Wisconsin Basketball: Player grades from loss to #11 Iowa

Feb 18, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Aleem Ford (2) and the Badger bench celebrate his three-point basket in the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Aleem Ford (2) and the Badger bench celebrate his three-point basket in the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports /

Close your eyes Wisconsin basketball fans. In their second straight game against a ranked opponent, Wisconsin never looked the part of the 21st ranked team in the nation. Iowa–specifically big man Luka Garza–had their way with the Badgers early and often. Garza put up a 30-piece as Joe Wieskamp torched Wisconsin’s perimeter defense with his three-point shooting.

The Badgers never found a rhythm and resorted to desperation threes too often to seriously make a run at the lead. The inconsistency led to a 77-62 loss as the Badgers dropped to 9-7 in conference play, good for sixth in the Big Ten.  Here’s the breakdown:

D’Mitrik Trice – B-

11 PTS, 9 AST, 2 TO

As per usual the Badger offense ran through the senior point guard. While a constant depth from three-point land in the first half, Trice played a more reserved role in the second.

The trend of Trice playing 35+ minutes a night may be concerning, however. At 32.9 Minutes a game, Trice is on pace to finish with the highest minutes-per-game average by a Wisconsin guard since Josh Gasser in 2015. And on a night where the Badgers were without backup point guard Trevor Anderson, Trice logged 37 of them.

An extraordinary amount of responsibility is put on Trice’s shoulder to initiate and regulate Greg Gard’s offense. That he was able to log a 4.5:1 assist to turnover ratio on a night where he was practically the only point guard in the rotation deserves recognition despite the final margin.

Brad Davison – B

15 PTS, 5/8 3FGM/A

Davison hit four threes before the under-10 timeout in the second half but led the “ill-advised pull-up jumper” committee. Too many times the Badgers’ offense deteriorated to contested, off the dribble jumpers, and outside of his five three-pointers, Davison let loose some wildly inefficient shots.

Considering his five threes are the most he’s hit since last year’s matchup against Nebraska, where he went for 30, this game is encouraging. It’s still unclear how to optimize his offensive production but this game should help prevent freshman Jonathan Davis from overtaking his spot as a starter.

Tyler Wahl – D

0 PTS, 3 REB

On the topic of maximizing a player’s offense, Tyler Wahl remains an enigma. The baseline out-of-bounds lob pass he received in the second was a refreshing twist on his utilization, but he clanked the ensuing free throws and finished the night scoreless.

Wahl is playing as though he has no freedoms on the offensive end. A lengthy and potent defender, it’s disappointing to see his role limited to spot-up three-pointers. Part of this could be attributed to his deficiencies as a ball-handler, but even so, his shooting ability and his athleticism should create enough space to manipulate cutting and slashing angles.

His most redeeming factor is his defense, where his length and quick footedness compliments Trice and Aleem Ford perfectly. Wahl performed admirably against Jordan Bohannon and CJ Frederick, and before a 13-2 Iowa run put the game out of reach, the trio’s defense help keep the game at arm’s length.

As crazy as it sounds, Wahl’s poor offense could be the thing keeping Jonathan Davis from the starting lineup. Wahl’s best role would be as a spark plug off the bench but if he can’t provide at least at-par scoring, the rotation would be even more disfigured than it is right now.

Aleem Ford – C-

6 PTS, 5 REB, 2/10 FGM/A

As strong as Ford’s defense was in the second half, it’s tough to justify his shot selection. Seeing him settle for three after three–as so many Badgers have done in this ten-game stretch–is demoralizing.

Last year his role included more post-ups and face-up opportunities, plays were consistently run to find Ford in the mid-post and he just worked it. This year he’s been largely reduced to a three-and-D type player and this bailed out Iowa’s less than stellar on-ball defenders.

Ford almost always presents a mismatch nightmare. Defensively he can guard two through four and even point guards and centers in a pinch. And while I have my qualms with how the offensive is set up, he’s a perfect post-up option given his length, athleticism, and touch around the rim.

Nate Reuvers – D+

4 PTS, 2 BLK

This is the game that may have put the nail in the coffin of the ongoing starting center debate. Gard has gone back and forth but with only four points and one board to his name, I just don’t see how Reuvers can start over Potter in spite of his defensive consistency.

My current theory is that Reuvers is a shooting guard trapped in a seven-foot frame. But with JR Smith-level streakiness. He was timid on this three-point shooting and failed to rebound effectively.

Reuvers fought hard early against Garza, but the Wooden Award top 20 finalist overwhelmed the Wisconsin frontcourt with his touches.

Micah Potter – A-

23 PTS, 11 REB, 1 BLK

Three main differences defined the chasmic difference between Potter and Reuvers.

  1. Most importantly, Potter attacked the glass with impunity. His first points came off of an offensive rebound and that set his tone for the rest of the game.
  2. Potter was extremely efficient in all fronts of shooting but more importantly, he was calm when facing the double team. Early when he faced doubles, he’d casually escape dribble and reset. Seeing Potter’s basketball IQ rise as the season progresses makes Gard’s decision all the easier.
  3. Reuvers got killed on the inside against Garza. Potter got torched from the outside. And while neither is good in Potter’s case all you can do is shake your head in astoundment as the likely Player of the Year flexes his shooting prowess.

However, had it not been for some shaky misreads by Iowa’s guards, Garza could have had even more. Potter got bailed out by these decisions and I can’t give a pure A in a blowout loss.

Jonathan Davis – C+

3 PTS, 9 REB, 1/9 FGM/A

Foul trouble interrupted JD’s rhythm in this one but that didn’t hinder his aggression. He was still able to log the second-most minutes on the team and his nine boards were second only to Potter.

That being said Davis struggled to find open looks against Iowa’s strong rotation defense. There wasn’t enough movement and relocation by other Badgers to open up passing lanes or warrant miscues.

Davis still showed off his decisiveness, athleticism, and relentless determination despite the loss. Just couldn’t buy a bucket.