Wisconsin’s offense continues to struggle - closing the first half going 1-for-9 from the field over the last four minutes and starting the second half shooting 2-for-8 from the field over the first five minutes – but at least did enough over the final 7:30 minutes to crawl back into the game and make it interesting.
It wasn’t pretty for long stretches, and the Badgers struggled to establish any rhythm on an afternoon they shot 24-for-66 (36.4 percent) from the field. Nigel Hayes had a brutal game shooting the ball (4-for-18) but scored half of his 10 points during the final stretch and had good vision to set up his teammates for points, finishing with a team-high six assists.
Vitto Brown led the way with 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field. Ethan Happ finished with 12 points and Zak Showalter registered his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Bronson Koenig was constantly double teamed and the pressure through off his rhythm, finishing only 3-for-11 from the floor.
Much like Wisconsin did in the second half against Milwaukee, the Badgers took shots too early into the shot clock, part of the reason why Wisconsin struggled to get into an offensive rhythm. Even if there shot selection was poor at times, they were able to limit the turnovers, committing only seven miscues and three in the second half. Happ, Hayes and Showalter all finished the game with two turnovers, but Marquette turned the turnovers into only six points.
Wisconsin knew going into the game it was going to be tough sledding against a Marquette frontcourt with two 6-11 players, but the Badgers’ 16 points in the paint were the lowest since scoring 10 at Oklahoma 13 days ago. Even if UW didn’t consistently convert around the rim, it was only slightly less efficient that the Badgers’ production from the perimeter, as UW went 6-for-17 from 3-point range.
Wisconsin did find ways of grabbing rebounds off miss shots, registering 14 offensive rebounds, but could only convert nine second-chance points. The nine points were the fewest since scoring six against VCU. Hayes registered five offensive rebounds, but Marquette’s length gave Wisconsin trouble when they went back up with the ball to convert. Marquette finished with three blocks and altered countless more.
Wisconsin’s frontcourt was going to have a test against 6-11 Henry Ellenson and 6-11 Luke Fischer, and while the two lead the Golden Eagles in scoring with 15 and 12 points, respectively, on a combined 12-for-27 shooting, Wisconsin made both of them work for most of its shots. Brown, Happ and Hayes rotated defending both of them due to switches and substitutions, but the easy looks were minimal and the trio played aggressive defense without racking up the fouls.
But with the game tied at 53 with 1:31 to go, it was Fischer and Ellenson who scored the last four points to give them the win. It was fitting that both of their shots came in the paint, as 32 of Marquette’s 57 points came in the low post. Marquette shot 24-for-46 (52.2 percent) from the field and shot 12-for-21 (57.14 percent) in the second half.
If Marquette couldn’t get the ball into the post, the Golden Eagles were able to find ways of getting a mid-range jump shot. Wisconsin did well of making sure that the Golden Eagles didn’t settle for too many 3-pointers, finishing only 3-for-5 in the game.
The one area where Wisconsin succeeded on defense was using its aggressive defense to create turnovers, as UW registered seven steals that helped force 11 miscues. Wisconsin create most of the turnovers in the second half (seven) when they were trying to mounting its comeback. Brown and Hayes each finished the game with two steals and Wisconsin used the extra offensive possessions to score 13 points.
With Marquette having success on the block, Wisconsin couldn’t afford many opportunities to allow second chances. Marquette finished the game with six offensive rebounds and only four in the second half, but one of those came on Marquette’s last field goal when the Badgers failed to block out Fischer.
Overall Marquette finished the game with six second-chance points and finished the game with 33 rebounds to Wisconsin’s 36.
Once again, how Wisconsin ended the first half and started the second half hurt its chances of winning a game. Wisconsin held a lead in the first half but could never build a lead larger than two points. With both teams trading baskets in the first half, Wisconsin had its chances to build on its lead but a sluggish offense prevented it.
Marquette came out with the momentum in the second half and built a double-digit lead within the first four minutes of the second half, the second straight game UW has allowed an in-state foe to dominate coming out of halftime. But with Marquette leading by 14 points in the second half with 11:33 to go, Wisconsin found a way to respond and eventually tie the game. Over the last part of the game UW went 10-for-18 from the field and at one point made five straight shots to cut Marquette’s lead to three points.
Although Wisconsin got back into the game, the Badgers also hurt their chances when their perimeter shots and turnovers led to fast break opportunities for Marquette, which they took advantage by registering 17 points. Wisconsin also took too many shots early in the shot clock, appearing to be pressing and not operating within the flow of its offense. Not making Marquette work on defense hurt the Badgers on both ends of the floor.
The Badgers not attacking the rim caused Marquette to limit its fouls, as the Golden Eagles finished the game with 14 in the game. An offense struggling would have benefited from getting to the free throw line more than four times.
Wisconsin’s bench unfortunately delivered nothing offensively. Combining for only 19 minutes, 10 of which came from Charlie Thomas, the trio combined for three shots, a missed free throw, two rebounds and a lone steal.
Game MVP: Vitto Brown. With Nigel Hayes in an awful shooting slump (0-for-8 in the first half, 4-for-18 for the game), Brown was able to get his mid-range jump shot falling to keep UW in the game. Brown shook off a 1-for-9 performance Wednesday with a career-high 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals, one assist and no turnovers. Consistency now becomes the biggest necessity for Brown, who needs to string together steady performances to take pressure off of others.