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.
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.
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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