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UCLA breaks Badger hearts in Hall of Fame Classic Finale

Wisconsin losses on a last-second heartbreaker to No. 23 Bruins, because that’s what happens to Badgers teams who try to have nice things in basketball.

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Late game tournament heartbreak? Let’s just say the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball program is used to it and it happened again on Tuesday night. No. 23 UCLA hit a lay-up with less than a second left on the shot clock and the game clock, leading them to a 72-70 win over Wisconsin.

It came despite a great effort from a changed Badgers lineup and a star-like performance from one of the new starters. Freshmen Brad Davison poured in 14 points and continued to be a catalyst for UW, while star Ethan Happ led the team with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. All of it didn’t matter though, as a string of bad turnovers and UCLA buckets late gave the Bruins the ability to control the game late.

Even four of five starters hitting in double figures wasn’t enough to get the Badgers over the hump against quality competition once again. Instead, it was Aaron Holiday who did the final bit of damage and led the Bruins with 18 points. Holiday was already leading the team in scoring, but put the final nail in the Badgers coffin by driving and hitting a lay-up just in the nick of time with UW pressuring given a low shot clock.

Holiday found a way to get through the trap and had a clear lane to the basket, which went in just before the shot clock expired. Replay confirmed it and UW couldn’t handle a deep pass with 0.9 seconds left to end the game.

UW will come home for an in-state tussle as they host Milwaukee (who owns a win over Iowa State already) and then go on the road to Virginia in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in the next 7 days.

What did we learn from this one? Let’s take a look at some lessons and grades…

Change Worked for Badgers Lineup…Mostly

Something needed to change after the Badgers came out sluggish and were getting none of the needed production out of the perimeter players on Monday night against Baylor. Head coach Greg Gard hinted at some changes, and he inserted freshmen Brad Davison and Aleem Ford in to the starting lineup.

The energy from the team was just different from the opening tip on, with Kahlil Iverson and Ethan Happ owning the paint early and often. But, it wasn’t just the fact that the ball was getting inside more that was impressive, it was just the different energy on both sides of the floor.

Perhaps the best bit of news from the change is that Davison made his coach look really smart for making the move. His 14 points and most importantly, his three made triples (the only one to make more than one for the Badgers), gave plenty of hope for the future.

To Be sure, Ford didn’t light up the stat sheet, but he was solid when needed and unlucky to not have a pair of open three-pointers go in of his own. As far as the changes go, it appears that Gard has found a starting five that can get off to a quicker start and sustain things more long-term. Let’s see if he sticks with this group for a bit longer.

Gard Still Searching for Front Court Rotation

Ethan Happ and Kahlil Iverson play a good game on the inside for the Badgers because their games complement each other. But, could the Badgers get anything out of the likes of juniors Charles Thomas and Alex Illikainen? Gard decided to test that theory early and often in the first half. It was part because there wasn’t much to lose and part to avoid foul trouble for the two starters.

Few answers came though, as Thomas continued to have stone hands on the offensive side of the ball and commit too many errors on defense. Meanwhile, Illikainen did little more than become a decoy on both sides of the ball. The two combined for exactly zero points, no attempted field goals and just two combined rebounds.

Of course, those two aren’t and shouldn’t be expected to be offensive dynamos. Yet, should anything happen in terms of foul trouble to Happ or Ford those two didn’t exactly make the case for the Badgers not to just go small. In fact, there were times where Wisconsin was best off playing Iverson, King, Davison, Trice and Ford (or Pritzl) instead of either of them in the game. There has to be more production from these veteran players if they want to continue to see more than 15 combined minutes a game.

Five Scorers Not Enough

Wisconsin is supposed to be a team built to have multiple players with big efforts, but on Tuesday night only five players scored at all for the Badgers. Four of those five were in double figures, as starters Davison, Happ, Iverson and Trice combined for 61 of the 70 points scored for Wisconsin on the night.

Points and minutes have begun to dry up for the likes of Brevin Pritzl and Andy Van Vliet, and rightfully so given the opportunities they have had and the ineffective play given on the court. But, it sure would be nice to know the guys who started red-hot against South Carolina State had any sort of confidence they could score against better competition.

Relying on just five scorers in Big Ten play isn’t going to cut it, unless all five of them are capable of hitting in double figures every night. But, that is walking a tight rope no one wants to see happen. Here’s hoping Pritzl, Ford, Van Vliet or anyone else can show they can score consistently enough going forward.

Grades:

D’Mitrick Trice: B

Trice needs to be making three-pointers for this team to be really dangerous and to get teams to back off of Happ down low. That didn’t happen on Tuesday night as he was just 1-5 from deep. However, he was efficient inside the arc and was good off the dribble, hitting 4-5 from inside the arc. It wasn’t a great night, but with 14 points it’s hard to be too nit-picky here.

