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3 quick takeaways from the Badgers 72-68 loss to Michigan

The Badgers suffered an embarrassing defeat against Michigan to drop their third straight game.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers lost their third consecutive game in a 72-68 loss to the Michigan Wolverines in arguably their ugliest loss of the season on Wednesday.

With the loss, the Badgers drop to 16-7 on the season and 8-4 in conference play, while Michigan snaps a five-game losing streak, in which they lost each game by double digits.

Offensively, Wisconsin shot 46 percent from the field, but struggled once again from deep, hitting just 5/19 of their threes.

Defensively, the Badgers struggled early, allowing 37 first-half points, while allowing Michigan to get to the free throw line 25 times.

Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers’ 72-68 loss to the Michigan Wolverines.

Slow start

Despite being the favorites to win this one, the Badgers did not show up to play at the beginning, as Michigan had a strong first half on the offensive end, shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from deep.

Dug McDaniel came to play, scoring 11 points over the first 12:11 of the game, and Michigan took a 29-20 lead as a result.

The Badgers had been playing well prior to last week, while Michigan had significantly struggled over their past 11 games, but the Wolverines were the ones who came to play.

Wisconsin allowed too much dribble penetration defensively, while center Steven Crowl was out-physicaled, struggling early with two fouls and two turnovers in the first half.

The Badgers found a rhythm at the end of the first half, finishing on a 13-8 run, but they still trailed by four at halftime, and that was the difference at the end of the game.

Three-point shooting

The Badgers have really struggled to shoot the three ball as of late and that continued on Wednesday, as they hit just 5 of their 19 three-pointers.

Wisconsin was just 3/19 against Purdue, while hitting 10/31 against Nebraska in a cold three-game stretch including Wednesday’s game.

Time and time again, the Badgers settled for threes, which was a poor choice as Wisconsin had 40 points in the paint, while shooting 57 percent on twos.

When Wisconsin drove into the paint, good things usually happened, but they, once again, settled too much against Michigan, leaving a number of opportunities on the board.

The Badgers are a much better shooting team than the numbers have indicated over the past three games, but they need to find a better rhythm and get more consistency from deep, especially if they want to end Big Ten play on a high note.

Greg Gard

Over the past two games, I’ve placed blame primarily on the players for poor shot selection and failing to create an inside presence, but head coach Greg Gard deserves some of the blame as well.

Now, before the game, I believed Gard was the frontrunner to win Big Ten Coach of the Year, but his message hasn’t sunk in to the Badgers yet.

Despite his pleas to be more aggressive and physical in the paint, Wisconsin continues to settle for tougher threes, and the results haven’t been great.

When the pattern becomes a recurring one, part of the blame has to be shifted to the head coach, as the fixes haven’t been made, and that’s the case here with Gard.

It came to an inflection point with 43 seconds left as the Badgers called timeout with a chance to tie the game down 69-66. However, with ample time left, it seemed that Wisconsin’s best chance to score was by driving and getting a good look inside.

Instead, the Badgers wound out a good portion of the shot clock and Chucky Hepburn missed a three-pointer, serving as a main turning point at the end.

The Badgers could, and should, turn things around against Rutgers on Saturday, but this loss was an embarrassing one and one that shouldn’t have happened after the last two defeats.