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Wisconsin men’s basketball: three things that stood out from a deflating loss to Nebraska

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UW had a chance to clinch the regular season title outright. They blew it.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

It was Senior Day. The Badgers were playing the worst team in the conference at home for a chance to clinch the outright Big Ten title. Everything was lining up for another celebratory day at the Kohl Center. It was decidedly not that.

Wisconsin lost to Nebraska by one point, 74-73, and star sophomore wing Johnny Davis left the game with an apparent leg/knee injury and did not return to action. In basketball terms, things couldn’t have gone any worse for UW.

Here are three things that stood out from the game. These will strictly be focusing on what Wisconsin did/didn’t do. Nebraska played well without one starter for the entire game, and another missing most of the second half, and nobody could check Alonzo Verge, Jr. for long. I will not be discussing those things because I am Mad About Wisconsin online.

No. 1: missed layups

Brad Davison drained a three pointer with 5:48 remaining in the game to give Wisconsin a 71-62 lead. UW didn’t make another field goal the rest of the game. The Badgers missed seven layups against the Huskers all game, including two during their stretch in the final five minutes of the game where they missed their last nine shots and saw that nine point lead evaporate.

Now, I don’t have the “facts” or “stats” to backup this claim, but this season’s Badgers seemed to be a team that didn’t miss as many bunnies around the rim as teams from past years did. This game hearkened back to Nate Reuvers going up softly and shooting a layup into the front of the rim and, quite frankly, filled my heart with rage.

Chucky Hepburn was a particularly disappointing 1-for-3 at the rim while Tyler Wahl was 2-of-4 at the rim, an area in which he usually excels. Extremely disappointing numbers in a one-point loss.

No. 2: Johnny Davis only playing 12 minutes

I think Greg Gard has done a masterful job coaching this team and should win Big Ten Coach of the Year. That being said...the auto-bench with two fouls is a maddening rule that ended up costing Wisconsin this game. The Badgers are ranked No. 301 in the nation in “2-foul participation” according to KenPom and thus effectively foul out their own players for considerable amounts of game time.

With 10:54 remaining in the first half, Davis picked up his second foul after he pushed a Nebraska player under the basket out of frustration. He immediately looked to the bench and then went and sat there...for the rest of the damn half! Wisconsin actually played quite well without Davis in the first half, outscoring the Huskers by eight, but you’d always prefer Davis to be on the court than off.

Davis only played nine minutes in that first half and scored seven points while not missing a shot. When he came back in at the start of the second half he immediately drew a foul (but missed his first free throw...because he was cold from sitting out???), scored three of UW’s first five points and had a blocked shot.

Directly after that blocked shot he got hurt on the ensuing fast break and, as you may remember, was out for the rest of the game. Could Davis have scored two more points in the almost 11 minutes he sat out in the first half had Gard inserted him back into the lineup? Who’s to say...but yes, he very much could have.

No. 3: B1G refs gave Wisconsin a gift, Badgers declined it

With 13:40 left in the second half, Kobe Webster committed Nebraska’s tenth foul of the half putting the Badgers in the double bonus for the rest of the game. Now were all of those actually fouls against Nebraska? No, they were not. Big Ten refs going to Big Ten refs after all.

But, that was a MASSIVE advantage that Wisconsin should have used to their advantage to earn free points at the line for the rest of the game. Instead of doing that, the Badgers did, uh, the opposite of that. Over the final 13:40 of the game, when again...they were in the double bonus, the Badgers shot three free throws.

THREE!

All three of those came when Hepburn was fouled on a three point attempt with 19 seconds left in the game. Naturally, he only made two of three. The Badgers went 13:01 of game time without so much as forcing the refs to blow their whistle for a Nebraska foul once! Now, some of this was because the Huskers mixed in some zone defense and Wisconsin settled for jumpers and another point is that Big Ten officiating is horribly inconsistent. How does a team commit 10 fouls in the first 6:20 of the half and then one the rest of the way? Big Ten refs, baby!

Up next: The Badgers await their seeding and then we’ll know what time on Friday they’ll be playing in the Big Ten Tournament. The Iowa/Illinois game tips off at 6:30 p.m. CT on FS1. You should be cheering for the Hawkeyes, sadly.