Wisconsin (9-8, 1-3 Big Ten) vs. Northwestern (14-3, 2-2 Big Ten)
Date/Time – Tuesday, January 12, 6 p.m. central
Arena – Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Television – Big Ten Network (Dave Revsine and Jon Crispin)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Wisconsin leads 114-62 (Series tied 39-39 at Evanston, Ill.)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 65-50, on February 7, 2015, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 8.4 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 15.8 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.4 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 13.9 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 9.0 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 2.3 ppg)
15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 3.4 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 3.2 ppg)
24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.5 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Averaging 33.2 minutes per game, Showalter leads UW in steals (21), charges drawn (13) and third in assists (37).
NORTHWESTERN PROBABLE STARTERS
1 Joey Van Zegeren (6-10 Senior Center, 5.2 ppg)
14 Tre Demps (6-3 Senior Guard, 14.4 ppg)
30 Bryant McIntosh (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 15.4 ppg)
34 Sanjay Lumpkin (6-6 Junior Forward, 4.8 ppg)
35 Aaron Falzon (6-6 Freshman Forward, 9.5 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
5 Dererk Pardon (6-8 Freshman Center, 11.2 ppg)
20 Scottie Lindsey (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 7.2 ppg)
32 Nathan Taphorn (6-7 Junior Forward, 5.6 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
McIntosh ranks first in the Big Ten in assists (7.2 pg), third in free throw percentage (.855), ninth in steals (1.2 pg) and 10th in scoring (15.4 ppg).
LAST TIME OUT
MADISON – Another day, another team, the same frustrating home result for the University of Wisconsin.
Another valiant effort was delivered but that does nothing for Wisconsin’s overall record, as sophomore guard Melo Trimble’ 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left was the difference in No.3 Maryland escaping with a 63-60 victory at the Kohl Center.
It was Wisconsin’s fifth home loss, the most since the Badgers lost eight home games during the 1997-98 season, and have all come by a combined 14 points.
“It’s pretty disheartening,” said junior Bronson Koenig. “The past few games we’ve had those mental lapses at the end that we can’t have. Our margin of error is microscopic. We just have to find ways to win, not find ways to lose.”
Wisconsin (9-8, 1-3 Big Ten) had a fair share of each of those in the final 10 minutes.
A 3-pointer by Koenig with 10:01 remaining gave Wisconsin a 47-46 lead and ignited the crowd, but UW’s offense zapped the energy by going 1 for its next 12, allowing Maryland (15-1, 4-0) to build a 58-50 lead with 4:44 remaining.
“We were good for about four minutes,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “About the eight0minute mark to the four-minute mark, we were really, really good. We executed.”
UW shot 24-for-62 (38.7 percent), including 11 for 34 (32.4 percent) in the second half, 7-for-21 from 3-point range and 5-for-11 from the free throw line.
Per the norm under Gard, however, UW went down fighting. Zak Showalter drew a foul on 1:19 after his made layup to cut the lead to two possessions. While he missed the free throw, his 3-pointer on the ensuing possession cut the deficit to 60-57 with 1:05 remaining.
When Maryland guard Rasheed Sulaimon missed the front end of the bonus, only the Terrapins’ third missed free throw of the game, Koenig hit his third 3-pointer to tie the game at 60 with 23 seconds left. With thoughts of an upset brewing in overtime, Trimble ended it when he squared up in front of Showalter for the dagger.
Nigel Hayes, who described his game as “poop” to reporters earlier in the week, delivered with 17 points and was active early, but went only 1-for-8 in the second half when, according to him, he started to feed the hot hand. That belonged to Ethan Happ, who added 16 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double on the season. Problem was there wasn’t much help outside that.
Koenig had 12 points but needed 12 shots to get there, Vitto Brown went 0-for-3 to drop his shooting percentage to 34.5 percent in Big Ten play and the UW bench went 2-for-12.
MADISON - Wisconsin did not shoot the lights out, but the balance the Badgers displayed was too much for Northwestern to defend in a 65-50 UW victory at the Kohl Center.
Sam Dekker and Bronson Koenig scored 16 points to lead the four players in double figures for the Badgers (21-2, 9-1 Big Ten), which begin the second half of Big Ten play with a two-game lead over Maryland after winning six straight and 14 of their last 15.
And while the final score looks ugly, there were plenty of bright spots to pick up among the mess.
Making his 127th career start, breaking a tie with Alando Tucker for most in school history, senior Josh Gasser grabbed a season-high nine rebounds (seven in the first half) while adding eight points, three assists and no turnovers.
Koenig’s point total set a career high for a second straight game and he did most of his damage by going 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Since being inserted in the starting lineup, Koenig is 18-for-34 (52.9 percent) from the perimeter.
Dekker scored 11 of his points in the first half as Wisconsin led by as many as 18. In five career games against Northwestern, Dekker has scored in double figures each time.
Wisconsin finished at only 38.9 percent but accomplished its game plan by finishing near 1.2 points per possession to equal the 2006-07 team for the best 23-game start in program history.
“It’s a testament to our shooting ability,” said forward Nigel Hayes (11 points, 8 rebounds). “We work hard on that during practice, at the end of practice, and it’s great to see that. It doesn’t look like it was 1.2, the way we moved the ball, share the ball with one another and get open shots shows a very unselfish team that’s capable of knowing down shots.”
