The Wisconsin Badgers traveled down to Northwestern University on Tuesday night to take on the Wildcats. Northwestern was 2-2 in Big Ten play, coming off a big win against Minnesota. Wisconsin was 1-3 in Big Ten play, having lost on a last second shot against Maryland. Wisconsin needed a win, mostly because Northwestern was a team that was even with Wisconsin in talent.
Wisconsin won the tip off, although Zak Showalter missed a three-pointer. Northwestern capitalized and Bryant McIntosh made a jumper. Nigel Hayes responded by swishing a three-pointer. Northwestern then went on an 8-0 run and Wisconsin was forced to call a timeout to stop the Wildcats’ momentum. McIntosh made two free throws after being fouled by Jordan Hill, but Showalter made a two-point jumper. Both teams entered a bit of a shooting drought which ended with Northwestern’s Derek Pardon making a layup. Wisconsin scored two more baskets to whither away at the Northwestern lead.
After Ethan Happ made a layup around the 9:15 mark, Wisconsin was trailing by three, but there was a sense of urgency from that moment on. The Badgers’ Jordan Hill made a three-pointer to take the lead from the Wildcats. Wisconsin lead the game 18-16. Northwestern’s Gavin Skelly made a quick layup to tie up the game and a three from Aaron Falzon gave Northwestern the lead back. The remaining 6:30 of the half showed both teams battling it out on offense and defense. Northwestern maintained its lead, but for every Wildcats’ basket, Wisconsin had a response. Rebounding was on the forefront, although the Wildcats took most of the rebounds at the end of the day. Northwestern lead at the half, 26-24.
Wisconsin came out ready to play in the second half. Zak Showalter made a three-pointer on the first possession of the half, taking the lead from the Wildcats. Sanjay Lumpkin of Northwestern made a layup to take back the lead. For the next ten minutes of action, Northwestern maintained its lead. However, Wisconsin kept the game extremely close. The lead never was more than four points, showing just how close of a match up these two teams were. Neither team was excelling on offense or defense. There were many missed shots and mistakes on offense.
At 9:45, Northwestern lead the game 44-45. A three-pointer from Zak Showalter gave Wisconsin the lead once again. Ethan Happ fouled on the next play, and Northwestern made one free throw. After a foul from Vitto Brown, Sanjay Lumpkin made two free throws, and took the lead from Wisconsin once again. Joey van Zegeren capitalized on the Badgers miscommunication on defense and dunked the ball, and increased Northwestern’s lead. Bronson Koenig responded with a three-pointer, but Bryant McIntosh made a three on Northwestern’s next possession, and increased the lead of Northwestern to five. The game was over at that point, although Wisconsin played hard until the end. Because of foul trouble, Northwestern was constantly on the free throw line. Wisconsin was sent to free throw line many times, but usually the Badgers only made one free throw, or in some cases, none.
Wisconsin had a full-court press from the 2:39 mark on. The press forced three Northwestern turnovers, but Wisconsin could not capitalize on these turnovers. However, the press definitely wore Northwestern out. At the end, Northwestern got tired and sloppy, and the press was a big factor in that.
Northwestern won the game 70-65. The Wildcats improve to 3-2 in the Big Ten, 15-3 overall. The Badgers fall to 1-4 in the Big Ten, 9-9 overall. Wisconsin will have a tough road ahead. They play Michigan State at home on Sunday. Wisconsin was not ready to play this game. They beat themselves with careless mistakes and bad offensive moves. They fail to set up plays on offense, even though the point guard is a junior and lead last season’s team to the Final Four. There were many times throughout the game that the Badgers were out of place on defense, and then that translated into mistakes on offense. The Badgers need to shake off their mistakes and move forward, but inexperience may play a factor in why they can not seem to shake off the little mistakes made throughout the game.