It was clear Wisconsin was going to live and die by the three. For the first part of the first half it looked like a good plan. The Badgers started the game 8-for-13 from three and built an 8-point lead. But the hot shooting came to an abrupt and ugly end with the Badgers missing their final 11 3s to end the half and finished the game shooting a lowly 28.2 percent (11-for-39) from behind the arc.
Not only did the Badgers attempt 39 shots from three, they did little to try and get better looks. Part of it was Creighton protecting the paint but at times the offense didn’t try and establish a post presence. Wisconsin finished the game with 20 points in the lane and didn’t attempt its first free throw until the 5:21 mark in the second half. Those are two recipes that will rarely result in success when playing on the road in a raucous environment.
Wisconsin finished the game shooting 26-for-63 (41.3 percent) from the field, a percentage helped by shooting 50 percent in the second half. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes were the only two players to reach double figures as they finished the game 21 and 16 points, respectively. The seniors combined to shoot 14-for-32 from the floor and 13 of Koenig’s 19 field goal attempts came from three (three makes). The rest of Wisconsin’s starters each finished the game with seven points.
It is hard to win a game when a team is struggling shooting, but Wisconsin compounded the problem by making an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers, including three starters (Koenig, Hayes and Ethan Happ) making four each. Creighton was already shooting the ball well, but the turnovers led to transition opportunities and 26 points for the Bluejays.
Wisconsin was able to track down a good number of its misses and finished the game with 16 offensive rebounds but even converting those into points was a challenge. With Wisconsin struggling to shoot and the inability to get the basketball down low, the offensive rebounds didn’t result in a lot of success (11 points).
The bench for Wisconsin was nonexistent on the offensive end after registering 31 points against Central Arkansas. The Badgers finished with nine points and a combined three offensive rebounds between five substitutes. Alex Illikainen led the way with six points (2-for-7) and D’Mitrik Trice chipped in with a 3-pointer.
Creighton got into a flow offensively and never really lost much of the momentum. If it was generating high percentage shots in the post (32 points in the paint) or passing the ball effectively to get an open shot, the BlueJays shot 50 percent (28-for-56) from the field and 50 percent from three (8-for-16).
Khyri Thomas led the way with a team-high 18 points in a balanced effort (3-for-5 from 2, 3-for-3 from 3, 3-for-3 from the line) and Maurice Watson finished the game with 17 points on 5-for-13 shooting. If he wasn’t finding a way to score he was distributing to one of his teammates as he finished with 10 assists. Marcus Foster (15) and Justin Patton (10) also reached double figures for the Bluejays.
Creighton’s high shooting percentage left them few opportunities to grab offensive rebounds, as the Badgers limited them to six offensive boards and five second-chance points. UW finished the game with 26 defensive rebounds and won the rebounding battle, 42-27. Ethan Happ led the way for Wisconsin on the glass, as eight of his team-leading 10 rebounds came off missed Creighton shots.
Although Watson committed five turnovers, Creighton finished the game with only seven turnovers, resulting in just 13 points for Wisconsin. The Bluejays played with energy the Badgers couldn’t match, as the hosts seemed to get every loose ball and create opportunities at the free throw line (15-for-25)
From long offensive droughts to failing to consistently come up with critical defensive stops when they needed them, nothing went right for Wisconsin, as they simply made too many mistakes against a talented Creighton team.
Never able to go on a sustained run, the Badgers let Creighton go on a 13-2 run to end the first half (in part because UW missed 11 straight 3s) and went 8-for-20 from the field with six turnovers in the final 11 minutes of the second half. Those six miscues turned into eight points for the Bluejays.
Despite both reaching double figures, it was a struggle at times offensively for Koenig and Hayes. Hayes was responsible of scoring eight of Wisconsin’s first 11 points in the game and scored 11 first-half points, but he couldn’t establish the same kind of rhythm offensively in the second half. He only made two field goals on five attempts and his first one didn’t come until the 11:01 mark in the second half.
Wisconsin has one more game against Chicago State before they travel to Hawaii to compete in the Maui Invitational if Wisconsin doesn’t solve the problems that popped up against Creighton, it could be a rough three days.
Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. While he didn’t play great, and his one assist to four turnovers hurt UW’s chances at winning, Koenig helped keep Wisconsin in the game, including pulling the Badgers within five points with 1:36 to go, but ultimately the defense couldn’t come up with the stop they needed. The senior registered a team-high 21 points, 13 coming in the second half, and he was able to hit a couple of critical and tough shots that tried to breathe some life into the team.