Losers of nine straight, including the first five by a combined 17 points, Northwestern (10-13, 1-9) tried throwing a 2-3 zone at Wisconsin. When that didn’t work the Wildcats went back to man-to-man. When that didn’t work either, allowing the Badgers to open the game on a 19-4 run, Collins didn’t have to worry about his team processing another close conference loss.
Wisconsin has won nine of the last 10 against the Wildcats overall, including a sweep of a home-and-home series last season.
The Badgers have won five in a row against Northwestern in Evanston and seven of the last eight. The five wins are the longest active road winning streak for the Badgers over one opponent.
UW’s last seven victories over NU have come by an average of 22.9 points. The Badgers have held Northwestern below 70 points for 33 consecutive games
The Badgers have won 5 straight at Northwestern, a portion of UW’s recent success in the state of Illinois. Wisconsin has also won each of its last 3 games vs. Illinois in Champaign and won 3 games at the United Center in Chicago last year to claim the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.
Wisconsin’s losses have come vs. teams who are a combined 97-29 (.770).
UW is 1-3 in Big Ten play for the first time since opening the 2012 season with that mark. That season, the Badgers won their next six games and went on to post a record of 12-6 and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten.
The Badgers held Maryland to a season-low 63 points on Saturday. Over the last 10 games, UW has held Oklahoma, Purdue, Temple, Marquette, Indiana and Maryland to season-low point totals. Wisconsin has also held each of those past 10 opponents below 1.0 points per possession.
The Badgers also rank third in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 36.7 percent of their misses (225 offensive boards on 613 opportunities). Indiana leads at 39.4 percent.
Northwestern ranks seventh in the nation with a 1.73 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Wildcats have dished out 306 assists while committing only 177 turnovers through their first 17 games. NU’s average of 18.0 assists per game ranks 17th nationally and second in the conference.
Northwestern has had six different players score 20 or more points in a game. Northern Colorado is the only Division I team with more 20-point scorers (7) than the Wildcats this season.
The Wildcats’ 25-point margin of victory Saturday at Minnesota was their largest in a Big Ten road game since a 77-20 victory at Chicago on Jan. 14, 1944. It was the largest winning margin in a Big Ten game overall since a 78-47 home win over Ohio State on Jan. 25, 1997.
Northwestern is 8-0 this season when making 10 or more 3-pointers in a game. Five different Wildcats have hit at least 21 triples during the 2015-16 season.
After 13 games of assists, points and few turnovers, Tre Demps lost his touch.
The Northwestern star had gone from a double-digit scorer with a pension for dishing out assists and limiting turnovers to becoming the exact opposite in home games against Maryland and Ohio State. He shot a combined 7-for-33 (including 2-for-14 from 3-point range), had no assists and three turnovers against the Terps.
As a result, the 13-1 Wildcats missed out on two opportunities to register a big win for the program.
“I just felt like I was pressing, putting a lot of pressure on myself,” said Demps. “I have to give all the credit to my coaches and teammates. They kept talking to me, helping me focus on the defensive end and eventually things would come offensively.”
Things certainly did Saturday afternoon in a 77-52 victory at Minnesota, as Demps (13 points) and company got back on track by shooting 56 percent from the field, making 11 3-pointers and holding Minnesota to only 17 rebounds.
After their past two seasons were derailed by extended losing streaks, the Wildcats picked themselves up quickly with a win they needed to have.
''My first year we were 5-5 and we lost seven in a row,'' Northwestern coach Chris Collins said following the Minnesota win. ''Last year we win our first game and then we lose 10 in a row. We had a tough week last week against two really good teams, Maryland and Ohio State. This was a big game for us to kind of test where we were at as a team.''
A young team with talent a year ago, Northwestern has grown that talent under Collins, a former McDonalds All-American who played and coached at Duke. Even with Alex Olah on the shelf with a stress fracture, the talent has still shined through to become balanced on offense and improving on defense.
In their win over the Gophers, the Wildcats were efficient, moved the ball, made the extra pass and found a lot of contributors. Most importantly, they made open shots.
“We had a meeting (with) a lot of guys talking about everybody has to take it to another level,” said Demps. “Guys were working hard after the Ohio State game. I think it showed (against Minnesota). We had such a balance scoring. I think that’s how we’re going to be the most successful.”
It also helps when Northwestern buys into the zone defense. While Collins would prefer to play man-to-man, he has stuck with the zone over the last few weeks because of Olah’s injury and his players’ believing in its success. Northwestern has held its last two opponents to 65 points or less.
The emergence of Falzon, a 6-8 freshman forward who visited UW on an unofficial visit, has helped Northwestern overcome the loss of Olah. Against Minnesota, Falzon was 6 for 9 from the 3-point line, giving Northwestern another scorer to go along with Demps and McIntosh to help the Wildcats become a threat.
“Those guys are buying in,” Gard said of Northwestern. “You can tell how hard they play and they like to play together. It’s a team that has grown throughout the couple years Chris has been there.”
Northwestern is a team that can make shots, and Wisconsin is not … at least not with any consistency to this point in Big Ten play. I’ve wrestled with this pick for 48 hours and come to this conclusion; I’m cautiously optimistic that tonight is the night UW puts it all together, but my gut says to pick the Wildcats. Therefore, Northwestern by five.
Worgull's Record: 12-5
Points off Prediction: 189 (11.1 per game)