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Wisconsin men’s basketball: 3 quick takeaways vs Illinois

The Badgers couldn’t snap their losing streak. What was the reason versus Illinois?

The Wisconsin Badgers lost to the Illinois Fighting Illini in a 66-63 loss on Saturday afternoon, losing their third consecutive game and the sixth of their last seven games.

With the loss to Illinois, the Badgers ended a strange week after losses to the Northwestern Wildcats and the Maryland Terrapins, and will look to regroup against Ohio State on the road next weekend.

Here are the quick takeaways from Wisconsin’s loss on Saturday.

Offensive execution

Wisconsin had a porous offensive performance in the first half, scoring just 16 points, which is the least of any Big 10 team in a half this season, on 6/33 shooting.

The offensive stars were non-existent in the first half, as Chucky Hepburn, Connor Essegian, Tyler Wahl, and Steven combined for 1/12 shooting.

The Badgers were creating open looks early while moving the ball and cutting well, but shots just weren’t falling for Wisconsin.

It’s clear the offensive talent on this team is subpar at the moment, and that’s the main reason Wisconsin is losing games at the moment.

Coaching is an issue because the team isn’t executing, which needs to be fixed, but the biggest problem is the shot-making and hesitancy offensively.

When players cut for the Badgers, teammates are too late to realize the passing lanes, losing offensive opportunities and leading to a slower-paced offense.

And, the one time Wisconsin accurately hit a cutter, it was a dropped pass.

There needs to be a better connection on this team between the passers and the cutters, and of course, improved shot-making, which ultimately falls on talent.

Connor Essegian

Connor Essegian arguably had his worst performance as a Badger in his short career on Saturday, but the reason he makes this list isn’t solely because of his play against Illinois.

Essegian struggled, missing open shots, which happens to every good shooter, but also had issues defensively, as Illinois looked to target the freshman guard early and often.

While Essegian held up fine as the game began, his performance on the defensive end waned as the game unfolded, which further exemplified his offensive struggles.

It was also a questionable decision to see the shorter, leaner Essegian matched up against the taller 6’9 Matthew Mayer at times, which provided Illinois a matchup to pinpoint and attack.

But, Wisconsin needs to do a better game of involving Essegian offensively to decrease the burden placed on Tyler Wahl and Chucky Hepburn to create offensively.

Essegian cuts well, but doesn’t get targeted as he goes to the rim, while making shots for himself on the perimeter by finding open space.

However, there need to be more plays that can involve Essegian getting open as opposing teams start guarding him with a heavier emphasis, with a backdoor opportunity for a teammate if defenses overcommit.


Wisconsin continues to struggle near the basket, be it by missing high-percentage shots, or taking low-percentage ones.

The Badgers shot just 8/15 on layups, compared to Illinois’ 10/13, which has been a recurring theme this season.

Wisconsin is a fine three-point shooting team, and converted 33.3% of their looks from deep on Saturday, but cannot become a strong-enough offensive attack if they continue their slower approach and miss shots near the basket at the rate they’ve been missing at as of late.

Additionally, the issue with Wisconsin and their closer shots are connected to a problem laid above: passers and cutters.

With the amount of missed opportunities left on the table by not hitting cutters when passing lanes evolve, the Badgers are missing out on those easier high-percentage looks near the basket, which lengthens offensive possessions and leads to tougher shots.

That needs to be corrected moving forward.