Those who thought the Wisconsin Badgers were turning the season around were likely disappointed following Sunday night’s game.
The Wisconsin Badgers (13-9, 5-7 Big Ten) struggled offensively, and the Northwestern Wildcats (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten) left the Kohl Center with a 54-52 win.
The game was close to the end, but Northwestern made some big defensive plays in the closing stretch of the game to hold off the Badgers. Most notably coming with 20 seconds left as Chucky Hepburn failed to hit a fade-away jumper to give the Badgers the lead.
Offensively, the Badgers started slow, scoring 23 points in the first half. And there wasn’t much improvement in the second half as they finished with just 52 points.
The Wildcats gave the Badgers open looks throughout the game, and besides Connor Essegian, the team struggled to convert those open shots at times.
The Badgers shot just 38% from the field, and 46% from the free-throw line.
Defensively, they had a solid performance, allowing 54 points. Max Klesmit led the way with another solid defensive performance, continuing to prove he is one of the best defenders in the Big Ten.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to see teams struggling to score against a stout Wisconsin defense. However, a good defense doesn’t mean much if you can’t score points yourself. And that has been the issue throughout conference play for the Badgers.
The Badgers have scored 70+ points once this season against a conference opponent, which came back in December against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
In tonight’s game, both Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian had 17 and 15 points respectively. Both shot the ball well from behind the arc, yet Hepburn continued to struggle with his 2-point shooting.
Although Hepburn does take a lot of difficult shots, it is inexcusable to shoot 30% from close range.
Tyler Wahl looked like a shell of himself tonight, scoring just 5 points and grabbing just 1 rebound. Since coming back from injury, Wahl has averaged under 10 points per game and is struggling to make shots that he is typically making consistently.
Steven Crowl lacked much offensive production with 5 points as well, and Max Klesmit scored just 6 points.
In a game the Badgers needed to win, the team looked deflated on the offensive end and some offensive possessions went nowhere.
The Badgers now find themselves at 5-7 in Big Ten play and possibly on the bubble of making the NCAA Tournament. However, following tonight’s game, it would be surprising to see the Badgers still in talks of making the tournament.
If the Badgers want to have a postseason, then they better get winning.