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Why Badgers HC Greg Gard sat Tyler Wahl for 15 minutes in 1st half vs Illinois

Should the forward have played earlier in the 1st half?

The Wisconsin Badgers lost their third consecutive game in a 61-51 defeat to the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday, dropping their sixth in seven games.

They significantly struggled offensively, particularly in the first half, where the Badgers shot just 6/33 from the field, scoring only 16 points.

A notable omission for the majority of the period? Tyler Wahl, who played just five minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls.

Despite Wahl being a valuable veteran in both aspects of the court, head coach Greg Gard elected to sit his forward for the last 15 minutes, and the offense couldn’t get going at all without his presence.

Following the game, did Gard regret that decision, given the outcome of the first half?

Speaking to reporters after the game, Gard acknowledged that his reasoning was heavily influenced by the quickness of the fouls, and believed that his forward needed time to cool down to avoid earning a third foul before the half.

“Number one, he picked up two so fast that I felt he needed to just calm down,” said Gard. “As long as we were within striking distance like that, I was going to save it, given the fact that he had gotten two [fouls] so fast.”

With the game close, Gard preferred to save Wahl’s three fouls for the second half, but admitted that, had the game started to distance itself from the Badgers, he would’ve likely played his forward.

“[I wanted to] save those three [fouls] for the second half. And obviously, he got two right away in the second half. But, as long as the score was tight, [I wanted to save his fouls for the second half]. If it started to flip the other way, I would have probably used him,” said Gard.

Wahl was an integral part of the Badgers’ early second-half performance, scoring the team’s first seven points of the half, although he picked up two more fouls, forcing him to exit at the 15:25 mark with four fouls.

Wahl was the only Badger who shot above 50% in the game, but was limited to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble, which hurt Wisconsin as Illinois pulled away in the second half.