Aleem Ford: F

It may seem harsh, but he was the lone starter to not put up any points and was 0-3 from the field. He also committed three personal fouls and the only other stat was one steal en route to a -2.0 efficiency rating. Ford is a good swing forward in Wisconsin’s offense, but this was not his night. At least he’s got a confident stroke from beyond the arc. It’s not as if anyone else is making moves for starting minutes up front.

Ethan Happ: A

What was there to not like about Happ’s game? Once again he led the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Well, he also managed to lead the team in turnovers (with Iverson) at four in this game. A lot of those turnovers came in crucial moments between the two forwards and really need to be cleaned up. So, that’s why he’s not getting an A+ from me at the moment.

Brad Davison: A

Few have made as big an impact in as few games in their career as Davison had coming in to this one. He earned the start and didn’t disappoint in the least. It’s becoming clear who the energy of this team comes from, and that is Davison. It doesn’t hurt that he’s an effective scorer and teammate. Like Happ and Iverson, we’d like to see him cut down on the turnovers (3) and pick up the assists (0), but there’s plenty of time for that. Let this be the day that Davison cemented himself in the starting lineup and became a star for the Badgers.

Kahlil Iverson: B+

I know, getting a 14-point day out of Iverson is good news. But, he missed a few short looks and there was the team-high 4 turnovers to factor in. Iverson was almost unstoppable with his baseline cutting in the first half and overall this was a solid effort. It’s just that we all see the potential and it seems as if he can’t put it all together at once. Overall, a good night for Iverson when he really needed it.

Kobe King: A – 

After seemingly becoming buried in the rotation, coming in after the likes of Alex Illikainen, Andy Van Vliet and Charles Thomas, King made sure he was going to make himself useful. He showcased a nice post game a few times and score 9 points on 3-4 shooting in 17 minutes of action. It was a good way to make sure he’s moving to the front of the rotation again.

Brevin Pritzl: F

Pop quiz? Who was only other player with a negative efficiency rating to play in this game for the Badgers? The answer was Pritzl, and that’s because he was 0-3 from deep, had just one assist and did nothing else in 10 minutes of play. For a guy who’s game is a spot-up three-point shooter, he’s been very shaky at that. At least you could live with it when he was also making plays in other facets of the game. Davison’s rise and Pritzl’s inability to hit from deep mean we’re likely to see less and less of Pritzl this season.

Alex Illikainen: F

At least he grabbed an offensive rebound and had an assist on the night, but once again it is getting tougher and tougher to see how he see’s the floor for double-digit minutes unless Happ is in foul trouble. Wisconsin is getting nothing, literally nothing out of him to justify the minutes he is seeing. Tonight would’ve been a good night to showcase something good, and there was just nothing there.

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 top Xavier in Gavitt Tipoff Games

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A trio of big nights from Ethan Happ, D’Mitrick Trice and Brad Davison helped the Wisconsin Badgers avenge last season’s defeat in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, defeating Xavier 77-68 on Tuesday night. 

The trio combined for 71of Wisconsin’s 77 points in the victory, as the Badgers improved to 2-0 on the young season. 

Senior All-American Ethan Happ continued his history-making start to the season, pouring in 30 points while making a career high 15 field goals. 

He had a double double, adding 13 rebounds and also 5 assists in the win. 

Trice, who had a career high 21 points in the win over Coppin State followed that up by making a new career high with 22 points, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. 

Sophomore guard Brad Davison also got in to the act, adding 19 points in the win. The final three of those points came on a late step-up triple with the shot clock running down and the Badgers lead at just 69-60 with just over a minute to play. 

Following the big make, Davison gave Xavier a piece of their own medicine with a JP Macuria-like chomp. 

Xavier made a late run after that chomp, but Trice and Kobe King hit three late free throws to put the icing on the victory. 

Davison helped pick up the Badgers in the second half as they erased any and all momentum Xavier had thanks to a 12-4 run to end the first half. 

The hosts used that run to make it a 30-28 game at the half, but UW went on a 7-0 run early in the second half and made it 39-30. The Musketeers never really got within serious striking distance after that, largely due to Davison’s production being added to what Happ and Trice did. 

Xavier would test the Badgers mettle a few times in this game, but ultimately its inability to hit from the perimeter cost the hosts. The Musketeers shot just 21percent (5-24) from beyond the three-point line in the loss. 

Naji Marshall led the Musketeers in scoring with 24 points on 10-15 field goals. 

Wisconsin raced out to a 10-2 lead inside the first four minutes of the game. It was led by 4 points from Happ and back-to-back triples from Trice. 

Xavier ended that run with a pair of baskets of its own to bring it to 10-7 with 15:42 to play in the first half. 

