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Game notes: No. 21 Wisconsin 68, Northwestern 51

The Badgers earned a much-needed win on Sunday thanks to some timely contributions from Tyler Wahl and Jonathan Davis.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

With a three-game losing streak staring them in the face, the No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers (16-8 overall, 10-7 Big Ten) came out against the struggling Northwestern Wildcats (6-14 overall, 3-13 Big Ten), losers of 12 games in a row, and found themselves down 10-5 early. Then they went nearly six minutes without scoring a single point. But when D’Mitrik Trice made a jumper with 7:20 left in the half to cut NU’s lead to one at 18-17, the Badgers closed the first period with a strong run to lead by 10 at the break.

Look, Northwestern stinks this year, but they play hard and any Big Ten win on the road is one worth celebrating. Let’s take a look at some game observations from Sunday’s win over the ‘Cats.

  • The Badgers have now won 10 conference games in 18 of the last 20 seasons. They are the only Big Ten program that can make that claim.
  • With two more three-pointers this season, D’Mitrik Trice will move into the No. 3 spot on UW’s all-time list.
  • Brad Davison (1,268) moved ahead of Tracy Webster (1,264) and is now the No. 22 all-time leading scorer in Wisconsin history.
  • Speaking of Trice, he had a great game leading UW’s offensive attack. He shot 5-of-6 from the field (3-of-4 from deep) for 13 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out five assists and had one steal. While he also had three turnovers, Trice was the prototypical Wisconsin point guard on Sunday night.
  • Before we go any further we should probably discuss the best player on the court on Sunday, Micah Potter. He was a dynamo on offense, shooting 8-of-9 from the field (3-of-3 from deep), hauling in eight rebounds (three offensive) and recording three assists and only one turnover. Potter was also diving on the floor for loose balls and generally hustling his ass off all game.

On the defensive side of the ball, an area where Potter has often struggled, he was well above average against NU. He had one block and two steals, which is great, but more importantly he wasn’t abused in pick and roll situations as often as he usually is. He was an absurd +42.7 in BPM (box plus/minus) and +19 in straight up plus/minus. I don’t think this is too hyperbolic but this was probably Potter’s best career game. Cheers to him for hearing criticism of his game and working hard to improve it.

  • Tyler Wahl scored 10 points, banked in a three pointer, grabbed three boards (two offensive), had a blocked shot and generally made Northwestern’s life miserable when they had the ball. He gets into passing lanes, deflects balls and contests shots. If he can continue to improve his outside shot he could develop into a Robert Covington-like player (trust the process, go Sixers).
  • Freshman Jonathan Davis continued to assert himself in a team filled with veterans, scoring 12 points (3-of-8 shooting, 6-of-7 from the charity stripe), corralling two rebounds, dishing out two assists and pilfering three steals. It was really great to see Davis aggressively attack the basket and get rewarded with trips to the free throw line.
  • Davison had a dozen points, six boards, three assists and three steals and while he didn’t shoot very well, he got to the foul line and also played really good defense. This is exactly the kind of game you want Davison to have, you don’t want him being the focal point of the offense, you want him filling in all the gaps. Which is exactly what he did on Sunday.
  • Nate Reuvers was mostly non-existent, scoring two points and getting one rebound and one block in 16 minutes. Part of this was the fact that Potter played so well but Reuvers just didn’t look good while he was on the floor. To his credit, he looked engaged on the bench which is difficult to do when your production is down.
  • In fact, the bench overall seemed more involved in the game. You could hear them on the broadcast and you could see them cheering and gassing each other up. Josh Schafer has a good post about this over on 247.
  • Aleem Ford had five rebounds and four assists but was 0-for-7 from the field and scored zero points. While it is nice to see him find other ways to contribute, he should probably continue to see fewer minutes than Davis and Wahl moving forward.
  • The Badgers continue to be maddening when shooting the ball at the rim. They were 8-of-16 on Sunday and missed multiple open layups.
  • UW made more free throws than NU attempted. You love to see it.
  • Wisconsin averaged over 1.00 PPP (1.10) for the first time in five games.
  • Wisconsin’s defense held NU to 51 points, one point lower than their first meeting, and one point away from their lowest output of the season. It is nice to see Wisconsin put the clamps on bad teams and just squeeze their will to play out of them.
  • Freshman walk-on Carter Gilmore played five minutes in the first half with Wahl in foul trouble and Trevor Anderson missing his second straight game with an “upper body injury.” While he didn’t do anything of note, outside of brick to threes, it’s cool that he has the trust of the coaching staff to play real, non-garbage time minutes in an important conference game.
  • Lineups with Trice/Davis/Davison/Potter in them were +14 on the game and should probably be the primary four-man group for Greg Gard moving forward. Rotate Wahl and Ford as the fifth guy and use Anderson and Reuvers to give Trice and Potter breaks.