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Wisconsin needs more consistency around Ethan Happ, Brad Davison

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The pieces are there, but can the Badgers start putting it together on Tuesday?

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

As the Wisconsin Badgers get ready for one of their tougher challenges of the season on Tuesday night in visiting the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers, the team will hope to find some more consistent performances from players in their starting lineup surrounding Ethan Happ and Brad Davison.

Junior forward Khalil Iverson, when he has gotten more involved in the game, has had a lot of success. That includes an 17-point performance against Yale (on 8-of-9 shooting), a 16-point road outing against Penn State (7-of-8), and a 17-point performance against Chicago State (6-for-10).

However, Iverson has only finished in double-digits three other times, for a total of six times this season in 18 games. While Iverson’s scoring ability has come and gone this season, it is not due to poor shooting. He is currently shooting 56 percent from the field and 68 percent from the free-throw line.

Iverson’s lack of scoring comes from a lack of attempts. He has taken five or fewer shots in nine of his 18 games this season and has only taken eight or more shots five times.

Another player that has proven his ability to score but has seen fewer points due to fewer shots is redshirt freshman Aleem Ford. Ford joined the starting lineup against Baylor on Nov. 20 and has seen success, shooting 44 percent from the field and a team-leading 46 percent from behind the three-point arc in 18 games, including 13 starts.

However, Ford, like Iverson, has seen his share of gams, where he has taken limited shots. Ford has taken five or fewer shots in 12 of his 18 games and has only scored in double-digits four times.

Both Iverson and Ford have shown signs of a scorer’s mentality this season, they just need to see more looks and take more open shots when available.

However, taking more shots may prove to be more difficult, as Wisconsin is currently last in the Big Ten in shot attempts with 969, proving its slow pace of play is limiting opportunities.

One player that has been putting up a much more consistent run as of late is sophomore Brevin Pritzl. The De Pere, Wis., native has started six of his last seven games since the 82–63 home to loss to Marquette on Dec. 9, but he did not play against Indiana on Jan. 2 due to a concussion. Despite missing the home win against the Hoosiers, he has been averaging 12.1 points per game in his last seven outings.

The most potent player off the bench to start the season but has started recently, true freshman Nate Reuvers he found his way onto the court in in 13 games, including three starts, after burning his redshirt

Reuvers averages 5.7 points per game and has shown potential, shooting 39 percent overall. Though starting 0-for-10 from the field for his collegiate career, the forward scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the Big Ten-opening loss to Ohio State.

He followed up his Big Ten opener with an 11-point effort in Wisconsin’s second Big Ten game against Penn State. Since then, he has tallied double-digit points once at Rutgers (10).

Apart from Reuvers, Wisconsin’s bench doesn’t go too deep. Sophomore T.J. Schlundt and freshman Walt McGrory have seen the lion’s share of the minutes at 8.5 and 9.9 per game, respectively, with redshirt senior forward Aaron Moesch logging 6.8 minutes per contest.

Of the three, Moesch has had the hottest hand, connecting on five of six shots, with Schlundt being the most likely to put up a shot, hitting six of 19 shot attempts. McGrory has yet to hit a shot this season, having only taken four shots.

While Wisconsin (9–9, 2–3 Big Ten) has seen some inconsistent play this season heading into Tuesday’s match-up with Purdue (17–2, 6–0), there have been a couple of players the Badgers have been able to look to at this point in the season.

Those players are Davison and Happ.

While Happ is no stranger to the starting lineup, having started every game the last three seasons, Davison is not only new to the team, he is relatively new to the starting lineup.

Since joining the starting lineup on Nov. 20 against Baylor, Davison has scored in double-digits 11 of 15 games while shooting 43 percent on the year and 38 percent from outside. He has also quickly become one of the team’s verbal leaders on the court, playing at a level far above that of a true freshman—especially when factoring in the left shoulder injury he suffered in his first start that has caused him to wear a brace for most of the season.

In his last three Big Ten games, Davison is shooting 38 percent from the field and 33 percent from long-range, both below his overall average for the season.

As for Happ, he has put up Happ-like numbers all season long and has scored in double-digits in all but two of his games while averaging 16.8 points, fourth in the Big Ten. Happ is also up to his old tricks on the glass as well, hauling in 8.6 rebounds per game. He has put his scoring and rebounding on display as of late, recording a double-double in four of his last five games.

Happ leads Wisconsin in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals, and has easily been the driving force for the Badgers this season while many of his counterparts have been struggling to find their footing.

That does not mean both have been immune to turnovers, as the most consistent duo on the team contributed to 12 of the team’s 14 turnovers in the recent loss to Rutgers.

If Wisconsin is to turn its season around, a more consistent offensive attack will be needed, especially as the Badgers rank 13th in the Big Ten at 69.1 points per contest.