Not really 100 percent sure what to say about this game. Wisconsin lost to Michigan State by six points, shot incredibly poorly and had their best player play one of his worst games of his career. That’s not to say “Wisconsin lost this game, Michigan State didn’t win it,” because the Spartans played good defense and shot better than the Badgers.
However, there was plenty that Wisconsin did wrong which, had they done a little less wrong, may have led to a different outcome. Let’s take a look at three things from Friday night’s 69-63 loss in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Wisconsin men’s basketball: #Badgers bow out of Big Ten Tournament early, lose to MSU by six— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) March 12, 2022
Brad Davison’s 23 points wasn’t enough to overcome a poor shooting night by, uh, everyone else on the team. https://t.co/lDhj6dhDyL pic.twitter.com/4TuT5yBMgO
Sigh, here we go.
No. 1: missed free throws
The Badgers are not a good shooting team. They are below average, way below average in shooting threes, shooting the ball except in one area.
PPP: Michigan State 0.73, #Badgers 0.67. UW shot 24.1% overall, went 0 of 7 from 3-point range and 3 of 10 on layups and missed six free throws. Other than that, an offensive juggernaut.— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) March 12, 2022
Wisconsin is shooting 74.2% from the free throw line this year, and that includes Friday night’s abysmal 12-of-21 (57.1%) performance against MSU. The Badgers score 20% of their points from the charity stripe and even shooting so poorly on Friday night, they still got 19% of their points there.
Even if UW had shot just above their season average from the line, they still would’ve only made four more free throws, and still lost by two if nothing else changed. However, some of the missed free throws dominoed, like when Brad Davison missed his and-one to cut the lead to two with 26 seconds left.
Wisconsin also missed their first four free throws of the game which was during a three-minute stretch that they were struggling to score. Say they made those four freebies, then the score would’ve been 12-10 with 10:30 minutes to go in the first half instead of 12-6. I don’t know, maybe I’m just grasping at straws here.
No. 2: Johnny Davis looked...not great
It’s hard to say how much Davis’ injured ankle affected his play on Friday night, but it did seem like he was limping a bit heading off the floor for halftime. It didn’t really appear to bother him much during the game though, and he surely would never use that as an excuse.
Whatever was going on though, Davis did not have a good game. He shot 3-of-19 from the floor, missed all five of his three pointers, turned the ball over three times and looked like he was forcing his offense a bunch. He rebounded the ball well (11 total boards, one offensive) and played solid defense like usual, but the Badgers needed him to be the offensive star he had been all season too.
Man, I don’t know. I feel like the Big Ten Player of the Year should get one (1) whistle tonight.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) March 12, 2022
There is plenty that can be said about how Davis is officiated, because he doesn’t get calls that the third best starter on Northwestern gets, let alone the Big Ten Player of the Year. Davis drew five fouls, and shot six free throws, but he was hacked and jostled every time he had the ball and especially when he attacked the rim.
Trying to find a silver lining out of the loss, and maybe a couple extra days of rest will allow Davis to get back to 100% before the NCAA Tournament.
No. 3: the bench
This has been a problem for most of the season, but the bench for Wisconsin brings absolutely nothing scoring-wise. Every once in a while Chris Vogt will pop off and score eight points or Jordan Davis will randomly explode against Minnesota, but usually...they are a big zero.
On Friday night, the bench played 40 minutes and scored one (1) point. Vogt was the lucky point-getter, however he did miss his other three free throws. Vogt and Davis each missed a layup while Ben Carlson went up too soft on a rim attempt and had the ball knocked out of bounds and also missed his only three point attempt so poorly that it bounced off an unsuspecting Spartan and out of bounds. Davis made a bad pass for a turnover and I don’t even remember Jahcobi Neath being on the court. He was -6 on the game in just over six minutes of playing time.
It's March and the #Badgers have Vogt, Neath, Jordan Davis, and Carlson on the floor together...— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) March 11, 2022
Michigan State’s bench scored 18 points for those wondering.
At this point in the season, the bench is what it is going to be...but it sure would be a nice surprise if someone off the bench could make a field goal in their first round tourney game.
Up next: Wisconsin will await their NCAA Tournament seed when it is announced on Sunday evening after the Big Ten title game.