This is the type of defeat that’s going to test the resiliency of the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team.
There’s no shame in losing at Pinnacle Bank Arena. But like this?
The Badgers played their worst half of the season and followed it up with an uninspiring overtime. The result, an 80-72 loss to Nebraska on Thursday night, dropped Wisconsin to second place in the Big Ten standings heading into a huge matchup with Purdue on Sunday.
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Here are some of my thoughts on the game:
What I didn’t like
The Badgers blew a huge lead in Lincoln a year ago, so they shouldn’t have been too comfortable despite taking a 16-point lead into halftime Thursday.
But there didn’t seem to be much urgency in the second half on either end of the court.
Let’s start on offense, where Wisconsin got too 3-point happy. The Badgers finished with 31 attempts from beyond the arc, which is way too many for a team that should have played through the post more often.
Steven Crowl only finished with two shot attempts, while Tyler Wahl had five.
AJ Storr finished with a game-high 28 points, but his shot selection continues to be shaky at times. As good as he was in the first half, I thought Storr forced too many shots the rest of the way.
The Badgers were nearly as bad on the defensive end, where Nebraska averaged 1.32 points per possession over the final 25 minutes.
C.J. Wilcher (22 points) deserves credit for knocking down some tough shots coming off screens.
But Wisconsin didn’t look connected on defense after halftime and was giving up too much ground on drives.
• Turnovers have been an issue at times for this team, and that was a big problem against the Huskers.
Wisconsin finished with 16 of them, including some really ugly ones that were the result of the Badgers losing their composure. Storr had five turnovers, while Max Klesmit had four.
What I liked
I really liked that first half from Wisconsin, when it followed the blueprint for winning on the road.
The Badgers did a great job of taking the crowd out of it almost from the opening tip, and two things stood out: Storr, obviously. He scored Wisconsin’s first 10 points and had 18 by the half. Hitting 3-pointers on the Badgers’ second and third possessions of the game was a great tone-setter by Storr.
Plus, the Badgers did a great job of limiting the Cornhuskers’ looks from 3-point range and forcing them to take contested 2-point shots. Sure, Nebraska had some looks rim out, but those weren’t easy shots because the Badgers were doing a great job of walling up without fouling.
• The book end to that great first half was a strong finish heading into halftime.
It seemed like things were starting to slip for the Badgers, and Nebraska’s deficit was trimmed to 31-22 on a 3-pointer by Wilcher.
Wisconsin turned it up a notch over the final 3 minutes, and Chucky Hepburn was a big reason why.
Hepburn scored nine points over the final 2:04, including seven in a span of 29 seconds. That burst included two steals that Hepburn turned into layups on the other end, including one that resulted in a three-point play.
Just like that, Wisconsin’s lead was 43-27 heading into the break.
Easy win, right? Not in that building.
What it means
The Badgers (16-5, 8-2 Big Ten) have a pretty quick turnaround heading into the game against the No. 2 Boilermakers.
Again, this isn’t a bad loss on paper. It’s a Quad 1 game.
But how will Greg Gard’s team respond after this complete collapse?
Contact Jim Polzin at [email protected].
First appeared on madison.com