Wisconsin’s offense did what it could against a stifling Duke defense, finishing 40.7percent (22-for-54) from the floor. The problem for Wisconsin is they struggled to get the post established and were forced to rely on jump shots to keep themselves in the game.
Wisconsin’s first two-point field goal didn’t come until 9:46 left in the first half, as Jahlil Okafor did a good job of defending Frank Kaminsky from getting post touches or easy looks. Kaminsky did finished with 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting but got his night started by hitting from the perimeter, forcing Okafor to come out and guard him.
With the paint being taken away and Wisconsin having to settle for 3-point shots for a good majority of the game, the Badgers still made their fair share - going 9-for-21 (42.9 percent). But with the way Duke was shooting, it was difficult for the Badgers to keep pace.
Senior Traevon Jackson finished with a career-high 25 points, but he and Kaminsky were the only two players to score in double figures. Josh Gasser was third with seven points, and Sam Dekker and Duje Dukan each had five points.
The offense did well of creating second-chance opportunities, recording 10 offensive rebounds, and at times were able to effectively tip it back out if to the perimeter if they weren’t able to grab the ball with two hands. But the Blue Devil defense continued to give Wisconsin fits, as Wisconsin only generated eight points off its second chances.
Wisconsin did do a good job of taking care of the basketball only committing eight turnovers in the game. Dukan, Kaminsky and Jackson all had two a piece in the turnover department.
It is hard to win a basketball game when the opposition shoots 65.2 percent (30-for-46) from the field, not to mention going 15-for-21 (71.4 percent) from the field in the second half. Wisconsin wasn’t able to consistently challenge the Blue Devils’ offense, which was simply better. Duke also finished the game 7-for-12 (58.3 percent) from three.
It would have been better if UW tried to press up against Duke and get a hand consistently in the player’s faces but that allowed too much space at times. Duke has shown all season if you give them space they will make you pay by knocking down shots. UW didn’t want to foul but clearly giving them that much space was not helping Wisconsin’s defense. If the Badgers were able to play up a little closer, they could have possibly given their offense more opportunities.
In particular Wisconsin couldn’t defend Tyus Jones, who came in averaging 8.9 points a game but was clearly the best player on the floor. The freshman finished with a career-high 22 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Jones was able to create a shot for himself whenever he wanted, especially on his drives to the basket when he was able to avoid Wisconsin’s “pressure” and create any type of space between the defender to make his shot. Jackson had no answer for him and was unable to find a way to slow him down.
A lot was made of Okafor and how good of a player he was, and he had a good game scoring 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field. Okafor was able to beat Kaminsky a couple of times with nice post moves in the paint. But like Jones, when Okafor was able to get the basketball down low, he let his natural athletic ability and good footwork take over. Kaminsky did try and stay in front of him but at times Okafor simply made a better play on offense.
Wisconsin couldn’t get any consecutive defensives stops together when they were able to take the lead. As soon as Wisconsin was able to jump on top by either one or two points, Duke answered with a run on its own. Wisconsin couldn’t get over the hump and put together its own run.
It also didn’t help that the Badgers struggled to make lay ups. Give credit to Duke’s inside defense for holding Wisconsin and altering shots, but the Badgers missed a handful of shots around the rim. UW did create some fouls, like Kaminsky on three straight possessions, to get to the line, but he was able to connect on only 4 of 6 free throws on that stretch. Overall Wisconsin went 17-for-21 from the free throw line.
Dekker and Nigel Hayes both struggled mightily. Dekker, who was held out on Monday’s practice so he could rest his ankle, was ineffective for most of the game and wasn’t able to attack like he has shown at times this season.
Hayes struggled with foul trouble after picking up two fouls in the first half, resulting him having to sit for the final eight minutes. Hayes managed to score four points (all in the second half) on 1-for-5 shooting. Hayes was able to pick off two of Duke’s passes, as the Blue Devils finished with 10 turnovers in the game.
Wisconsin was able to get Okafor and Cook into foul trouble in the first half but the Badgers offense wasn’t able capitalize, another one of the missed opportunities that hurt UW in the end.
Game MVP: Traevon Jackson. The senior did as much as he could to try and keep Wisconsin in the game but his efforts came up short. Once Jackson started to drive to the basket, the offense seemed to generate some sort of rhythm but it was a little too late with the Blue Devils responding to each UW run. With Jackson getting to the line in the second half (8-for-8) to keep the game close, it also allowed some other opportunities for Jackson’s teammates, as he finished the game with two assists. Jackson finished the game 7-for-12 from the field as he was able to create space for himself, which allowed him to be able to knock down his mid-range jump shot. This is Jackson’s second consecutive game finishing in double digits and has shot better than 50 percent over the last two games.
Despite the tough defense by Duke, Jackson never got careless with the ball, finishing the game with two turnovers. It would have been easy for Jackson to get careless with Wisconsin consistently trying to make a run in the second half, but he made sure his miscues didn’t overly cost Wisconsin.