After the departure of guard Johnny Davis to the NBA Draft, the Wisconsin Badgers have needed more of a balanced approach offensively and defensively, relying on several players rather than the likes of one to contribute.
Forward Steven Crowl, who was one of three returning starters a season ago, was a player whose responsibilities would increase, not only as a leader, but on the court to provide more consistency on both sides of the floor, especially with the lack of depth at the forward position this season.
After an 8.8-point, and a 4.4-rebound season in 2021, playing 25 minutes per game, Crowl has started slow for the Badgers in 2022, shooting just 39.3% from the field and 30.4% from three after hitting nearly 50% of his shots a season ago.
Most of those struggles came during the Battle 4 Atlantis, where Crowl hit just 8/27(29.6%) of his shots, while converting just 1/11 of his three-point attempts.
But, Crowl finally woke up when he faced the Wake Forest Deacons on Tuesday, as the forward hit 5/9 of his shots, including 2/3 from the three-point line for a season-high 15 points.
It was Crowl’s first double-digit scoring game, as well as his first game with multiple three-pointers, since Wisconsin’s opener against South Dakota.
Crowl was also active on the glass, securing seven rebounds, while also passing for a team-high three assists as a facilitator out of the post.
In fact, Crowl was the only Badger to sustain a non-negative plus-minus on Tuesday with a score of 0 in his 30 minutes played.
Crowl had a quick start as Wisconsin looked to start by dominating the paint, scoring a putback layup before backing his defender down for another score 40 seconds later.
After a few Wisconsin misses, the offense circled back to Crowl and the post-game, and the forward responded with a hook shot and two free throws right after he substituted back into the game.
It was a similar story for Crowl in the second half, as he re-entered the game at the 8:53 mark and hit a clutch three-pointer, working in the pick-and-pop game with Chucky Hepburn.
Then, Crowl utilized his vision, finding Connor Essegian for a three-pointer on the following possession, which gave Wisconsin a five-point lead.
Wisconsin’s seven-footer wasn’t done there, as he hit his second three of the night off a feed from Tyler Wahl minutes later to keep the Badgers at a five-point lead.
While Wisconsin ultimately lost, when they needed Crowl on Tuesday, their starting center responded, showcasing the potential he has on this current Badgers team as a vital contributor.
Now, Crowl’s main issue in 2022 has been consistency, which will be necessary against the Marquette Golden Eagles on Saturday, especially after their 26-point victory over Baylor.
The forward will need to continue to maximize his offensive skillset in an effort to clear up the paint for Wisconsin, allowing fellow forward Tyler Wahl to operate, while also being efficient on the defensive end, especially in the pick-and-roll, where opponents have had success.
Wake Forest shot 70% inside the arc against Wisconsin, with a majority of their buckets coming off dribble penetration and motion. The Badgers will need to improve defensively to have a chance against Marquette, who just scored 96 points on incredible efficiency.
After the game, Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes spoke highly of Crowl’s abilities, especially his perimeter shooting, which stretched the Deacons defense out.
“We knew Crowl could shoot threes. But sometimes, it’s just give and take. Some things, you can’t take it all the way. You hope he misses a couple of those, but he didn’t, and I told him that after the game that it was a heck of a game [and] he played great,” said Forbes
Defensively, while his big men were efficient, Forbes applauded both Crowl and Tyler Wahl for their efforts in limiting the post-game.
“I think [Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl] did a great job limiting [our bigs].”
For Crowl, Tuesday’s outing is a good start to a season with added responsibilities, and he’ll look to build on the performance over the coming weeks, where Wisconsin will look to potentially get ranked in the Top 25.