INDIANAPOLIS -- Is it cold in here or is it just the Badgers?
Wisconsin made a courageous comeback in Friday’s Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal game against Illinois, but could not overcome a ridiculously cold shooting day and fell 58-54.
It's hard to even explain how cold the Badgers were at Conseco Fieldhouse, which is known for its tight rims. The Badgers were only 6-of-39 at one point in the second half, shooting only 15 percent. Illinois, by contrast, shot 65 percent in the first half. The fact the Illini only had a 29-20 lead at the half was somewhat surprising.
"It’s very tough to start a game out like that and shoot they way we did," senior Jason Bohannon – who only hit 1-of-10 shots – said. "We got some good looks and they just didn’t happen to fall. We certainly can’t let that affect the way we shoot the rest of the year. We got to get that confidence back."
Bohannon and classmate Trevon Hughes combined to start the game 0-of-17 from the field and Wisconsin trailed by 16 points with 6:45 left in the game as a result.
But that’s when the Badgers finally started to make some shots. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. Hughes hit his final four three point attempts to bring Wisconsin within two points with 31 seconds left, but he was forced to foul on the in-bounds pass and fouled out of the game. After Jeff Jordan only made one of two free throws, Bohannon – who never really came out of his slump – missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game.
"What I saw out there, I won’t forget for a long time, and I don’t think our players will either," Bo Ryan said about the comeback. "I think they reached down and got some things."
Jon Leuer, who torched the Illini for 20 points in Champaign Sunday, still managed 14 points Friday, despite being held in check for most of the game.
Friday’s loss proved that you can throw out any other aspects of the game when you can’t hit shots. Illinois turned the ball over 17 times, while the Badgers only committed five turnovers. When Ryan saw that statistic during his post-game press conference, he seemed shocked.
"What did they end up with, 17 turnovers? Come on. You put a team in that position where there’s a difference of 12, you’ve got to be on the other side with that one," Ryan said.
The Badgers could have been on the left-hand side if they had been able to a few other things better. Ryan said to overcome a poor shooting night you can only turn the ball over five to nine times and you have to get at least 20 turnovers. Wisconsin accomplished the first half of that, but only shot 14 free throws and missed six of them.
There were a few times where Hughes forced a shot instead of creating a foul and he started the game 0-of-10 as a result.
"I know I played bad, but I can’t dwell on it for so long," he said.
Hughes is right. While the Badgers lost to a team they had beat by 15 points in Champaign just five days earlier, there is no question Wisconsin can play better in the NCAA Tournament.
In the grand scheme of things, Friday’s loss probably doesn’t mean much, other than maybe a seed or two in the NCAA Tournament. It’s likely UW will be a No. 4 or 5 seed.