It has been a hell of a few days for Wisconsin Badgers fans, who endured an ugly football home loss on Saturday afternoon to Northwestern, a tough road volleyball loss to Penn State, and now an uglier road basketball loss to Providence on Tuesday.
The Badgers lost to the Friars 72-59, dropping to 1-2 on the season in a game where they really couldn’t get things going on either end of the court, with the final score seeming much closer than the game really was.
After finding ways to score in each of their first two games, the Badgers came out flat in the first half, scoring just 21 points on 26 percent shooting, with John Blackwell being the only positive contributor with nine points on 4/6 shooting.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 72-59 loss to Providence.
Last weekend, the Badgers struggled to keep up physically against Tennessee, both with their guards and the bigs.
The team shot 16/30 near the rim, struggling to finish, while Tennessee saw much more success inside the arc, which allowed them to shoot 50 percent from the field, despite hitting under 30 percent of their threes.
On Tuesday, it was a similar story, as the Badgers were 7/20 on layups, getting to the free throw line just 12 times, while Providence shot 70 percent inside the arc, converting 9/12 of their layups and getting to the free throw line 27 times.
Now, the Badgers were perfect from the free throw line, but got there just 12 times, despite shooting the ball 62 times on the day.
More importantly, it felt that the team wasn’t very aggressive until later in the second half, which disrupted the dynamic of their offensive flow.
The Friars played drop coverage on pick-and-rolls with Steven Crowl, leaving a ton of space for guards to operate with, be it shooting jump shots or attacking the rim, but Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn seemed more passive, which wasn’t the case in the first two games.
That can’t happen at a time where the Badgers needed to be aggressive, given how they were playing an opponent more physical than them.
Then, when they did see opportunities near the rim, they failed to score, which has been an issue dating back to last year for the Badgers.
Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl combined to shoot 4/14, with 11 of those shots coming in the first half, in an ugly day inside. On the other hand, forward Josh Oduro was a perfect 6/6 for 13 points.
The Badgers need to find a balance with their aggressiveness and finding both the paint and the free throw line. That didn’t happen Tuesday, and directly led to their loss.
In a relation to the aggressiveness factor, the Badgers’ fouling issues continued on Tuesday, committing a season-high 23 fouls after recording 21 and 22 against Arkansas State and Tennessee, respectively.
Wisconsin’s physicality levels aren’t up to par this season; they’re not matching well in the paint, but are also fouling at a high clip, leading to an impartial balance at the moment.
Now, Providence didn’t penalize Wisconsin as much as they could’ve at the stripe, hitting just 16/27 of their free throws, but the Badgers cannot afford for their top players to consistently get in foul trouble.
On the other hand, they did hit a perfect 12/12 from the free throw line, a good sign, but need to do more in getting to the line at a higher clip.
A.J. Storr saw six opportunities, converting every free throw, leading him to score 22 points on 7/17 shooting Tuesday.
But, the main issue for the Badgers defense is their foul concerns right now, which has occurred in all three games thus far.
The only player that showed up in the first half for the Badgers was guard John Blackwell, who had nine points on 4/6 shooting, while recording four rebounds and forcing a turnover.
Blackwell’s ascendance has been a good sign for a Badgers team needing depth, and he ended up playing 25 minutes on Tuesday, by far the most of any reserve, and even more than Max Klesmit, who saw just 19 minutes of action with four fouls.
What’s more intriguing is the minutes distribution between him and Connor Essegian, who saw just six minutes on Tuesday and has now played 22 minutes in three games after averaging 11.7 points a contest last year.
Blackwell provides some of the necessary aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, and possesses the confidence to take his shot when the opportunity is there, scoring 11 points on 50 percent shooting, good for second-best on the team behind A.J. Storr’s 22 points.
Blackwell’s minutes will be something to monitor going forward, but he’s now compiled multiple games of impressive play that has garnered the interest of head coach Greg Gard.