Despite playing what was basically a home game, the 3-seed Wisconsin Badgers lost to the 11-seed Iowa State Cyclones on Sunday night at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee by a score of 54-49. If you didn’t watch the game, it was just as bad as the final score would suggest. Let’s get right to the three main takeaways from this game, although there could probably be three additional ones I could add.
Wisconsin men’s basketball: UW shoots self right out of NCAA Tournament— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) March 21, 2022
The #Badgers couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat on Sunday and Iowa State’s smothering defense choked the life out of UW’s season. #MarchMadness https://t.co/fVGnuhV744 pic.twitter.com/SMeXH1F8DU
No. 1: three point shooting
The Badgers are not a good three point shooting team. Presumably someone on the coaching staff had run the numbers before this game and knew that. UW entered the game shooting 31.3% from deep, just in case you personally didn’t run the numbers and wanted to know.
Wisconsin roared out of the gate against Iowa State, shooting 1-for-8 (12.5%) in the first half from deep, and then...well...then things got really ugly. In the second half, the Badgers hoisted up 14 threes and only made one (1) of them! That’s almost impossible to do! The only make was from Jordan Davis with 12 seconds left as Wisconsin was just hucking shots up in a fruitless comeback attempt.
STOP— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) March 20, 2022
2-of-22 (9.1%) from three for the entire game. Sweet heavens that is bad. They missed 15 in a row at one point! Really putting the 3-for-24 (12.5%) performance against Illinois from earlier in the year to shame.
Johnny Davis missed all seven of his three point attempts, Steven Crowl missed a trio, Ben Carlson and Jahcobi Neath each missed a three pointer so bad I’m shocked the announcers didn’t audibly gasp. Hell, even Isaac Lindsey, who had played 10 minutes all season and none since Jan. 27, jacked one up that went begging. (Just to be clear, I fully respect him firing away when he came in, because if he had made it he would’ve been a legend.)
Iowa State wanted to make it so Wisconsin couldn’t score easily in the post, and while the Badgers were 10-of-16 in the paint, the Cyclones played such good defense there that UW shot 11 fewer time than ISU did in the painted area. Yes the Badgers settled for threes on some possessions, but ISU was quick to double team every Wisconsin player in the post and made Crowl, or Tyler Wahl, or Chris Vogt pass it back out.
No. 2: turnovers
The Badgers had their worst three point shooting game of the season at the same time they had their most turnovers in a game of the season. Wisconsin turned the ball over on 24.7% of their possessions for a grand total of 17 turnovers. Davis had four, Wahl had three and four other players had two, including Chucky Hepburn who we will talk about below.
Wisconsin today:— Jeff (BPredict) (@BPredict) March 21, 2022
31.9 eFG% - worst since Nov 29, 2015
0.74 PPP - worst since November 27, 2017
17 turnovers - worst since January 23, 2019
I thought the Iowa State defense was extremely impressive all game. They didn’t let Wisconsin get comfortable and once Hepburn went down with an injury, the Clones were like sharks who smelled blood in the water. They pestered ball handlers by extending their defense well beyond the three point arc, they double teamed the post quickly and decisively and they battled for loose balls like their lives depended on it.
Freshman guard Tyrese Hunter had a dreadful shooting night, but recorded three steals for Iowa State. Gabe Kalscheur and Izaiah Brockington each had two and the Cyclones as a team had nine. They were all active and disruptive on defense and for much of the game Wisconsin looked lost and confused on offense because of it.
No. 3: Chucky Hepburn injury
With 4:37 to go in the first half, Hunter made his only field goal attempt of the game on a driving layup to cut Wisconsin’s lead to 22-19. Hepburn, who was charged with guarding Hunter, got beat on the play and tried to recover. While he was trying to get back in the play he stepped awkwardly and rolled his ankle pretty severely. He was on the ground in obvious pain, was helped to the locker room and didn’t return to the bench until the second half at which point he was wearing a boot and needed crutches.
While Hepburn is a true freshman, he had been running the Wisconsin offense well all season. Hell, he didn’t have a single turnover in their first round win over Colgate. Admittedly, he hadn’t been playing well against ISU before getting injured (0-for-3 from the field, two rebounds, two turnovers) but he was starting to settle in like the rest of the team.
After the injury, the Badgers didn’t score for the next 3:11 of game time and their three point lead had turned into a three point deficit before Davis hit a pair of free throws. Wisconsin only scored four points in the final 4:37 of the first half, with zero of those points coming off of a made field goal. It took Wisconsin nearly two minutes (18:09 left in the game) at the start of the second half to finally score their first field goal with Hepburn out.
Greg Gard on Chucky Hepburn:— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) March 21, 2022
"He's in a lot of pain. He's on crutches with the boot. I haven't talked to our trainers, our doctor yet, but he said he's in quite a bit of pain."#Badgers
The next field goal didn’t come until there was 9:49 left in the game! The Badgers went 15 minutes of a 40 minute game and only scored one basket!!! If that doesn’t scream “team missing their point guard” I don’t know what does.
It’s hard to say what an injury to an important player does to a team mentally because, you know, we aren’t on the team, but Hepburn’s injury absolutely hindered Wisconsin’s chance to run an effective offense for the rest of the game. They looked out of sorts and were missing shots, some of which were wide open, that they don’t usually miss.
We hope that Hepburn’s injury isn’t serious and that he is able to start working out and practicing with the team soon. He was a true joy to watch play this year and the team will need him at 100% next season.
No. 4: fucking Gabe Kalscheur
The former Gopher torched the Badgers on Sunday night, scoring 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting, and did most of his damage while being guarded by Johnny Davis. Kalscheur also had three offensive rebounds, two of which I distinctly remember as being deflating, momentum-killers for Wisconsin. After scoring four points against LSU in the first round he bounced back and stuck a dagger in Wisconsin.
#IowaState's Gabe Kalscheur (22 points): "I've never liked Wisconsin, to be honest. I have family from there, but I'm a Minnesota-raised man. ... It fueled my fire for sure."— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) March 21, 2022
Makes me want to puke.
No. 5: Iowa State didn’t even play that well!
I know this is cope and I don’t care.
GAHHHHHHH! THAT MAKES THIS LOSS EVEN WORSE!! IOWA STATE WAS AWFUL ON OFFENSE TOO!!!
They only made three of their 14 three pointers, scored a dismal 0.78 points per possession, shot 7-of-22 at the rim and missed multiple layups, turned the ball over 14 times and committed 25 fouls!
Hunter and Brockington shot a combined 5-of-25 and didn’t make a three pointer between them!
.@CycloneMBB is the first team ever to win as many games in the NCAA Tournament as they did in the entire previous season.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) March 21, 2022
Those are the numbers for a team that lost a game! And yet...their defense was too good and Wisconsin was very, very bad.
Up next: staring into the abyss that is the offseason