With a 63-60 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions last week, the Wisconsin Badgers snapped a three-game losing streak and are looking to gain some momentum as conference play continues on Monday evening against the Northwestern Wildcats.
Here’s what you need to know about the Badgers’ opponent on Monday.
The Northwestern Wildcats come into the matchup sitting at 12-5, identical to the Badgers record, while going 3-3 in conference play with wins over Michigan State, Illinois, and Indiana, which are, ironically, the three teams that Wisconsin has lost to in Big 10 play.
However, Northwestern is coming off two consecutive losses, and hasn’t played in over a week, due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols within their program.
The Wildcats are led by guards Chase Audige and Boo Buie, who each score over 15 points per game, albeit on poor efficiency.
Northwestern isn’t a strong offensive team, shooting just 38.9% from the field, the worst in the Big 10, and 31.6% from deep.
However, the Wildcats are a good defensive team, allowing 60.8 points per game, which ranks third in the Big 10, as they’ve held opponents to just 38.6% shooting.
Keys to the Game
Turnovers: Heading into this matchup, both teams have been stellar in the turnover department, as Northwestern only gives up 10.6 turnovers per game, while forcing 15.5, with their 4.9 turnover differential leading the Big 10 by a wide margin.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin turns the ball over just 9.1 times per game, the 2nd-best in the Big 10, while forcing 12.8 turnovers per game.
Both teams have strong defensive lead guards in Chase Audige(Northwestern) and Chucky Hepburn(Wisconsin), with the former recording 2.9 steals per game, the third-best in the entire nation, while the latter has 1.9 steals per game.
With both teams amongst the best defensively in the Big 10, the turnover margin could determine the outcome of the game.
Three-point shooting: The Badgers have been a solid shooting team this season, knocking down 36.5% of their three-pointers, with guards Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian hitting 47.9% and 45% of their threes, respectively.
Meanwhile, Northwestern struggles to defend the three, giving up a Big 10-best 34.8% of their threes, while the Badgers allow just 32.7% of opponent threes to connect.
Wisconsin has a significant shooting difference offensively, as well as the playmakers, which could provide them an advantage against a tough Northwestern defense.
Offensive Rebounds: Wisconsin is the worst rebounding team in the Big 10, averaging just 31.4 per game, speaking to their issues in the frontcourt with their depth at times this season.
Northwestern has a significant advantage in that department, averaging 37.8 rebounds per game, but there may be a more important difference in this game: offensive rebounds.
The Wildcats are amongst the best offensive-rebounding teams in the conference, averaging 11.4 per game, while the Badgers are the worst defensive-rebounding team in the conference.
Northwestern does give up 36.3 rebounds per game, but they appear to have the advantage, especially on the offensive end.
The Badgers and the Wildcats will face off at 5:30 PM Central Time on Big 10 Network later this evening.