Wisconsin Basketball: Another Late Game Collapse

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 18: Donte DiVincenzo
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 18: Donte DiVincenzo /

Yet again Wisconsin basketball suffered a late game collapse that turned a quality win into a painful loss.  The Badgers lost 59-55 on the road to the Temple Owls.

Wisconsin basketball fans knew there would be growing pains this season with such a young team.  But the lessons on late game execution are getting repetitive and expensive for the Badgers.

After coughing up late leads against a trio of ranked foes (Xavier, Baylor, UCLA) it happened again on Wednesday.  This time, the host Temple Owls were the beneficiaries.

A combination of dreadful officiating and poor offensive operation were the culprits.  The Badgers had a 55-52 lead with 3:31 to go after an Aleem Ford basket.

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After Ethan Happ was raked across the wrist (no foul called of course) on a layup Temple got the ball back.  They hit one FT to tie the game.  Then after another Happ miss Brad Davison tried some ill-advised heroics trying to draw an offensive foul when there really wasn’t a good opportunity to do so.  That handed the Owls free throws to tie the game.

The Owls missed the front end but grabbed the offensive rebound.  That eventually led to a touch foul called on Happ and two free throws that gave Temple the lead.

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So in that sequence sure it would have been nice to get the foul correctly called on Happ.  However, it’s not like he’s automatic from the stripe shooting just 62.2 percent for the season.

But Davison made life easy for Temple with a silly attempt at drawing a charge.Then the Badgers give up an offensive rebound of a missed free throw.

Wisconsin’s final possession was a Kobe King missed game winning triple.  A decent shot off some ball movement.

But Happ is such a focal point for the offense that everyone knows he’s touching the ball.  Happ’s young teammates still aren’t doing a good enough job anticipating the double teams and moving off the ball giving him early passing lanes.  Or setting their feet to be ready to shoot immediately off a kick out.

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Playing with the lead late as Wisconsin has in four losses means the Badgers can close things out on offense.  My suggestion is more high ball screens using Happ.  He can slip to the hoop for two.  Or you force a switch and get D’Mitrik Trice in a favorable match up against a big.  Meanwhile, shooters (King, Davison, even Nathan Reuvers) can spread the floor to stretch the defense.

Wisconsin doesn’t get much going to the goal from its guards so giving them the ball screens ideally helps them get into the lane.  That would be useful in part because that could free Happ or Iverson to get points on the offensive glass (or new possessions).

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Again, these aren’t new issues and Greg Gard and his staff are certainly offering direction.  But the lessons aren’t sticking and its costing Wisconsin wins.