Wisconsin basketball, in an almost must-win situation, came up short against Rutgers, losing 58-57. As I sit here and write the recap, I’m still a bit astonished how it played out.
Positives for Wisconsin Basketball
If you would have told me before the game that Wisconsin would go seven of nine from the foul line, make five more 3-pointers than Rutgers, have four more offensive rebounds, and only minus one in total boards, I would have told you the Badgers won by double digits.
Proving that the game against Michigan was not a fluke, they controlled the offensive boards, bringing in eight to Rutgers’s four. The Scarlet Knights did outgain them on defensive rebounds, 29-24, but that only put the Badgers one total rebound behind them.
Rutgers went a perfect five of five from the charity stripe, but Wisconsin hit a commendable seven of nine (77.8%). Yes, they did miss two foul shots, but most teams also don’t go 100% like Rutgers did today.
Wisconsin’s shooting from the field wasn’t great (only 33.3% from both inside and beyond the arc), but they did make five more 3’s than Rutgers.
A staple of their Wisconsin basketball this year has been ball security and today’s game was no different. They only committed five turnovers, compared to Rutger’s eight.
Can Johnny Davis come back to the Kohl Center more often? Jordan went off, leading Wisconsin in scoring with 14 points, one off his career high, on 5-10 from the floor and 3-6 from downtown. He also had four rebounds and no turnovers.
Kamari McGee looks as if he’s becoming a little more comfortable in Wisconsin’s offensive sets. He’s scored more points in the last two games (15) than he had for the entire season (11). Today he went 3-6 from long-range and 3-8 overall. Forced into action because of some questionable calls against Chucky Hepburn, McGee gave a good account of himself.
For the second consecutive game, Steven Crowl faced one of the Big Ten’s better big men in Clifford Omoruyi. For the second straight game, he more than held his own against guys that are a little more physically developed. Crowl scored eight points and hauled in 11 boards. He held Omoruyi to 12 points and only eight rebounds, almost a full two below his season average.
Max Klesmit was Wisconsin’s second-leading scorer with 11 points, going 3-8 from 3-point land and a perfect two of two from the charity stripe.
What went wrong for Wisconsin
Before I start, please realize that Connor Essegian is only a freshman, but more importantly, he’s human. He’s going to have a bad game every now and then. He’s had a helluva lot more great games than bad ones.
With that being said, Connor had a game I hope he’ll just flush from his memory. He was 0-10 from the field and 2-2 from the foul line.
Overall, Wisconsin as a team shot pretty poorly, going 19-37 (33.3%) from the field. By contrast, Rutgers went 23-52 (44.2%) from the floor.
Even this negative was somewhat of a positive, as Wisconsin’s second-half adjustments forced Rutgers to go 9-27 (33.3%) from the field.
Unfortunately, they just couldn’t take advantage of the stepped-up defense.
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
In my optimistic prognosis for a path to March Madness, I stated that Wisconsin needed to win every home game, with the exception of their contest against Purdue.
Since then, they’ve dropped two of those home contests. But they picked one of those wins back up when they went into Penn State and turned into “UnHappy Valley”.
Going into today, ESPN’s “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi had them as the last 4 in. Today’s loss obviously hurts them a great deal, but they can still make up for today’s loss by either winning one of their two remaining road games or by beating Purdue.
I’ll make another “Bold Joey Pick”: If they beat Purdue, they’ll make the “Big Dance”.
That doesn’t mean that they can’t without beating the Boilermakers, but it seems that the pundits still believe in the overall quality of this team. If Wisconsin could just give them one more reason to include them, I think they’re inclined to do so.
Beating Purdue would be that reason.
However, they still need to take care of business in their OTHER home game, on Wednesday against Iowa. The Hawkeyes are currently 17-9 overall and in 3rd place in the Big Ten with a conference mark of 9-6. Iowa plays Northwestern tomorrow afternoon before coming to Madison on Feb. 22nd.