On Monday night, Wisconsin dropped yet another game to a Top-25 team. This time, they lost 49-37 on the road to No. 18 Virginia. The game was a defensive slugfest, with both teams shooting very poorly. The Badgers shot 31.3% from the field, 15% from three, and 57.1% from the line. Virginia wasn’t much better. They shot 38.3 from the field and 21.4% from three.
Wisconsin was led by Ethan Happ, who had 14 points and 8 rebounds. D’Mitrik Trice tacked on 10. For Virginia, Kyle Guy had 17 points and Devon Hall had 16. No other Cavalier had more than four points.
Next, the Badgers will start conference play with a game against Ohio State on Saturday. Now on to the observations and grades.
Defensive rebounding was a problem
Missing shots is fine. Losing games to really good teams on the road is fine. What is not fine is getting completely dominated on the glass like Wisconsin did today. The Badgers gave up 14 offensive rebounds, and committed rebounding fouls or hit the ball out of bounds on several other defensive possessions. Defensive rebounding has long been a staple of this Badger program. To see them get so thoroughly manhandled in that area was embarrassing.
Defense was solid
Aside from giving the Cavaliers second chances, Wisconsin actually played very stingy defense. They forced Virginia into tough shots for most of the game. As a result, the Cavaliers scored just 48 points on 38% shooting. In addition, the Badgers didn’t allow Virginia to shoot a single free throw. In the modern college game, that is unheard of. Despite a double-digit loss, this was a very impressive performance by Wisconsin’s defense.
Nate Reuvers showed potential despite poor shooting
Through the first two games of his Badger career, Reuvers is 0-10 shooting. But he still added a lot to this team over those two games. First of all, he plays with far more energy and hustle than Van Vliet, Thomas, and Illikainen do. He took charges, boxed out, and played tough defense, despite being significantly weaker than everyone he guarded. He also did a good job tipping tough rebounds to other Wisconsin players. Reuvers is aggressive on offense. His shots will eventually start to fall. But in the meantime, it is good to see he is doing all the little things.
Perimeter shooting needs to (and will) get better
Three-point shooting was thought to be a strength of this team coming into the season. But in the four games against ranked opponents, Wisconsin has shot the ball very poorly. However, there is reason to believe that it will get better. First of all, Trice has hit 3-19 from three against ranked teams. He is too good of a shooter for that not to change. He is just picking the wrong days to be cold. We also know Brevin Pritzl, Kobe King, and Aleem Ford can shoot at a much higher level than they’ve shown. This team may never be the Warriors from deep, but they aren’t as bad as they were today.
D’Mitrik Trice: C-
He had another cold shooting day, but he had some nice floaters and mid-range jumpers. He was also good in pick-and-roll situations and had his best defensive game of the season.
Brad Davison: C-
He was only 2-10 from the field, but his toughness was once again on full display.
Khalil Iverson: D
Did he even play tonight? When I checked, it showed that he only played 11 minutes. His leading stat was turnovers (2).
Aleem Ford: C
He hit a pair of three-pointers and played good defense. Also had four turnovers.
Ethan Happ: C+
This was Happ’s worst game in a long, long time. He had turnover issues, missed bunnies, and got dominated by Jack Salt on the boards. He still finished with 14 and 8.
Brevin Pritzl: C
He played 22 and didn’t score a single point. He rebounded and defended well though. He didn’t make many mistakes.
Charles Thomas: B-
He played five minutes and had five rebounds. He forced a three-pointer, but his rebounding may give him more minutes.
Kobe King: C
He played 21 minutes and played his best defense of the season. He also had one nice bucket on offense to go along with an ugly miss.
Nate Reuvers: B-
He struggled with his shooting, but he played with energy and confidence that Wisconsin’s other backup big men don’t.
Greg Gard: D
He had some questionable lineups, like the one without Trice, Ford, or Happ that allowed Virginia to go on a big run. Also shouldn’t have let Davison play after his shoulder got hurt.