With the loss, Wisconsin dropped its third consecutive game, marking the first time that they lost three in a row all season long.
However, Wednesday’s loss saw the revival of one portion of their offense: Chucky Hepburn’s aggressiveness.
Hepburn, who was the team’s leading scorer with 12.2 points last season, has seen his scoring drop this season to just eight points a contest, while evolving into more of a pass-first guard.
Wednesday called for Hepburn’s scoring, though, as the Badgers guard had several opportunities off the dribble and took them, resulting in 17 points on 6/11 shooting, which was his highest output since the season opener against Arkansas State.
That occurred while Hepburn was tasked with guarding point guard Dug McDaniel, who had a strong first 13 minutes with 11 early points, although he ultimately shot 6/15 from the field, ending with 16 points.
This season, Hepburn has looked to lead the offense in a different role, averaging 3.7 assists a contest, while lowering his turnovers to 1.3 a game.
However, in evolving as a playmaker, Hepburn has looked more passive at times, while his efficiency has dropped, as the guard has shot 38 percent from the field and just 27 percent from three on the season.
Hepburn has better talent around him this season, as sophomore forward A.J. Storr has transitioned into a high-volume scorer, while Steven Crowl, Tyler Wahl, and Max Klesmit have all taken steps forward.
But, defenses have also started to pay less respect to the guard, sagging into the paint or covering their bases in the pick-and-roll at times, looking to defend the other players on the court.
It appeared Wednesday was a wake-up call for the guard, who took advantage of the open lanes and went to the basket with force, leading to an efficient night offensively overall.
Now, Hepburn has struggled with his shot this season, which may have an impact on his confidence, but the guard has looked more explosive after slimming down and has a knack for getting to the rim.
The Badgers need their point guard to remain aggressive, as they can be the best version of themselves when everyone is clicking offensively.
His best opportunities come both off the dribble and in the pick-and-roll, as Hepburn has the ability to beat opponents off the dribble, but often pulls up and chooses to run the offense. Elsewhere, in the pick-and-roll, the guard seems to have a pass-first mindset, which is attributed to his impressive playmaking ability.
Hepburn shouldn’t diminish those playmaking skills, but rather needs to find more of a balance between remaining aggressive and punishing opponents as a finisher and finding his teammates for high-quality shots.
Wednesday was the first step in doing so, even if the Badgers lost, as Hepburn was one of the team’s best finishers, and primarily concentrated inside the paint.
If the Badgers are to turn it around amid their three-game losing streak, they’ll need the aggressive version of Hepburn that was on display against Michigan and over the first two years of his career at Wisconsin.