It was a unique game for the Badgers, who were jumpshot-reliant, as they took 31 threes on 64 field goal attempts. While the strategy worked in the first half, Wisconsin’s offense sputtered in the second half, ultimately allowing the Cornhuskers to come back in the game.
As the Badgers were more perimeter-focused, center Steven Crowl, who entered the game as the team’s leading scorer, took just two field goal attempts, which were both three-pointers in a one-point night for the big man.
Nebraska looked to double Crowl and forward Tyler Wahl when they got touches in the post, but the former looked hesitant to make a move, instead waiting for the double to get there before passing the ball out.
Crowl has dealt with double teams well in 2023, a key improvement in his game this season, but struggled on Thursday, prompting head coach Greg Gard to call him out for his lack of aggressiveness.
“Absolutely. I thought he was not aggressive enough,” Gard said. He’s got to be more aggressive whether they’re double-teaming or not. He’s got to play with more force inside. And I didn’t think, obviously, with anybody in the paint, we really played how we need to play, how we have been playing.”
While the Badgers were doubled at a high rate, they didn’t seem aggressive even in 1-on-1 situations, instead becoming too jumper-happy in the loss.
“It’s one thing if they’re doubling, but there was times we just were not aggressive at all in the paint,” Gard said. “I thought we were less aggressive in terms of attacking the rim from both the perimeter and the post.”
“So I think that was the biggest difference is we were not nearly as aggressive as we have been in those situations. And again, we got to convert when we do have it there. Tyler had it there a few times I thought could have made a better decision, but Steve just needs to be more aggressive.”
Now, it isn’t all on Crowl, as the Badgers settling for jump shots set the tone early, but there needs to be more balance overall.
“We got to help him get back to being more aggressive in there,” Gard said about Crowl. “And then the other guys can’t take the bait of settling for a lot of jump shots, specifically when we can get better shots. We were very rarely late in the clock, so it’s not like we have to take desperation shots.”
“We can work for better shots. And like I said, we’ll learn a lot from this and move on to the next one.”
The lack of aggressiveness was apparent during the game, even in the first half, as Crowl seemed flustered by the idea of a double-team coming, instead looking to prioritize his passing skills, which led to more of those jump shots.
Steven Crowl's gotta go sooner. A little hesitant today as he expects the double.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 2, 2024
Attack the double by starting low in the post and immediately going into your move.
Even if the end goal is a pass, you can't wait for the double to come before doing something. #Badgers
On Sunday, the Badgers will face a tough interior challenge, as Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers are visiting the Kohl Center, where Crowl’s aggressiveness will be key down low.