Another “coulda, woulda, shoulda” game fell before the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday evening, dropping its Big Ten contest to the Indiana Hoosiers inside Assembly Hall in a 75-73 double overtime thriller.
Redshirt senior forward Ethan Happ scored a game-high 23 points with 11 rebounds before fouling out, but Wisconsin struggled from the free throw line and from deep. Poor shooting in the second overtime doomed any chance of getting out of Bloomington with a win.
The loss drops Wisconsin (19-9, 11-6 Big Ten) to exactly one game behind Maryland for that coveted fourth place spot in the conference standings—which gives that particular program a double-bye in the Big Ten Conference tournament in a couple of weeks.
Before turning the page to Penn State for a Saturday afternoon contest, let’s break down what happened against Indiana.
Free throws: It’s just the same, old song
Again, Wisconsin struggled from the free throw line, hitting just 13 of 25 in the loss. Happ made five of 10, and considering his struggles there recently that may be a small win in this category.
However, really where this flaw really shined was in the second overtime. Wisconsin went to the line 11 times—11!—but made only five (five!). Early on, Wisconsin had opportunities to make free throws to take the lead before Indiana scored in that extra extra frame, but both D’Mitrik Trice and Happ missed two of their shots.
The Badgers actually did not connect their first five from the line in double overtime before Nate Reuvers made the second of his two with 2:01 remaining. Then Trice made one of two with 1:37 left. Both set of attempts could have tied the game but still allowed Indiana to hold a slight lead.
Now it should be noted and praised that Trice came up clutch with hitting free throws late in regulation and the second overtime, along with hitting a game-tying three-pointer in the first OT. We’ll get to him in a bit.
For now, this is the Achilles’ heel of this team right now, in my humble opinion—perhaps it may be takeaway No. 3 coming up—and on Tuesday night, it once again reared its ugly head in a defeat.
Three-point shooting: It’s just a different feeling when it goes cold
OK, so I kind of changed the Four Tops’ lyrics to their hit song, but it works. Indiana contained UW to shooting 27.3 percent from deep (six of 22), and on the road, that is not going to cut it. Watching the game, it felt like a combination of less than optimal shot selection and solid defense that doomed the Badgers in this category. When there were open shots from deep—thinking about the Brad Davison three toward the end of the first overtime with 45 seconds remaining and a couple of Reuvers’ attempts prior—they did not fall.
Trice, Reuvers and Davison combined to make just three of 17 from three-point range, but I guess in a brighter note, Brevin Pritzl hit both of his, and Aleem Ford’s three in the second half started Wisconsin’s 20-3 run that erased Indiana’s 13-point lead.
Not making the layups and close shots
The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin wrote a great piece that was published on Tuesday regarding the Badgers’ struggles with finishing around the rim. Against Indiana, Wisconsin made only 11 of 23 layups in the loss—this according to the StatBroadcast system used for the game.
Happ started the game off hot with four straight made field goals, then ended the first half shooting 4-of-9 overall. He finished the game making nine of 18 attempts overall.
In the final 61 seconds of that second overtime, both Happ and Iverson missed close baskets that would have given UW a lead. They could not connect, and Indiana capitalized on Iverson’s attempt with a De’Ron Davis layup on the opposite end with around 15 seconds to play to give the Hoosiers a three-point lead.
We all know Wisconsin can play defense, that is the calling card of this team lately. Now can it break through in this critical area in these final conference and tournament games when it will be very much needed?
Despite rough shooting night, Trice made some clutch shots
A weird juxtaposition, yes? The redshirt sophomore shot 2-of-10 from the field, 2-of-7 from three-point range, yet still finished with 12 points in the loss.
Six of those 12 came at the free throw line—five of them in crucial moments. Trice made two free throws with about five seconds remaining in regulation to help force a tie and ensuing first overtime, while he drew a silly foul by Devonte Green and subsequently made all three free throws late in the second overtime to tie it at 73-73 before Romeo Langford’s game-winning layup.
For as much as he struggled overall shooting, including not making three two-point attempts, his showed the clutch gene once again with hitting one from deep with around 15 seconds remaining in the first overtime. That tied the game at 68, and with its defense again stepping up down the stretch, Wisconsin forced a second set of five extra minutes.
Khalil Iverson stringing together three straight solid games is promising
Despite the late miss with under 30 seconds remaining, you have to like what you are seeing from the senior forward. He contributed 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and three rebounds.
With others struggled, Iverson has stepped up of late and shown an ability to be aggressive and assert himself in the paint for the most part. The only question, like mostly everyone else on this squad, is if there will be this consistency moving forward or if others will need to switch off with having bigger games.