Good Sunday morning folks. Well, “good” is probably a relative term, but it’s always good to grab a cup or two of hot Joey and read about all of the Wisconsin Badgers’ sports teams.
A jam-packed week finally comes to an end
In what seemed like an eternity ago, the Wisconsin Badgers opened up the week at Northwestern. That 3-point loss seemed to have destroyed something in the Badgers’ spirit because they haven’t seemed the same team since.
The agonizing week came to a brutal end yesterday, losing to the University of Illinois 61-51. At the beginning of the week, they were sitting in prime territory to make the NCAA Basketball Tournament in March. After their dismal showing this week, they might be lucky to get an invitation to the CBI.
The brightest spot of the day for UW was the return of Max Klesmit. Having taken a wicked elbow to the chops against Penn State last week, Klesmit missed the second half of that game as well as the next games on the road. He scored the first points for the Badgers on a wide-open three.
As Stephen Bardo said his return is a huge boost, in terms of defense and confidence. Those intangibles were very clear in the team’s play yesterday. Sadly, it just wasn’t enough to overcome the general lethargy that the Badgers seemed to display.
However, in the midst of the massive mediocrity put on display, there was a play that featured some of the most fundamentally sound and unselfish play you’ll see in today’s college game.
Chucky Hepburn paced Wisconsin’s scorers with 15 points, on 6-14 from the field and 3-5 from 3-point land. He also chipped in 5 boards and 2 steals. Klesmit was the only other Badger with double-digit points with 12, and he also led the team in rebounds with 8.
Both Wahl and Crowl were in early foul trouble and the usual catalysts that spark the Wisconsin offensive engine were limited to 19 and 28 minutes of game time, respectively. Essegian also had his worst game since he put up only 2 points in the 3rd game of the year. He had 3 points, with a goose egg in 3-point scoring (0-4).
Even though they’re young athletes in peak fitness, 3 games in a week (especially with 2 road ones) seemed to really have drained the boys. Many of their jump shots were short and their usual accurate 3-point offense ( they came into the game 70th in the nation at 36.2%) only went 9-27.
The Illini’s Matthew Mayer, who looks more like a nerdy adult film star that a D-I basketball player, had a career day, netting 26 points on 9-19 from the inside the arc and 5-11 from downtown. Jayden Epps was Illinois only other player with double-digits, scoring 13.
I read in the fanboards from one of the Wisconsin faithful that he was “tired of the rock fights”. I think that’s a very astute comparison to UW’s offense lately. Usually able to play stiff, if not stifling defense, sadly the last few games their offense has also been prone to being shut down.
Luckily for Wisconsin, they get four days of rest before they travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. This game will see the match-up of probable winner and runner-up of Big Ten “Freshman of the Year”, as Wisconsin’s Connor Essegian does battle with Ohio State’s 6’6″ freshman forward phenom, Brice Sensabaugh. Leading the Buckeye’s in score with 17.6 PPG and 5.5 rebounds.
Sporting an 11-10 overall record and a 3-7 mark in the Big Ten, Ohio State is one of the few teams playing as poorly as Wisconsin is right now. Losers of their last 2 and 7 out of 8 games, the Buckeyes limp in to Thursday’s match-up looking to wipe the 16-point loss to Indiana out of it’s mouth.
The game starts at 6 p.m. (CST) in Columbus, Ohio and will be televised on FS1.