Wisconsin basketball lose to Nebraska in OT 73-63

Even Greg Gard is left wondering what is happening after yesterday's 73-63 OT loss in Nebraska.
Even Greg Gard is left wondering what is happening after yesterday's 73-63 OT loss in Nebraska. /

Wisconsin basketball suffered its worse defeat of the season, losing at Nebraska in overtime 73-63. A once-promising season has imploded into one disappointing result after another.

Wisconsin basketball highlights

Chucky Hepburn paced Wisconsin players with 19 points. He was a bit of an iron-man yesterday as well, playing 42 out of the possible 45 minutes.

Connor Essegian continued his solid freshman campaign by contributing 13 points.

Max Klesmit finished the double-digit scoring for the Badgers with 12 points. He was the lone bright spot in shooting, going 5-10 from the field and two of five from long range.

Even though Wisconsin basketball still got outrebounded by a margin of eight, the Badgers actually grabbed more offensive boards (10) than Nebraska (8).

Wisconsin came out of the gates ready to go and took a commanding 11-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

Not content to just salt the lead away, Wisconsin continued to build on the lead, and at the 16:12 mark of the second half the Badgers had a 17-point advantage.

ESPN’s game flow and win probability feature had Wisconsin’s win probability at 97%. Those odds are longer than hitting a one-outer in poker.

What went wrong for Wisconsin basketball

Of course, that’s exactly what Nebraska ended up doing. Keisei Tominaga led all scorers with 22 points, on 7-14 shooting from the field and 5-11 from beyond the 3-point line.

Nebraska’s senior forward Derrick Walker chipped in 18 points himself.

As a team, Nebraska shot 46.3% from the floor, compared to Wisconsin’s 36.2% Neither team was very effective from long-range, as Nebraska was 8-22 (36.4%) to the Badgers 9-31 (29.0%)

While Wisconsin basketball actually had the advantage in offensive rebounds, Nebraska still grabbed more overall boards, bringing in 43 to the Badgers’ 37.

Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl each played 40 of the 45 minutes in the game, yet they only combined for 14 points, eight for Crowl and six for Wahl.

Wisconsin basketball was having its greatest success when these two players were the focal point of the offense. I can’t imagine the Badgers winning many games when these two players combine for 14 points.

One area of concern is the massive discrepancy in fouls and free throw attempts. The Badgers had 23 personal fouls called against them, compared to 13 for the Cornhuskers.

Wahl was the ONLY player to attempt a free throw for Wisconsin, going four of six from the charity stripe. By contrast, Nebraska went 15-23 from the foul line.

Wisconsin’s foul shooting hasn’t been great all season, but they didn’t even get the chance to be bad on Saturday.

What happened at the end of regulation?

For the second consecutive game, Wisconsin basketball had the ball, with the shot clock turned off.

For the second consecutive game, Chucky Hepburn held the ball until no time remained and took an incredibly ill-advised 3-point shot.

I do not claim to be a basketball X’s and O’s expert, but I have beliefs just like everyone else. I hate that play, holding the ball and not attempting to execute a play.

I’m all for running the clock down, but do it in the motion of a play. While you could potentially get the ball stripped, driving the lane, I believe, opens more positive possibilities than negative ones.

Evidently, head coach Greg Gard believes so as well.

When faced with the question of yesterday’s end-of-game strategy, Gard replied “Get in the paint. You’ve got to get in the paint.”

I happen to be a fan of Chucky’s and think that he gets a bad rap at times. Yesterday’s loss was by no means solely on him. The game wouldn’t have gotten to overtime without his 19 points.

But his decisions at the end of consecutive games is not Wisconsin basketball. Ball and player movement, fluid in motion, running plays for the entire team, that’s when Wisconsin plays its best basketball.

Yesterday’s loss was, by far, the worst of the season. Wisconsin’s fading “March Madness” hopes took a brutal hit.

BUT, since I’m the eternal optimist, I still can see a path to “The Dance” for the Badgers. Wisconsin basketball has six regular season games left. Two of which are against teams that are currently ranked in the top 25. The second to last game is against current #1 Purdue.

If they could somehow find the magic that allowed them to run off 11 wins out of the first 13 games and run the regular season table, that would give them a 20-10 regular season record. Win a couple of Big Ten tourney games, I think they would stand a better-than-decent shot at getting an at-large bid.

Sadly, I think the opposite is going to happen. It seems like the team is imploding before our very eyes, unable to hold large leads and losing at home to teams with less talent.

Hopefully, I’m wrong in my vision. I find I’m a much happier person when I’m writing about big Wisconsin wins, rather than debilitating Badger losses.

We’ll get a chance to see which road this team will travel on Valentine’s Day when they host a resurgent Michigan Wolverines team. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. (CST) and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.