The Wisconsin Badgers bounced back from their weekend loss with a 75-60 win over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks, improving to 8-3 on the season and keeping their undefeated record at the Kohl Center intact.
In the win, the Badgers got major contributions from Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl, who commanded the pace early, while A.J. Storr poured in 13 points of his own on 4/8 shooting in a good offensive performance.
Defensively, the Badgers gave up 46 percent of their opponent’s shots, but limited Jacksonville State to under one point per possession, leading to a double-digit victory.
Here are the quick takeaways from Wisconsin’s 75-60 win over Jacksonville State.
From the jump, it was clear that Wisconsin’s big men were going to be the way they won this game, as the Badgers had a distinct size advantage, and attacked that gap early.
Tyler Wahl scored the team’s first eight points, while him and Steven Crowl combined to score the team’s first 15 points of the night.
Wahl was especially aggressive early on, taking advantage of his opportunity, and he ultimately scored 16 points on 7/12 shooting. Wahl had 7 rebounds as well.
Crowl, on the other hand, ended with 19 on 7/11 shooting, while also grabbing 9 rebounds.
Overall, the Badgers won the rebounding battle 33-27, while pulling down 10 offensive rebounds, with eight coming in the first half alone.
Off the bench, Nolan Winter had a nice performance in relief of the starters, scoring five points on 2/3 shooting in 15 minutes, while ending as a +6 in the box score.
The Badgers bigs had a favorable matchup in this one and ultimately took advantage.
John Blackwell’s ascension continues to occur for the Badgers, as the freshman guard logged 25 minutes on Thursday, his second-highest total of the season behind Saturday at Arizona in a blowout loss.
Blackwell has consistently gotten at least 20 minutes a game since settling in the rotation, and continues to do the most with his opportunities, as he was a +18 in the box score, the best of any Badger.
Blackwell finished with seven points on 3/7 shooting, while hitting his lone three-pointer of the night.
More importantly, Blackwell’s 25 minutes outpaced starting guard Max Klesmit’s total of 22 minutes, although it should be noted that the latter was battling an illness.
The biggest question remains whether Blackwell will be a consistent part of the closing lineup in close games, but it’s continued to be a ton of positives from the freshman through 11 games.
Connor Essegian’s playing time has been a major story this season, as the guard entered Thursday averaging 7.5 minutes a game, while shooting 31 percent from the field and 21 percent from three.
This comes one year after Essegian was one of the team’s leading scorers with 11.7 points a contest in 2022, as he played 27 minutes a game.
Now, Essegian’s growth has been stunted by injuries, as well as the emergence of freshman guard John Blackwell, but the guard just hasn’t seen the court as a regular member of the rotation, averaging the same amount of minutes as backup point guard Kamari McGee.
On Thursday, despite the Badgers being 19.5-point favorites against Jacksonville State, Essegian didn’t see the court once in the first half, as Kamari McGee earned the backup guard minutes alongside John Blackwell.
Essegian eventually saw the court at the 13:50 mark of the second half, but was subbed out 25 seconds later in favor of Isaac Lindsey after immediately getting beaten off the dribble for a layup.
Defense and physicality are likely some of the reasons Essegian has struggled to see the court, but it’s been an unfortunate start to the season for the sophomore guard who had a promising freshman season.
Essegian did ultimately check in at the 3:32 mark of the second half for the second time when the Badgers were up 67-50, gaining some needed playing time when the game was out of hand, but his minutes will certainly be something to monitor going forward.
While in the game for the second time, Essegian did have a pair of nice plays, finding Steven Crowl with a left-handed assist for a dunk, while also hitting a three-pointer.