Wisconsin held an 8-7 lead with 14:42 to play in the first half. It would be the Badgers last lead of the game, as the host Huskers fought off the Badgers 63-59 to drop UW below .500 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska was able to come away victorious despite allowing another double double from Ethan Happ (19 points, 11 rebounds) and making just two three-pointers on the night.
Instead, Nebraska got to the line like crazy in the second half and took advantage of it.
The Huskers were 21 of 28 from the free throw line, and it was a good thing for the hosts in the second half.
Nebraska went the final eight minutes of the game without hitting a field goal, yet they were able to actually extend a lead.
The loss drops the Badgers to 2-3 in Big Ten play and is the second straight road loss. Wisconsin also drops to 1-6 on the road this season.
Ethan Happ recorded a double double, but once again had little help around him on the night. Freshman guard Brad Davison also landed in double figures with 15 points, but he was just 5 of 15 from the field. Brevin Pritzl completed the double figure scorers for the Badgers with 10 points.
Wisconsin found itself finally playing some quality defense, but it couldn’t get the shooting needed to control the game. Nebraska was held to just 42.6 percent shooting from the field and made just two three-point attempts, while committing 13 turnovers.
That’s usually a recipe for Badgers success, instead the Huskers used a big run in each half to keep UW at an arm’s length and ultimately from winning.
Wisconsin did cut it close in the later stage of the second half as Nebraska suffered through an extended scoring slump and the lead was cut to 51-47 with under five minutes to play.
However, fouls caught up with Wisconsin and that four-point lead was able to somehow stretch to a seven-point lead thanks to the free throw line and Wisconsin’s inability to hit shots in consecutive possessions until it was too late.
Wisconsin will finish its three-game road swing with a visit to Mackey Arena to take on Purdue next Tuesday. Tip is scheduled for 6pm CT on ESPN.
But, what do we take away from this loss? Let’s look at the three big points of this game.
Happ Can’t Do It Himself…All the Time
Ethan Happ will never give up, and that was clear on Tuesday night. He had 15 of his 19 points in the second half while no one else on the Badgers wanted to help him.
That didn’t matter though, as his effort in the second half wasn’t enough to win the game.
Yes, Brad Davison had 15 points and Nate Reuvers put in eight points, but those points didn’t come in unison with Happ doing his thing. In fact, most of the time those points came in too few spurts to matter.
I mean, most of Davison’s 15 points came in scramble mode when the game was out of reach anyway.
When you look at the stat sheet and see what the Badgers did defensively, this should’ve been a win for Wisconsin. When you look at everyone not named Happ on offense, you see why the Badgers lost this one.
It’s as simple as Happ can’t be the only one to show up on both ends of the court for most of a half and have the Badgers win.
Free Throws Again?
Free throws have been a pain-point for the Badgers over the last two years and they continue to be in 2017-18 as well. That was certainly highlighted in Tuesday’s loss to Nebraska.
Nebraska had 28 attempts from the free throw line, while the Badgers only got to the charity stripe 10 times. It doesn’t matter how poor the Huskers would’ve shot, they were likely to have more points from the line than the Badgers could’ve even attempted.
In a game that saw so many scoring droughts, allowing a team to just salt the game away from the line while not hitting shots is brutal to watch. That’s what happened on Tuesday night and it was no fun indeed.
Everyone keeps waiting to see this free throw issue get corrected, but it just doesn’t seem like it is going to get fixed. Not finding an answer for nearly three years is certainly frustrating.
What Else Can Gard Do?
There has been a lot of hand-wringing and arm-chair coaching suggesting that Greg Gard is just an awful head coach.
But, bagging on Gard the head coach makes little sense. Put yourself in his shoes with the injuries he has and what exactly would you do different that would make this team suddenly click?
Chances are you don’t have an answer, and that’s because Gard has literally thrown the kitchen sink at this season and nothing is sticking.
Free throw woes? You don’t think their all working on that?
Scoring droughts? You don’t think Gard has a feel for when they are coming?
I think you get the point here…and at some point it is on the players who are given opportunities to do something with them.
Gard has literally given everyone on the roster a chance to show they belong on the court and few outside of Davison, Happ and on occasion Ford and Pritzl are actually taking advantage of the playing time there for the taking.
Are there little in-game things that Gard can learn from for himself? Sure.
But, harping on those things like they are the difference between this group winning and losing right now is just asinine.
At some point, ownership of what is happening on the court belongs to the players who are out there. If there was an easy answer and Gard didn’t have it, that would be one thing, but he’s trying to find an answer in a very tough situation and that’s all you can ask from a coach.
Players not showing up when they get an opportunity is on them, not the coaching staff.