.

Kobe King: A 

King came up big when the team needed points in the second half. He shot a nice 3 of 4 from the field and was 2 of 2 from beyond the arc. It didn’t hurt he also pulled down 3 rebounds and had an assist and a blocked shot. King needs more moments like this to keep seeing his minutes increase.

Nathan Reuvers: A +

All I have to say is 11 points in 13 minutes of action. Reuvers was on fire, showing a good jump shot and an ability to mix it up despite playing a bit undersized down low. Will that eventually catch up to him? That is going to be the big question, but if they can get 7-10 points out of him on a consistent basis, they’ve found the big man off the bench that actually will help this team win.

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

Full Badgers 2018-19 basketball schedule revealed

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The moment every Wisconsin Badgers basketball fan was waiting for finally arrived on Tuesday afternoon. In a special on BTN, all schedules were released for conference games. 

For the first time ever there will be 20 conference games played, with the Badgers kicking off the B1G schedule on November 30 by taking a trip to Iowa City to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. 

Wisconsin will play a second Big Ten game that week, hosting Rutgers on Dec. 3. 

The overall schedule kicks off with the Badgers hosting Coppin State on Nov. 6 at the Kohl Center. 

Highlighting UW’s non-conference schedule are matchups against fellow Power 5 opponents like NC State, Xavier and Stanford (part of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament). Those were all matchups already known though. 

In between the Xavier matchup and UW’s trip to the Bahamas is a visit from Houston Baptist on Nov. 17. 

With the release of the schedule, UW will also see its annual rivalry with Marquette (Dec. 8) renewed.

As of now, there is one open date on the Badgers schedule for Dec. 13th and there has yet to be either Green Bay or Milwaukee on the schedule this season. 

It would be the first time in a very long time that neither of the other two in-state schools meet the Badgers in a regular season matchup. 

The non-conference slate will end on Dec. 29 with Western Kentucky coming to Madison.

Once the usual non-conference slate is finished, the Badgers have a pretty even ride through Big Ten play in January. 

There are challenging sections to the schedule, including a three-game swing in mid-January that will see UW play host to Purdue, travel to Maryland and then return home to play Michigan. 

However, February heats up with the Badgers having to face Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State amongst the final 10 games of the conference slate. 

The season will wrap up with UW taking on Ohio State in Columbus on March 10. 

Here’s a look at the full schedule for the Badgers:

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers land 2019 4-star SF Tyler Wahl

Badgers get 1st player in to the 2019 class and it’s a 4-star forward from Minnesota…sound familiar?

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The long-awaited first commitment of the 2019 class for Wisconsin Badgers basketball has happened.

On Thursday, 4-star 6-7, 200-pound small forward Tyler Wahl announced his verbal pledge to the Badgers.

The Lakeville (Minn.) North star visited UW unofficially on Thursday, following attendance at camps over the past week as well. Following that visit, Wahl decided it was time to wrap up his recruitment.

Wisconsin won out over offers from the likes of Butler, Iowa State, Minnesota and Northwestern and is getting the No. 125 ranked player in the country and No. 25 ranked power forward according to the 247Sports rankings.

It probably didn’t hurt UW in his recruitment to see what former high school teammate Nathan Reuvers did in his first season as a Badger. After playing sparingly early on, Reuvers became an important cog in the Badgers machine this past season.

According to Badger247, Reuvers had some advice for his former teammate if he wanted to be a Badger.

“Our relationship is really good,” said Wahl. “I talk to him at least once a week. He’s told me that they really like me. I just had to get my shot down and keep playing well.”

This past season, Wahl averaged 17.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game for his high school team. Lakeville North also went 22-4 and made the Minnesota state tournament.

What should be interesting is how Wahl’s decision impacts one of UW’s oldest targets in the 2019 recruiting class — Zeke Nnaji. The Badgers have been on Nnaji from the beginning, but the fellow 4-star recruit has seen his offer list blow up in the past few months.

The two are AAU teammates, and while that can be a factor, it may not be the deciding factor in Nnaji’s choice of schools in the coming months.

As for Wahl, he’s seen his shot come a long way and has shown some good defensive work during his recruitment. He screams classic Badgers forward, willing to do the little things on defense to help make the offensive side of the ball that much easier.

UW ranks No. 22 in the country with Wahl’s commitment and could reach even higher depending on what happens with Nnaji’s recruitment and the scholarships they decide to use or bank towards 2020.

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Badgers Basketball

DJ Carton surprises most, leaves Badgers off his final 6

Badgers were 1st to offer for 4-star PG, but were stunningly left off his final 6 list. Where do the Badgers go from here?

