It was a struggle for most of Tuesday night’s contest at Creighton for the Wisconsin Badgers.
A cold spell in the first half and a defensive lapse to allow a big second-half run did in the No. 9 Badgers in a 79-67 loss to the No. 22 Bluejays.
Bronson Koenig scored 21 points and Nigel Hayes added 16 for the Badgers, who shot 11-of-39 on three-pointers.
Creighton led 33-30 at the half before Wisconsin took a 48-44 lead with 11 minutes left. From there, the Bluejays took over and sealed the game at the free-throw line and with a couple of fastbreak dunks in the waning seconds.
Khyri Thomas scored 18 points for the Bluejays, who also got 17 points from Maurice Watson Jr. and 15 from Marcus Foster.
The Badgers turned the ball over 16 times (23.9 percent of possession), compared to seven for Creighton.
Wisconsin needs to get to the line
A large byproduct of relying on perimeter shooting, the Badgers did not attempt a free throw in the game until 5:21 left in the game. Creighton picked up five fouls before the first media timeout in the second half, and then Wisconsin could not get to the line for over 10 minutes. The Bluejays shot 22 free throws (though many of those came as Wisconsin tried extending the game), compared to five for the Badgers.
Will opponents follow Creighton’s defensive strategy?
The Bluejays threw a double team at any Wisconsin player when he touched the ball in the post. It left Badgers shooters consistently open on the perimeter, and they made eight of their first 13 attempts. After that? Three of 26. Creighton stayed out of foul trouble, neutralized Ethan Happ and forced Wisconsin to win from the perimeter. The Badgers dropped their three-point attempts in the second half to eight, but there weren’t nearly as many good looks. Creighton neutralized Happ, who took five field goals and scored seven points.
Wisconsin went 15-of-24 on two-pointers, but a drought of 4:42 to end the first half put it in a deficit as 12 consecutive three-pointers didn’t fall.
The game fell apart midway through the second half
On the defensive end, Wisconsin fell apart during the Bluejays’ game-deciding run. Creighton unloaded its 19-4 run after the Badgers led 48-44. The Bluejays were able to attack the rim, get to the line and won loose balls that resulted in open shooters. A close game was quickly an 11-point deficit with over six minutes to play, and the rest was history. Except for a small stretch in the first half, Wisconsin struggled defensively, leaving shooters open on the perimeter and allowing 28 points in the paint. Creighton scored 1.162 points per possession for the game.