clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Takeaways from Wisconsin’s loss vs. Michigan State

New, comments

Thoughts before looking ahead to Illinois.

Dan Sanger

MADISON—The Wisconsin Badgers once again kept another conference contest close until the end, but a shooting drought and other factors helped lead to a 67-59 defeat to No. 11 Michigan State on Tuesday night inside the Kohl Center.

Redshirt senior Ethan Happ recorded yet another double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but also committed six turnovers and missed all six free throw attempts. Wisconsin (17-8, 9-5 Big Ten) also shot poorly from deep in making just 30 percent of its three-pointers, while also connecting on less than half of its free throws.

Plus, Michigan State (20-5, 11-3) showed why it is one of the best teams in the conference, and its star guard led the way.

Can’t go cold from the field late in the game against the No. 11 team in the nation

Wisconsin nearly went six minutes without a field goal and went through a 5:10 drought in the final 5:20 of the game after Davison’s made one of those two free throws.

Before Davison hit the three-pointer with 10 seconds left to snap the drought, Wisconsin missed five shots while also committing two turnovers.

Credit Michigan State and its defense here for sure, as it came into the game with the No. 9 defense in terms of KenPom’s adjusted efficiency.

For the game as well, Wisconsin went cold from deep—hitting only 6-of-20 shots from beyond the arc. Its two guards who came into the game among the top 10 in the conference in three-point shooting, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, made just two of 10 in that category on Tuesday night.

Not the recipe to beat the No. 11 team in the nation.

Missed free throws again hurt Wisconsin’s chances

This has been a calling card of the team in its losses (hello, Marquette, Purdue, Minnesota), and in particular its star player. Wisconsin made only five of 12 opportunities from the free throw line on Tuesday night—including a frigid one of eight in the second half alone.

If you’re looking for an Achilles’ heel for this team, you can point to this area of the game where the Badgers connected on 108 of 179 free throw opportunities in conference play this season—that’s 58.7 percent in Big Ten contests.

Happ has attempted 63 of those 179 attempts (35.2 percent) of Wisconsin’s free throws during those games. He made 22 of the 63 (34.9 percent) in the 14 conference games, while the rest of the team is at 71.6 percent.

During the season as a whole, UW is shooting 64.9 percent from the stripe with Happ attempting nearly 30 percent of the Badgers’ free throws (and connecting on just 44.5 percent, or 49 of 110 opportunities). Take out the big man’s stats, and the rest of the squad is at a 73.6 percent clip.

Happ missed all six free throw attempts in the second half on Tuesday night. At the 9:40 mark, he had an opportunity to allow Wisconsin to take the lead but missed both free throws. With under 90 seconds remaining in regulation and the Badgers down three, he again went to the line after a Kenny Goins foul to trim the deficit. He missed both.

Happ admitted after the game that the free throws did not feel good coming off his hands.

“Not especially,” Happ said. “I could kind of tell once it left my hand that it was off left or right. I’m going to look at the tape and see what was going wrong. Just very frustrating overall to miss but then also for it to be not straight on.”

It wasn’t just him late in the game, as Davison—a 78.3 percent free throw shooter—made just one of two from the line with 5:20 remaining that allowed Michigan State to cling to a one-point lead for nearly three minutes.

I have said it before that this team has championship-level defense that can stall some of the best offenses in the conference. Michigan State came into Tuesday’s match-up averaging nearly 82 points a game and scored just 67 inside the Kohl Center.

Happ is one of the most unique, and one of the best, players to suit up for Wisconsin in its program’s history. Fans should remember that with his two triple-doubles and nearly countless double-doubles. This blip in his game is just the reality of this team for this season.

After the game, Gard was asked what he says to Happ, if he consoles him or let’s him work it out for a day or so after.

“You support him as much as you can,” Gard said. “Obviously, nobody’s put in more time, utilized more resources than what he has to try and remedy that and try to improve that, so it’s not the lack of every feasible resource available as he’s worked on things. You got to continue to chip away and hope there’s a breakthrough, continue to work with him.

“I think the biggest thing is you support him and know that he does so many good things for us. He does so many positive things for—and has done positive things for—this program that you understand and I feel his frustration because obviously those are huge opportunities and points we leave on the table. But there’s other things, too. Decisions, six turnovers, finishing more in the paint, but you just support him. I think that’s the biggest thing and help him continue to fight through it.”

Cassius Winston is good

I really enjoyed watching the junior guard, and on the road in a tough environment that accompanies the Kohl Center during conference play, he stood up to the challenge. He scored 23 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out six assists in the win over the Badgers.

“Consumate point guard, in terms of making decisions, balls in the right place,” Gard said after the game. “He puts a lot of pressure on your defense, obviously with his ability in transition but just decisions.

“He’s six assists, four turnovers, but he also has some —and I know they don’t do hockey assists in basketball—but he finds people that find other people. Just it’s been impressive to watch his maturity, not fun to play against him, prepare for him, but I think he’s probably the best or one of the top two point guards in the league. When you have a guard that good, that obviously helps take a lot of pressure off the other parts of your game, and he was good tonight.”

Bench play stepped up in first half

With Trice and Davison struggling, someone needed to step up. Gard mentioned after the game that he thought his bench “did some good things.”

Redshirt junior guard Brevin Pritzl scored all seven points in the first half on way to a 37-36 Wisconsin halftime lead, while redshirt freshman guard Kobe King hit 3-of-5 shots on way to six rebounds in over 28 minutes of play. Gard utilized senior forward Charles Thomas in matchups with MSU’s bigs, and he played the most minutes in a conference game this season (11:50).