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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Maryland basketball preview

Can UW get back to winning ways against the equally struggling Maryland Terrapins?

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At home or on the road, it hasn’t mattered much for the Wisconsin Badgers as of late. After a pair of home games earlier this week, the Badgers will hit the road for a clash with the Maryland Terrapins on Sunday afternoon.

Wisconsin comes in having dropped , but Maryland is struggling almost to the Badgers equal. The Terps have dropped six of their last eight games and three straight heading in to this game.

Could this be a matchup that ends the Badgers misery? Let’s take a look inside the game and our Starting 5 for today’s matchup with Maryland.

Tip is scheduled for Noon CT and can be seen on CBS.

Streaky Badgers

There’s no secret to what has taken the Badgers down this season — it’s inability to consistently score. Wisconsin comes in to this game averaging a woeful 61.8 points per game in Big Ten play, with only Rutgers being worse at putting points up in conference play.

Last time out this was on full display, as Northwestern raced out to an 18-1 lead before watching the Badgers claw their way back with a 10-1 run that made the game 19-11 with 11:23 to play in the first half. But, Northwestern answered with an 11-4 run to make it 30-15 immediately following UW’s hard work to get back in the game.

I think you get the point here — Wisconsin has to find a way to avoid being a streaky team. They have got to hold teams from big runs and the need to make huge runs to stay in games themselves. It forces UW in to being a perimeter team, and that isn’t their strength at all this season.

Let’s see if the Badgers can avoid the massive swings in scoring.

Happ-ily Take Advantage of Maryland?

Ethan Happ is Wisconsin’s best player by a mile this season, and teams have taken to triple and quadruple-teaming him at times. But, Maryland comes in to this game likely without starting center Michal Cekovsky.

That means a mix of four other players that have varying degrees of experience in the mix. It’s most likely that the trio of Bruno Fernando, Sean Obi and Joshua Tomaic will see the majority of minutes and rotate against Happ.

Some teams have taken to the hack-a-Happ defense and if he shows signs of struggling from the line, having three bodies to rotate on Happ could work to their advantage. However, Happ may be able to equally abuse this group down low on both ends of the court. Such is the skill set that Happ brings to the table, and such is Wisconsin’s best hope for victory on Sunday.

Hard-Fighting Teams

This season is reduced to playing for pride for the Badgers, well pride and learning experience for the youngsters. Much is the same for Maryland, who are nearly UW’s equal in terms of what has happened to them this season on the injury front and in experience this season.

With the season’s over in terms of post-season play for both of these teams, the interesting thing is watching just how hard they are still playing. Both of these teams fight hard, with Maryland playing a ton of close games and the Badgers never giving up even if they are down a lot.

Mark Turgeon and Greg Gard have their teams still playing hard despite less than stellar results. Turgeon specifically mentioned that earlier this week.

“There’s a lot of fight in this team,” Turgeon said. “Considering the circumstances, I think we’re pretty confident. I think we believe in each other. It’s just putting a complete game together. … Playing smarter for 40 minutes is big for us.”

Sound familiar?

I know “trying hard” and “playing hard” are not substitutes for winning basketball games, but good coaches find ways to keep even their worst of teams motivated. Both are doing that to date, which one will see that hard-fighting spirit pay off on Sunday?

Iverson’s Unlucky Emergence

Say what? Isn’t it a good thing that the Badgers have found a second consistent scorer? Sure it is in theory, but in practice it hasn’t mattered much for UW this season.

Iverson is now averaging 9.3 points per game on the season, but he’s been an even bigger scorer as of late. He’s scored in double figures in four of the last five games and has hit in double digits in 6 of Wisconsin’s 11 Big Ten games to date. Over the past five games, Iverson is averaging a healthy 13.4 points per game.

Last time out, Iverson led the Badgers in scoring with 15 points and also pulled down 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocks.

Yet, Iverson’s emergence hasn’t mattered one bit to the win and loss column. Against Maryland, his athletic ability and ability to slash could be the difference maker. Will the duo of Happ and Iverson scoring in double figures finally pay off with a win in the record books? It’s only happened twice this season in Big Ten play.

Beyond Frustrating from Beyond the Arc

Wisconsin’s perimeter game has been downright dreadful, as UW is shooting just 33.1 percent on the season and an even worse 30.8 percent in B1G play.

Brad Davison’s injured left shoulder hasn’t helped his shooting touch and Brevin Pritzl is the most shy sharp-shooter I’ve ever seen. Couple that with Khalil Iverson’s 0-for-his career and Nate Reuvers inconsistency and you can see why the Badgers are struggling from deep. At least Aleem Ford can bury a needed triple or two off the bench.

So, three-point shooting isn’t exactly the Badgers strong suit. Apparently defending against the three-point shot isn’t Maryland’s strength either this year, as they rank 13th in three-point defense during Big Ten play (41.5 percent).

If the Badgers want to win on Sunday, getting something going from deep would be a huge help to Happ and Iverson’s inside game.

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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Badgers Basketball

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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