The Wisconsin Badgers dominated in an 81-62 win over the Bradley Braves on Tuesday, beginning their NIT tournament with a win and moving on to the second round, where they’ll host the Liberty Flames in a matchup at the Kohl Center on Sunday.
The Badgers had an early grasp on the game, but the Braves pulled back to end the first half trailing just 40-35.
However, the second half was a much different story, as the Badgers outscored their opponent 41-27 to earn an 81-62 win and defeat the Braves in the first round of the NIT.
Here are the quick takeaways from Wisconsin’s win on Tuesday.
Have a day, Steven Crowl.
The Badgers forward had a career night in the team’s first playoff game in the NIT, scoring 36 on 12/16 shooting, including 5/7 from three.
Crowl’s 36 points were the most of his career and nearly eclipsed Frank Kaminsky’s school record of 43 points, while falling just one short of Johnny Davis’s 37-point game last year.
The big man was dominant from the jump, scoring 19 points in the first half on 6/9 shooting, while hitting three threes.
It didn’t stop in the second half, as Crowl poured in 17 more to reach a total of 36 points.
Prior to the game, I highlighted Steven Crowl as the top key of the game, given his size advantage against Bradley’s forwards, which clearly played a huge role in his monster game that ultimately led the Badgers to victory.
Prior to the game, I highlighted each team’s free-throw woes as a factor to watch, given how Wisconsin and Bradley both focused inside the paint for their offensive attacks.
The Badgers out-shot the Braves 28-14 at the free throw line, signifying their aggressiveness offensively, spearheaded by Crowl.
The Badgers, who have experienced foul trouble several times this season, remained disciplined defensively, while they continuously attacked the basket with Crowl, Essegian, and Klesmit reaching the line the most.
The biggest part of the free throw disparity? Wisconsin hit their shots at an 82% rate from the line, while Bradley converted just 50% of their free throws, with those 16 points playing a huge role in the outcome.
The Badgers’ guards struggled from the field on Tuesday, as Connor Essegian converted just 2/11 of his attempts, although he made all seven of his free throws while Chucky Hepburn hit on just 1/7 of his shots.
However, Max Klesmit was a strong secondary option, hitting 5/7 of his attempts, while reaching the free throw line eight times for a total of 16 points.
On the other hand, Zeke Montgomery, Duke Deen, and Connor Hickman combined for 26 points on 11/24 shooting, although the trio was inefficient from three, hitting just 25% of their attempts.
While Essegian shot poorly from the field, the guard was aggressive, getting to the line nine times and scoring 14 points in the game.
The Braves looked to attack Essegian defensively, with Montgomery utilizing his explosiveness off the dribble, but Bradley couldn’t capitalize on opportunities, especially behind the arc, to minimize the gap.
With the huge disparity in forward play, the guard play for Bradley wasn’t nearly enough to overcome Steven Crowl’s powerful presence on Tuesday, as Wisconsin earned a healthy victory.