The Wisconsin Badgers suffered another disappointing loss against the Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday, dropping to 13-9 on the season and losing potential momentum after a nice 65-60 victory over Ohio State last Thursday.
A reason for the loss? The disappearance of Tyler Wahl, who scored just five points on 2/5 shooting in 30 minutes of playing time.
However, the disappearance of Wahl isn’t just a one-game trend, instead; the junior forward has been an afterthought for the majority of games upon his return from injury.
Since his return, Wahl has averaged 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.8 fouls per game, while shooting 38.2% from the field and an ugly 38.1% from the free throw line.
Wahl has shot over 50% from the field just once, and it came during a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini where the forward got into foul trouble and played just 19 total minutes.
In the two games since, Wahl has shot a combined 2/15 from the field, including a season-low five shot attempts against Northwestern on Sunday.
Head coach Greg Gard didn’t seem impressed by his forward’s performance on Sunday, stressing the need for an improvement in Wahl’s play as the Badgers continue to slide.
“He’s got to find a way, whether we run stuff for him or find his way to get his hands off more balls on the glass. One rebound, I think he can help us more than that, and he has to finish in the paint,” Gard said.
Wahl has struggled to finish since arriving from his injury, hence the poor efficiency from the field, despite shooting the three-ball at a 37.5% rate.
In addition to converting opportunities when receiving the ball, Gard believes Wahl should look for attempts more.
“He’s got to be able to convert when we do [give him the ball] and he’s got to command it more. Yes, he should be finding a way to get more than five field goal attempts.”
A part of the equation? Wahl needs to exert better body language, looking avidly to earn more opportunities with off-ball movement, which would’ve helped forward Steven Crowl when facing double teams yesterday.
But, it’s clear that, given Wisconsin’s lack of scoring and depth, the Badgers’ offense will not experience much change in terms of numbers if Wahl cannot find his pre-injury form.
A potential solution? Providing more pick-and-roll action with Wahl, both as the handler and the dribbler, rather than dumping the ball off to the post on every touch, allowing defenders to swarm the forwards before they can make a move.
Still, Wahl needs to be proactive as well, while exerting the physicality required down low that Wisconsin, frankly, hasn’t shown this season.