It would be the only offensive firepower the Musketeers would have until late in the first half. Xavier went 3:20 without a single basket at one point and one field goal in 6:27 for the Musketeers. 

The Badgers weren’t much better from the field either and it led to Xavier being able to slowly chip away at Wisconsin’s lead.

Wisconsin ended the half shooting just 39 percent from the field, but were 4 of 8 from beyond the arc to help them take a 30-28 advantage in to the locker room. 

Trice led the way with 3 of 3 from beyond the arc for 11 points. Happ led all Badgers with 12 points on 6-12 shooting himself.  

Xavier would end the half shooting 12 of 31 from the field, including just 3 of 14 from three-point range. 

It felt a lot like deja vu to start the second half, as the Badgers used a quick start to control the game. This time it was a 16-2 run that made it 48-32 Badgers with just over 14 minutes to play. 

Xavier fought back, but ultimately it couldn’t find a way to win the battle on the boards (40-32) or hit the big buckets to end Wisconsin runs to really get back in the game. 

Despite the close moments late in both halves, the game was tied just one time and the lead never went out of the Badgers favor. Wisconsin led for all but 1:27 and still managed to let the Musketeers hang around late. 

A lot of it had to do with free throw shooting, as Happ struggled to a 0 of 4 night from the free throw line and the team was just 6 of 13. Yet, they stepped up when it really mattered, knocking down three of the last four to ice Xavier out of the game. 

Up next is a contest with Houston Baptist on Nov. 17. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm CT on BTN. 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: Xavier edition

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After a season-opening trouncing of Coppin State, the Wisconsin Badgers will take the court a week later. The competition will be much stiffer this time around. 

That’s because it’ll be the Gavitt Games and a road trip to Xavier on the docket. It’s also because these two teams had one heck of a matchup last year. 

Xavier came in as the No. 15 team in the nation and nearly were upset by a Badgers squad trying to find itself. The game ended with a Musketeers 80-70 victory, but it appeared to be a step in the right direction for a young Badgers squad. 

Even if that wasn’t what happened for the Badgers after that game, this is a bellwether matchup once again.  That’s because the roles will be reversed this season, as Wisconsin returns a ton of its production from last season and Xavier are the ones trying to figure themselves out. 

Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and can be seen on FS1. 

Let’s look inside the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 1-0 (0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (58-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Last time out the Badgers got a triple double from center Ethan Happ. It was just the second one in program history. The Badgers also got a career high 21 points from D’Mitrick Trice in his return from a season-ending injury suffered 10 games in to last season.

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
G – Brad Davison – 9 ppg, 5 rpg, 0 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 7 ppg, 5rpg, 1 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 8 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 10 ppg, 11 rpg, 12 apg

Xavier Musketeers 

Record: 2-0 (0-0 Big East)
Head Coach: Travis Steele, 1st year at Xavier and overall
Notable: Last time out, Xavier was a 6-point winner over Evansville, as they struggle with the transition away from Chris Mack and a group of solid seniors from last season’s team that beat the Badgers by 10 points. 

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – Paul Scruggs, So. — 14.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.5 apg
G – Kyle Castin, Sr. — 7.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Naji Marshall, So. — 9.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.5 apg
F – Tyrique Jones, Jr. — 18 ppg, 13 rpg, 1.5 apg
F – Ryan Welage, Sr. — 14.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

Matchup to Watch: The Frontcourt

Xavier has been really good at eliminating opponents scoring up front. With an athletic group of players up front, opposing teams are having trouble scoring inside. 

Now, of course, teams are having a field day scoring from outside. How else do you describe a team that allows opponents to score 77 points per game so far this season? 

Teams are shooting just 40 percent from the field overall, but are 26 o 60 (.433) from beyond the arc. Wisconsin was on fire from outside for most of the contest against Coppin State, but can that outside shooting be trusted to be consistent? 

It’ll be a big help if Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson are lighting it up inside the paint again. Happ is easily the toughest opponent Xavier has seen on the inside and Xavier’s length and athleticism are trouble for Happ as well. 

Last season, Happ had 21 points, but was just 7 of 13 from the field and added seven points from the free throw line. If he can get Xavier in trouble on the foul front, it will be a huge help again. 

But, given the changes to the Xavier frontcourt group going in to this season, this is a matchup that will look a lot different. 

Prediction:

Wisconsin 70, Xavier 65

While this game is on the road and that can be a huge factor, what I saw from the inside-out game of the Badgers last time out is enough to make me believe this is a win for the good guys. 

Additionally, Xavier has seen its share of struggles early on this season and nearly lost to Evansville, a middling Missouri Valley squad at best. Look for the experience of the Badgers to matter and for them to win this one at the free throw line of all places. 

