With 30-plus games in a season, and in an atmosphere and energy like Saturday’s, that can happen.
Certain areas of Wisconsin’s game that have needed cleaning up for a few games came to light against a Marquette squad that continued to fight back despite trailing UW by as many as six points in the second half.
Here are several takeaways from Wisconsin’s rough loss on the road:
First off, can I just say the Fiserv Forum is absolutely gorgeous? I was not able to explore the new Milwaukee arena too much, but just walking around you see the work put into its construction. Lots of TVs around the concourse, great sound system, WiFi worked well, and there appeared to be some appealing food options around (not that I had a chance to quickly run and grab some from a vendor). The energy in the building was amazing, and I guess a lot of that has to do with the in-state rivalry.
Speaking of the energy, I was talking with a Marquette fan near our overflow media area, and though he acknowledged he missed two games this season, he also mentioned the atmosphere was the loudest he has heard and seen this year. The announced attendance on Saturday was 17,515, the first sellout for the program at the new arena.
Apparently, this game means a lot to the Golden Eagles faithful, and it definitely showed.
The missed free throws finally caught up to Wisconsin.
Connecting on only 10 of 21 from the charity stripe, the Badgers left points on the board in critical moments that could have changed the complexion of the game. Marquette hit 22 of 34 free throws, and that was even with six consecutive misses in the final minute of overtime.
Brad Davison, who came into the game making 90.5 percent of his free throws, missed all three of his attempts. Again, bad performances happen and can often pop up in road contests like this, but the free-throw shooting of the team was one of the factors that led to this defeat.
Here’s a fun stat:
Today was the third time this season Wisconsin shot below 50% from the FT line. That's the same number of times the #Badgers did that from 2006-07 to 2010-11 combined.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) December 9, 2018
2006-07: 1 pic.twitter.com/rFCI7PSY0b
Early turnovers really hampered Wisconsin from starting off hotter or even commanding a lead. Four of UW’s first five possessions resulted in turnovers, and Marquette starting off cold was the only reason the deficit wasn’t deeper early on.
Wisconsin committed 13 turnovers, including a critical one near the end of regulation where D’Mitrik Trice’s attempted pass to Ethan Happ went out of bounds—something that Trice took accountability for in the post-game press conference.
That allowed Marquette to get the last shot, although Markus Howard’s attempt didn’t fall through and the game went to overtime.
As he did against Virginia, Trice had a tough shooting performance. He scored 10 points but was only 1-of-6 shooting from three-point range after coming into the game making 30 of 50 in the previous nine. Credit Marquette for the defense played against him.
On a brighter note, Trice contributed seven rebounds and five assists.
Three-point shooting became an issue, especially when some attempts were there and open. Wisconsin connected on only five of 24 attempts from deep after coming in shooting 41.6 percent (69 of 166).
Forwards Nate Reuvers and Aleem Ford combined to make only four of 12 threes while guards Davison and Brevin Pritzl did not hit on the five combined attempts on their end.
Some good takeaways from a Wisconsin perspective: Happ shined on Saturday night. Yes, he missed three free throws on the night, but he connected on 16 of 21 field goals on the way to a career-high 34-point performance while pulling down a team-high 11 rebounds.
He absolutely carried this team on Saturday. He is one of those players you will remember for years to come. That may seem obvious, but I wonder just how different this team will be without him next year.
This was not Khalil Iverson’s best game. He recorded seven rebounds but had four of Wisconsin’s seven turnovers in the first half alone. Three of those were early on, and there was also a foul he was charged with on a Markus Howard field0goal attempt that led to three points for Marquette’s leading scorer.
Speaking of Howard, he is a legit scorer. Even on a night where he made only seven of 29 field goals, only one of seven from three-point range, the standout guard scored a team-high 27 points. That included converting 12 of 15 free-throw attempts. His field-goal percentage wasn’t robust, but he created opportunities.
To end on a positive note, it could have been worse if not for Wisconsin holding Marquette to 35.4 percent shooting (23 of 65) on the night, 6-of-18 from three-point range.