MADISON -- The hallmark of the Wisconsin basketball team through its first 16 games this year was offensive balance. The number of ways the Badgers scored and the number of threats they had made the unit brutally efficient.
Wednesday night had nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with brutality.
The final carnage: UW shot 26.3 percent (15-of-57) from the floor and 20.8 percent (5-of-24) from three-point range and lost at the Kohl Center to Northwestern for the first time in 14 meetings here. The final line, 65-56 in favor of the Wildcats, doesn't do the Badgers offensive struggles justice.
Freshman forward Nigel Hayes (six points, 1-of-5 FG, 4-of-9 FT) converted at the rim to give Wisconsin a 32-27 lead at the 15:01 mark of the second half. The Badgers then went 12:15 without a field goal. UW also had scoreless streaks of 7:43 and 6:32 in the first half.
"I didn't even venture to ask what our [points per possession] was," UW head coach Bo Ryan said afterward.
When a reporter said UW finished at 0.8, Ryan said, "[That] would be a miracle. That's only because of the run we made at the end."
Trailing by 15 coming out of the final media timeout, Wisconsin played the Wildcats full-court, forced seven turnovers in the final 3:07 and cut the lead to as close as six points on a Hayes free throw with 42 seconds remaining. The Badgers just couldn't generate enough points off of those takeaways. Missed jump shots plagued the team the whole night, but UW also had late-game possessions that ended in missed layups by Jackson and Hayes and two that were thwarted by Jackson turnovers.
The junior point guard finished with eight points (2-of-12 FG), four assists and three turnovers.
Ben Brust led UW in scoring with 21 points, but was not particularly efficient (7-of-18 FG, 3-10 3-pt.). He hit a three from the top of the key on the Badgers' first possession of the night, but -- like many of his teammates -- was uncharacteristically off-line on several other jump shots.
"To throw the ball in the post and get a wide-open kick out and shoot an airball is ridiculous," Brust said of a particular sequence. "It's unacceptable. You just have to be a man and knock them down."
Wisconsin's other four starters combined to go 7-of-34 (20.5 percent) from the floor. Hayes was the only bench player to attempt a shot, as Duje Dukan and Bronson Koenig played a combined six minutes to fill out the UW rotation. "When you start missing shots like that, the basket can look awfully small," Ryan said.
During Northwestern's dominant second-half run, the Wildcats hit 11 of 17 shots (5-of-7 3-pt.), outscored UW 27-9 and got half of Drew Crawford's game-high 30 points.
"There was a streak there where it seemed like if they bounced it off the floor it was going to go in," Ryan said.
That production, from a team that entered Wednesday's contest averaging 61.4 points per game, ranking them No. 334 in the nation.
"We've had to win with defense and rebounding," NU head coach Chris Collins said. "To hold them to 26 percent shooting and out-rebound them by six are two stats that mean a lot to us."
Both Ryan and Brust agreed the Badgers got many of the shots they wanted; they simply didn't shoot it well enough.
Wisconsin hit its first two shots of the night -- threes from Brust and Jackson -- and then went 7:43 without a hoop. After Kaminsky finished a three-point play at the 6:32 mark to break a tie and give UW an 18-15 lead, the Badgers didn't get a field goal the rest of the half. Wisconsin used five free throws to make it to halftime with a 23-22 lead. It only got worse in the second half.
"I don't know how you can look at those numbers and say anything other than, ‘we're due,'" Ryan said. "Hopefully that's Saturday."
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