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The Wisconsin Badgers saw what no team in college basketball did in point guard D.J. Carton back in 2017. They were the first to offer the budding recruit and were after him hard, but in the end it didn’t apparently matter.

On Friday, Carton announced his list of final six schools via his Twitter account:

Missing from that list were the Badgers, a move that surprised many. Instead, it was Indiana, Iowa, Marquette, Michigan, Ohio State and Xavier that made the cut.

It wasn’t for a lack of effort on the Badgers part to say the least. Wisconsin put the full-court press on him early and often, sending Greg Gard and others to just about every AAU game and got an in-home visit with him in recent months.

So, why didn’t the first high-major team to offer make the list?

It could have had something to do with UW taking 2018 point guard Tai Strickland and thus having a pretty loaded backcourt for the foreseeable future. Strickland was added to the mix late in the 2018 recruiting process due to his skill set, but also because there was clearly a lack of depth in the Badgers backcourt.

That’s not to say Carton wouldn’t have been in the mix, but as a 4-star player he also was going to get opportunities to not have to compete so hard for immediate playing time.

Not seeing Carton in the top six is a bit stunning, given what UW has put in to his recruitment from the get-go. But, unlike years past, the Badgers are not a team stuck without options. The signing of Strickland helped them avoid a crushing blow like going all-in on Carton and not actually landing him at all.

UW also has been heavily looking towards the 2020 class, where there are a number of quality backcourt options out there. One name that UW has been heavily linked with in that class is point guard Reece Beekman out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His grandparents went to Wisconsin and he is a big-time academic person along with a quality point guard in his class.

So, while it may sting to see a guy that UW put so much effort in to not include them in the final mix, this isn’t a situation like missing out on Diamond Stone or Kevon Looney — guys that the Badgers were heavily all-in on and ultimately had to scramble to replace.

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Badgers Basketball

Nigel Hayes pushes for boycott for pay while revealing Badgers nearly did it in 2016

Hayes hopes to spark major change in college athlete pay, while also pushing for a boycott that nearly happened at UW in 2016.

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Nigel Hayes has been an outspoken advocate for the movement to get players in the NCAA to get paid. He’s even still named as a plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against the NCAA.

On Tuesday, Hayes, who is currently playing for the Sacramento Kings, was part of a panel titled “Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay.” It was a panel to help facilitate a discussion around athlete’s pay in college sports.

But, it wasn’t what Hayes had to say around that part of the topic that caught the eye of many. Instead, it was what he revealed about the 2016-17 Wisconsin Badgers that made people take notice. Hayes revealed that he spearheaded a potential move to boycott a high-profile game early in the season.

That game was the matchup with a then-ranked Syracuse Orange team as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

According to Hayes, the idea was proposed by him in a group chat and that the majority of the team was in favor of the bold move. However, Hayes indicated that everyone had to be on board for such a move to happen.

“I knew 90 percent of the guys were on board from the get-go, before I asked the question,” Hayes told USA TODAY Sports after the panel discussion. “But I let them know that if one of you guys says no, we won’t do it because, obviously, we’re a team and we’re going to stick together.

Obviously that didn’t happen and the Badgers went on to win the game 77-60 in front of a packed home crowd at the Kohl Center.

It certainly would’ve been a huge headline-grabber, and Hayes believes that hindsight for those teammates who voted no would change their minds.

“In hindsight, I think those guys that said no would change their mind now. That’s usually what happens. The guys who don’t go on to the NBA, once they leave college, they look back and say, ‘Wow, I was exploited — and now I have nothing to show for it.’ … So, I think we missed our opportunity, but hopefully this word gets out and it will inspire a group of kids that in college now or will be in college.”

Is that really what those former teammates believe, or is Hayes just speaking for them in a way that helps his cause? What we don’t and likely will never know is just how many of his teammates really were against the move and just what those players believe about their college experiences.

Clearly that is a call by Hayes for someone to take up the cause he championed time and again while he was in college. Will someone do it and will it spark the change that Haye believes in?

“With all the money that’s being made that the players are not receiving, there’s going to be a point where the players don’t play,” he said. “It’s going to take the right player or the right team in the right big-game setting … but if you want to get something done, boycott it. That’s the best way to get anything done. … I think it’s something that if we did go through with it, we’d probably be having a very different conversation right now.”

Those are bold statements and there certainly are huge risks involved. College athletics is clearly at a cross-roads and what happens in the next few years may go a long way towards determining its future. Part of that future appears in the hands of the NBA and what it does with expanding the G-League opportunities to younger players and what it does with the path to the draft as well.

What Hayes revealed in this interview is that he clearly has an agenda and isn’t afraid to push people in today’s college game to do what he advocates for.

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