Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers crush Bradley

MADISON, WISCONSIN - MARCH 14: Steven Crowl #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives to the basket on Rienk Mast #51 of the Bradley Braves during the second half of the game at Kohl Center on March 14, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MADISON, WISCONSIN - MARCH 14: Steven Crowl #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives to the basket on Rienk Mast #51 of the Bradley Braves during the second half of the game at Kohl Center on March 14, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

The last time we saw the Wisconsin basketball team play, they looked apathetic for the first 30 minutes before they seemed to care. The Badgers seemed very motivated in their opening round game of the NIT, crushing the Bradley Braves 81-62.

Big Steve

In his most dominant performance of not only his season but of his career, junior forward Steven Crowl put on an offensive clinic. Honestly, folks, you cannot use enough superlatives to describe the dominance of Crowl this evening. But I’ll sure try.

He scored a career-high 36 points on 12-16 from the field and 5-7 from beyond the arc. Crowl, a career 67.8% shooter from the foul line, was a perfect 7-7 from the charity stripe. He also paced the Badgers in rebounds with nine. He also had two of the team’s blocked shots.

In the first half of the season, it looked as though Crowl was going to break through and become one of the dominant big men in the Big Ten. I’m not quite sure what happened, but after the first matchup against Penn State where had a double-double of 21 points and 11 boards, Crowl became almost a non-factor on offense.

Over the last 14 games, he averaged 9.7 points per contest, eclipsing the 20-point threshold only once. Perhaps there was an undisclosed injury that hampered him, but at times during this stretch, he looked timid in handling the ball.

Against Bradley, he was very reminiscent of Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky. If he can bulk up a little bit more, his senior season could be a very fun one to watch.

Wisconsin basketball exposed the Bradley defense

From the opening three-point shot by Chucky Hepburn, Wisconsin never led in this. An issue that had plagued them all season was slow, lethargic starts.

That definitely was not the case this evening. The Badgers grabbed the lead right away and the game was never really in doubt. Taking a five-point lead into the locker room, Wisconsin never let it get any closer than that.

Even when they went on their seemingly obligatory scoring drought of almost five minutes, they were able to keep the Braves to only five points themselves.

Bradley came into tonight’s matchup sporting a top-15 defense in points allowed per game. However, in my pre-game analysis, I referred to the Braves’ defense as a “fugazi defense”. Whenever they played a higher-caliber opponent, that vaunted defense was crushed.

Tonight’s 81 points that they surrendered was the 4th-highest allowed by Bradley all season.

For Wisconsin basketball, the 81 points represent the second-highest point total scored all season and the first time they went past the 80-point mark since their overtime win at Marquette (the Badgers’ highest point total came in their opener against South Dakota, where they won the game 85-59).

Wisconsin basketball team statistics

The Badgers shot 25-58 (43.1%) from the field and 8-25 (32%) from 3-point range. They hit an impressive 23-28 (82.1%) of their free throw attempts. They were out-rebounded by Bradley 39-35. As usual, they practiced ball security with only three turnovers, while forcing 11 Bradley miscues.

Max Klesmit was second on the team in scoring with 16 points. He hit 5-7 from the field, made his only three-point attempt and went 5-8 from the foul line.

Connor Essegian was the only other Badger in double-digit scoring with 14 points. His long-range shooting woes continue, only hitting 1-6 from beyond the arc. He had an equally tough night from the field as well, going 2-11 overall. However, he was a perfect 9-9 from the foul line.

While I obviously want to see him hit his shots, this kind of night shows me that this kid is going to be some kind of scorer. He’s learning how to generate points when his shots are not falling.

Up next for Wisconsin basketball

After the snafu of the bracket mix-up was finally settled, we thought we learned that if the Badgers won their opening round game, they would host the second round as well.

However, that is not to be the case. Because of the Wisconsin state championships being held in the Kohl Center on Saturday, instead of hosting #3 seed Liberty, the Badgers will travel to Lynchburg, Virginia to play their second-round game.

I’m not exactly sure why this game can’t be moved to Sunday when the Kohl Center is available, but as it stands now, the game is set for Saturday, 3/17 at a time that is to be determined.

I’ll provide a complete breakdown of Liberty very soon. But for now, I’m going to watch this celebration and relish this victory.

On Wisconsin!

P.S. It does now look as if the game will be in Wisconsin. I’m not sure how a tournament in this day and age can be run so amateurishly. From the initial bracket mix-up to having the posted the wrong location for a second round, this tournament is showing that it’s not just the second-rate in teams.

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