After Wisconsin was able to shoot above 60 percent against Indiana, the Badgers saw their shooting dip to 21-for-54 (39.8 percent) from the field. It seemed like Wisconsin was going to pick up right where they left off in the win over Indiana as they started the game 8-for-11 in the first nine minutes of the game to help build a 21-4 lead.
But despite shooting below 40 percent for only the second time this season, Wisconsin received balance scoring amongst its starters. Sam Dekker and Bronson Koenig each scored 16 points on a combined 13-for-26 shooting. Frank Kaminsky was second with 12 points, as seven of his 12 came in the second half, and Nigel Hayes finished the game with 11 points. Josh Gasser was the lone starter to fail to reach double digits, as he finished the game with eight points.
Wisconsin struggled to get any paint production considering Northwestern typically collapsed two defenders on Kaminsky whenever he touched the ball, forcing him to pass the ball back to the perimeter. Overall Wisconsin finished the game with 16 points around the hoop, 10 of which came in the first half. Northwestern’s zone forced Wisconsin to take shots from 3-point range, where the Badgers finished the game 9-for-28 (32.1 percent).
Overall Kaminsky did fine dealing with the pressure, despite having three of Wisconsin’s five turnovers in the game. Even when the turnovers, the Badgers’ defense didn’t allow the Wildcats to score any points off turnovers.
Vitto Brown was the lone player to score for Wisconsin off the bench with his two points. His lone shot came in the first half, and he was able to step into a shot from the top of the key at the free throw line.
Similar to Wisconsin’s offense, it looked like UW’s defense was going to cause headaches for Northwestern. The Wildcats struggled to find a basket early in the game, going 3-for-16 in the first 13 minutes of the game, but eventually figured out and ended up shooting a better field goal percentage then Wisconsin - finishing the game 19-for-48 (39.6 percent) from the field.
Alex Olah and Bryant McIntosh were the only two Northwestern players to reach double digits, as the duo scored 15 and 13 points, respectively. Tre Demps, Northwestern’s second leading scorer behind McIntosh, was held to seven points on 2-for-7 shooting after he was able to score 17 points in the first matchup.
Despite Northwestern struggling to take care of the basketball entering the matchup, the Badgers failed to capitalize on a turnover prone team, as Northwestern finished the game with five turnovers, its fewest amount of turnovers in Big Ten play. Koenig was the lone Badger to record a steal but holding Demps to seven points was impressive. Even though Northwestern only turned the ball over five times, Wisconsin was able to convert it into seven points.
It wasn’t Kaminsky’s best game defensively after he allowed Olah to score 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Too often Kaminsky allowed Olah to get the better positioning down low and allowed him to use a post move to gain better positioning. Northwestern also was able to force Wisconsin to switch, as Showalter, Koenig, or Hayes were forced to defend Olah. Hayes had better success in defending Olah then either Showalter or Koenig, but Olah was a big reason why Northwestern was able to score 24 points in the paint.
Even though Wisconsin struggled at times to defend the paint, the Badgers only committed 12 team fouls. Wisconsin’s disciplined defense prevented Northwestern from climbing back in the game, as Northwestern finished the game 8-for-12 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line.
You have to give Northwestern’s defense credit for its game plan on Kaminsky, which was to be physical with him in the low post and forced him to pass the basketball back out. Although his points were down, Kaminsky still finished the game with a team-leading five assists, a credit to how versatile a player he is.
The Badgers big advantage Saturday came on the glass, out rebounding Northwestern 42-25 and securing 15 offensive rebounds. Gasser had a team leading nine rebounds, Hayes was second with eight rebounds and Kaminsky had seven Gasser in particular consistently attacked the glass with Kaminsky box out his man, sometimes being able to grab a rebound with one hand as he was shielding off a defender.
Gasser’s tenaciousness on the glass was important as it helped limit Northwestern to just five offensive rebounds in the game. With Wisconsin consistently getting second chances, the Badgers were able to convert their chances to 13 points opposed to Northwestern’s seven points.
The Badgers’ strong start helped them lead the entire game and build a lead as big as 22 points. Although Northwestern closed the gap to eight in the first half, Wisconsin was able to consistently rebuild leads and take away momentum from the Wildcats.
Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. The sophomore continues to play well in place of the injured Traevon Jackson. After scoring a career-high 15 points against Indiana, Koenig topped it with 16 on 6-for-10 shooting. This was the fourth time in the past five games Koenig has scored double digits. Besides becoming an effective scorer, he and Gasser didn’t turn the ball over, as Koenig was able to register two assists in the game.
Koenig put up his points by finding a rhythm from 3-point range, finishing 4-for-8 from the perimeter and connected a couple of times just as the shot clock was about to expire. With Northwestern clogging the paint, it didn’t allow Koenig to drive to the basket much, but his shots from the perimeter consistently made the Wildcats pay on defense.