Going into tonight’s contest against Iowa, Wisconsin basketball was listed by some “Bracketologists” as being in the “First Four Out”. After their convincing 64-52 win tonight, their hopes took a decided turn upward.
Wisconsin Basketball highlights
If Tyler Wahl plays the rest of the season as he did tonight, the Badgers might just automatically win their way into March Madness. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say this was his best game since his injury.
He was a very effective 5-8 from the field and 1-2 from the foul line for 11 points. His 14 rebound night was easily his season high and just one shy from his career high of 15, which came his sophomore year against Green Bay.
While he may not have led the team in scoring, his moxie was in full effect tonight and this Wisconsin basketball can go a long way with an effective Wahl powering their team.
Connor Essegian, the other offensive lynchpin for the Badgers, rebounded from his disaster against Rutgers. He had a game-high 17 points, on 5-13 from the field, 2-7 from 3-point range, and 5-7 from the foul line.
I’m not sure if they’ve connected with Bill Russel’s ghost or something, but suddenly Wisconsin basketball is a force to be reckoned with on the glass. As a team, they hauled in 38 total rebounds, eight more than Iowa’s 30.
Folks, they haven’t outrebounded a team that decisively since the third game of the season against Green Bay.
Iowa came into tonight’s contest with the Big Ten’s most prolific offense, averaging 80.3 points per game. The announcers made repeated references to their poor showing in their most recent game against Northwestern, where they only scored 60.
Wisconsin’s defense did not one but 8 better, holding the Hawkeyes not only 28 points below their season average but also Iowa’s lowest-scoring total in 46 games.
Iowa star Kris Murray was averaging 20.7 points per game. The Badger bigs held him to FIVE, on 2-10 shooting from the field.
As a team, Iowa shot 20-62 (32.3%) from the floor and a dismal 3-28 (10.7) from long-range.
Areas of concern for Wisconsin basketball
Even though he scored 17 points this evening, I think the grind of the Big Ten season is taking its toll on Connor. In the last four games, he has gone 7-31 (22.6%).
To put that into perspective, before those four games he was 53-120 (44.2%).
The Badgers’ foul shooting woes returned as they only went 10-18 (55.6%) from the charity stripe. However, this was mitigated by the fact that they still outscored the Hawkeyes by one in the free throw department.
As a team, Wisconsin shot very well from inside the arc, going a scorching 21-30. The long-range shooting was a bit different story, only hitting 4-18 (22.2%) from downtown.
Early on, it seemed as though their patented ball security was in dire straits, as they had five turnovers in the first 4:32 seconds. And while their 11 turnovers were three above their season average, that means for the remaining 35:28 they only committed six more.
What’s ahead for Wisconsin basketball
This win was monumental for a number of reasons. First, it got Wisconsin one game closer to that magical 20-win mark. They now have a 16-11 overall record.
Their conference mark is now 8-9. Even though they are currently tied for 10th with Penn State, there is a 6-way tie for the 4th position and Wisconsin is only a game behind that logjam.
The school immediately above them? The Badgers’ next opponent, Michigan. The Wolverines travel to Rutgers Thursday evening before hosting Wisconsin Sunday.
The Badgers have a very legitimate shot at finishing the Big Ten regular season at 10-10. If they pull off the upset against Purdue, then it becomes 11-9, and definitely one, maybe two byes in the Big Ten tourney.
Before all of the naysayers tell me that’s impossible, not going to happen, etc, just remember this.
You also said that there was no way Wisconsin would sweep the season series with Iowa.