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3 quick takeaways from the Badgers 71-63 win over Northwestern

The Badgers have their best start in conference play since 2015.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers continued their winning streak with a 71-63 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats, improving to 5-0 in conference play, which is their best start since 2015.

In the win, the Badgers were extremely efficient, shooting 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three, while feasting from the free throw line with 26 attempts. Additionally, they scored 1.2 points per possession in a slower game.

Defensively, the Badgers gave up 22 points to Boo Buie, but Northwestern shot just 42.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three, while averaging 1 point per possession.

Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 71-63 win over the Northwestern Wildcats.

Mad Max Pt. 2

Max Klesmit, have yourself a week.

Just days after dropping 18 points in the second half, Klesmit was Wisconsin’s leading scorer once again, scoring 24 points in a balanced effort with 11 coming in the first half and 13 coming in the second half.

Klesmit was extremely efficient from the field, shooting 9/13 from the field and 5/7 from three.

But, it was an integral performance because Klesmit found different ways to score, looking to attack, while also taking his perimeter shots when they came open.

A ton of Klesmit’s points in the second half came as the game was within single-digits, including his jumper with 3:45 to go that gave Wisconsin a 63-61 lead.

Long underrated by Badgers fans, Klesmit not only provides the team with good defense, but the junior guard has proven his ability to score at a high level as well, which was shown during his time at Wofford.

Winning close games

The difference between last year and this year? The Badgers are winning these closer, grind-out types of games that they fell short in during the 2022 season.

Last season, the Badgers held a 13-8 record in close games, much different than their 12-2 record in those outings during their Big Ten title season in 2021-2022.

This season, they’ve pulled out close games over SMU, Marquette, Ohio State, and Northwestern.

More importantly, they’ve yet to play in a game where the outcome was decided by seven or fewer points, as each of their 13 victories has come by eight or more.

Of course, close games are bound to come in conference play, but this Badgers team has shown more resolve at the end of games, which is reflected in their record.

Best start in conference play

With their fifth straight victory in conference play, the Badgers’ 5-0 start in the Big Ten is their best since the 2007-2008 season when they won the Big Ten title.

Additionally, the Badgers have scored at least 70 points in 10 consecutive games, their best streak since the 2015 season when Wisconsin last made a National Championship.

But, looking back to the start of the season, this Badgers’ team has come a long way from their 1-2 record after losses to Tennessee and Providence.

Not only did they beat Michigan State on the road by double-figures, but Wisconsin continued their hot stretch into January with wins over Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State, and now Northwestern.

Additionally, Wisconsin beat each of those teams in different ways, beating Iowa and Nebraska at their own game by scoring over 80 points in both contests.

Then, they managed to pull out slower-paced games against Ohio State and Nebraska where they’ve averaged over 1.2 points per possession in both outings to win by at least eight points.

With the way this season has gone, you absolutely have to give credit to head coach Greg Gard and his staff for turning things around after last season.