The #21 Wisconsin basketball team takes on the #11 Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday night, and they are hoping to turn things around before the tourney starts slipping away. The Badgers have quite the gauntlet to finish the season and are off to a bad start with a home loss to Michigan this past Sunday. The task may seem like an impossible one, but the Badgers hope to pull off an upset victory over Luka Garza and the Hawkeyes.
The last time these two teams faced off was over a year ago, with the Hawkeyes winning a close one 68-62 in Iowa City. If the Wisconsin basketball team wants to avoid a two-game skid against Iowa, they will need to make sure they play a bit differently than they have been. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to victory.
Stop Luka Garza
Luka Garza scored 21 points and recorded 18 rebounds in their previous contest with the Badgers, and even though it was a year ago Luka Garza, if anything, has only gotten better. Garza is currently averaging 24.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, and at 6’11,” the Badgers will have quite a hard time keeping him from the net.
The Hawkeyes are overall shooting very well, so a double team might not be the answer. Gard has to get one of either Nate Reuvers or Micah Potter to play physically against Garza and at least slow him down and box him out. Speaking of boxing out, let’s go on to our next key to victory.
Stop giving up offensive rebounds
Wisconsin “bigs” Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter haven’t been the epitome of good defense as of late, and if I have to hear “zero rebounds between the two of them” again I think I will personally write Greg Gard a letter voicing my displeasure (even though I know nothing about coaching basketball).
Iowa currently ranks 1st in the Big Ten with the most rebounds per game and ranks 2nd in offensive rebounds. Iowa is grabbing ~12 offensive rebounds per game, and a quick look at recent Badger games doesn’t bode well for their chances in grabbing those boards.
The Badgers have given up over 10 offensive rebounds in 3 of their last 4 games and struggled mightily with Michigan and their massive Freshman Hunter Dickinson. If the Badgers want to win, they will need to box out much better and keep opposing offensive rebounds low. Too many points come off second chances.
Start the second half hot
I know this one isn’t as easy as it sounds, but the Badgers have struggled coming out of halftime in recent weeks, either letting teams back into the game or completely obliterating any hope of a Badger comeback.
The Badgers had a 12-point lead against Michigan at the half on Sunday but a 15-6 run in the first 6 minutes quickly erased most of that lead (which they obviously went on to lose completely). Penn State went on a 15-9 run over the first 6 minutes in their win over the Badgers. OSU went on a 17-11 run….you can see where this is going. The Badgers need to come out with their foot on the gas instead of trying to play it safe if they want to keep up with the potent Hawkeye offense.
Get Jonathan Davis going early
I realize this team is full of seniors that have shown tons of ability and talent over the last few years, but Jonathan Davis is a special player that doesn’t seem to shoot as much as Badger fans would like.
Davis has scored double-digit points in 3 of his last 4 games and continues to wow fans with his shooting. He is not much of a 3-point shooter from what we’ve seen, but he puts up some crazy shots that always seem to fall in. If the offense starts to sputter, the Badgers need to look to Davis to make some key shots instead of shooting brick after brick 3-point attempts. When the Badgers are hot beyond the arc, it’s a sight to see. When they aren’t…I along with thousands of Badger fans are turning the TV off.
Davis is shooting right around 47%, which might not seem that great, but is better than D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, and Reuvers. Davis shows a ton of promise for this Wisconsin basketball team, and he should get more opportunities to prove it.
If the Wisconsin basketball team can slow down Luka Garza and the Hawkeye offense, they can keep this game close. That being said, a lot of things need to have changed between Sunday’s loss to the Wolverines and Thursday night’s game against Iowa. Boxing out and slowing down Garza is a start, but if the Badgers want to pull this one off at home, they need a hot shooting night and to keep their foot on the gas out of halftime.
Iowa 70 – Wisconsin 65