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Wisconsin men’s basketball: Badgers fall to Providence in Gavitt Games

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Without Jonathan Davis, the Badgers suffer their first loss of the season.

Providence v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Following a pair of wins to open the season, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (2-1 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) welcomed the Providence Friars (3-0 overall, 0-0 Big East) to the Kohl Center as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Playing without starting guard Jonathan Davis and reserve guard Jahcobi Neath, the short-handed Badgers fell to Providence by five, 63-58.

Early in the game, Providence went to their top player, forward Nate Watson, who scored the Friars’ first five points. The Badgers would respond though with Brad Davison connecting on a pair of three-point attempts and Tyler Wahl backing his man down on two separate occasions to tie things up with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.

Wisconsin would then find themselves in some foul trouble with Steven Crowl getting his second foul midway through the first twenty minutes, and Chris Vogt called for a third foul with eight minutes to play in the first half.

With the frontcourt having to rely on their bench, the Badgers struggled against the zone defense of Providence, which allowed the Friars to establish a seven-point lead with 3:45 left in the first half. Nate Watson would proceed to add multiple buckets for Providence to push their advantage to 11 to wrap up the first stanza.

Wisconsin was able to chip away at the deficit to pull within five at the first media timeout behind six points by Tyler Wahl and some improved offense. Providence was able to weather the storm though, as the Badgers failed to make a field goal for over four minutes, allowing the Friars to push their advantage back to eight with 7:28 remaining.

Coming out of the media timeout Providence went on another 7-0 run in just over a minute, and just like that the advantage was back up to 13 for the Friars.

Over the final six minutes, Wisconsin was able to pull within five, but a crucial three by Indiana transfer Al Durham for Providence and some missed opportunities by the Badgers allowed the Friars to exit the Kohl Center with the win.

Notable stat lines:

  • Brad Davison —> 25 points (7-of-17 from the floor), seven rebounds, three steals
  • Tyler Wahl —> 16 points (7-of-12 from the floor), five rebounds, two blocks
  • Nate Watson (Providence) —> 24 points (11-of-15 from the floor), six rebounds

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Big trouble

Already missing their top player with Jonathan Davis out with a heel injury, the Badgers found themselves in a tough situation in the first half versus Providence. Big men Steven Crowl and Chris Vogt got into early foul trouble which sent them both to the bench for the final seven minutes of the first half. The Friars took it to the Badgers inside from that point forward to outscore Greg Gard’s bunch 18-5 with Watson doing the heavy lifting with 16 first-half points.

In the second half, Watson was still dominant in the early goings but the Badgers played much better as the game wore on. Steven Crowl did a nice job of holding his own and made things tougher on the All-Big East selection, but the Friars were +9 in rebounding differential and Watson finished the game shooting 73% and tallying 24 points in a really impressive effort.

No. 2: Zone defense

Wisconsin struggled to find an answer for the zone defense deployed by Providence in the first half. Wisconsin only managed to shoot 25.9% from the floor and was 3-of-13 from three, with all three made by senior Brad Davison. Add in six turnovers, and the Badgers were out of rhythm for large chunks of the first twenty minutes without Jonathan Davis and his ability to create. Shooting was not expected to be a strength of this team, but as a group, they looked hesitant at times, and outside of Brad Davison and Tyler Wahl nobody could get it going.

Outside of an initial scoring spree to start the second half, the Wisconsin offense was once again stagnant for large portions of the final twenty minutes. Brad Davison and Wahl attempted to carry the load, but as a team, they only shot 33% and 19% from three which ultimately doomed them.

No. 3: Fight

Considering how rough Wisconsin’s offense looked for most of the game, and the fact that they were without two key contributors, I came away impressed by the fight this young team played with. They never got down and continued to claw and fight throughout the game.

Providence nearly blew the game open with double-digit leads on multiple occasions, but the Badgers did enough to hang around and gave themselves a chance at the end of the game. Offensively they are still a work in progress, no doubt about it, however, the young roster has shown through three games that they can play good defense.

Fans need to hope that the offense will come along as the group matures. Brad Davison and Tyler Wahl displayed why they are the pivotal leaders of this team, each playing really well in a losing effort.

Up next: The Badgers will head to Las Vegas for the Maui Invitational, with their first game of the tournament against Texas A&M on Monday, November 22. Tip time is set for 1 p.m. and it will be aired on either ESPN or ESPN2.