Season Prediction Record: 1-0

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Badgers Basketball

Happ, Trice lead Badgers to easy win over Coppin State

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The return of redshirt sophomore D’Mitrick Trice was one to remember.

After missing all but 10 games last season, Trice poured in a career high 21 points in his return to the team, leading the Badgers to an 85-63 win over the Coppin State Eagles.

Trice got there thanks to 5 of 9 shooting from deep and 7-13 overall from the field. He had 17 of those 21 points in the first half alone, and UW needed those points. 

Three straight makes from deep for Trice with the Badgers trailing by five points gave the team the kick start they needed. It was the start of a 20-2 run that blew the game open from an 11-6 deficit to a large Badgers lead that never got close again.

However, he wasn’t the only headline of the night for the Badgers. 

Star senior center Ethan Happ showed just how versatile he can be with a season-opening triple double. He had 10 points on just 3-7 shooting, but hit all four of his free throws and added 11 rebounds and 12 assists on the night. 

No other Badgers player had more than one assist. 

Happ and Trice were joined in double digits scoring by senior guard Brevin Prtizl who had 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc. 

As a team, the Badgers shot just 38.7 percent from deep on the night, but happened as the team cooled off late in the game as the bench got cleared out. UW shot 52.9 percent (9 of 17) from the three-point line in the first half alone.

Coppin State was led by a pair of double digit scores in Lamar Morgan (15) and Taqwain Drummond (11), but they were never really in the game after the first three minutes of action. 

Wisconsin’s other returning player from injury, redshirt freshman Kobe King, had a bit more of a struggle off the bench. He had 8 points on 3 of 6 shooting from the field, but missed on both of his deep attempts. he did add four rebounds, good for third on the team. 

Perhaps the biggest shock came from the free throw line, as Wisconsin shot an impressive 88.5 precent (23 of 26) on the night. 

Wisconsin also was able to get its big lead thanks to much better play on the defensive end of the floor. UW held Coppin State to just 35.6 percent shooting on the night and just 11 of 29 from beyond the arc. 

Up next for Wisconsin is next Tuesday as they go to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Muskateers in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and will air on FS1. 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: Coppin State edition

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It’s here, Wisconsin Badgers basketball is back and looking to start a new era of NCAA tournament appearances. 

Up first is a matchup with the Coppin State Eagles, a team from one of the worst conferences in D1 basketball. Will it be a nice way to ease in to the season or will the visitors put the Badgers to the test in a contrast of styles? 

Let’s dig in to the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

2017-18 Record: 15-18 (7-11 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (57-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Wisconsin will have 94.7 percent of its scoring from last season back and will see two young players return to the lineup after missing most of the 2017-18 season due to injury in guards D’Mitrick Trice and Kobe King. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 9.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.3 apg
G – Brad Davison – 12.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 8.6 ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.8 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.8 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 17.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.7 apg

Coppin State Eagles

2017-18 Record: 5-27 (5-11 MEAC)
Head Coach: Juan Dixon, 2nd season (5-27, 5-11 MEAC)
Notable: Guard Dejuan Clayton missed almost all of the 2017-18 season due to injury after being selected to the MEAC All-Rookie team in 2016-17. He averaged 12.4 points and 3.1 assists per game in his debut season and could be a huge X-factor for this team. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – Dejuan Clayton (So.) – 12.4 ppg, 3.1 apg (2016-17 due to injury)
G – Lucian Brownlee (Sr.) – 4.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Cedric Council (Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 apg
F – Lamar Morgan (Sr.) – 12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.4 apg
F – Chad Andrews-Fulton – 6.5ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.8 apg

Matchup to Watch: Chad Andrews-Fulton vs. Ethan Happ

The Eagles didn’t win a lot of games last season, but when they did it had a lot to do with Chad Andrews-Fulton and his play. In the five wins the Eagles had he averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. 

Ethan Happ is more than accustomed to battling high-level scorers down low and usually good at winning those battles. Happ has also been one of the most effective big men in college basketball for the past two years. Expect Happ to be able to frustrate Andrews-Fulton on defense and take him down low on the block. 

As long as Happ wins this battle in the first half this should be an easy win overall for Wisconsin. If not, the Badgers may make this closer than expected for far too long. 

Prediction: 

Wisconsin 84, Coppin State 55

This is your typical opener against a really bad mid-major program. Yes, Juan Dixon played at a high level at Maryland, but he hasn’t shown the ability to coach a team to success ever. That includes his lone stint as a women’s basketball coach in which his University of the District of Columbia team won just six games. 

Wisconsin has experience and athletic advantages it won’t have every game this season. Look for this to be an easy win for the Badgers and one in which they’ll get some rotational questions figured out. 

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