Jackie Kirr/BadgerNation

Badgers Breakdown: No.6 Northwestern vs. No.2 Wisconsin

Following a satisfying 10-point victory over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, second-seed Wisconsin is out for redemption when it faces sixth-seed Northwestern in the tournament semifinals. BadgerNation breaks down the match-up.

Northwestern (23-10, 10-8 Big Ten) vs. No.24 Wisconsin (24-8, 12-6 Big Ten)  

Date/Time – Saturday, March 11, approximately 2:30 p.m. central

Arena – Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center (20,356) 

Television – CBS (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill and Bill Raftery) 

Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 114-64 (Wisconsin leads 8-3 on neutral courts)

Last Meeting – Northwestern won, 66-59, on February 12, 2017, in Madison

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 8.3 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.4 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 13.9 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 14.2 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 6.7 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 6.1 ppg)

1 Brevin Pritzl (6-3 Freshman Guard, 2.0 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 3.7 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH 

Koenig led five Badgers in double figures in their 10-point win over Indiana in the quarterfinals, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Koenig also had a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and a team-best three steals.

NORTHWESTERN PROBABLE STARTERS

4 Vic Law (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 12.7 ppg)

5 Dererk Pardon (6-8 Sophomore Center, 8.6 ppg)

20 Scottie Lindsey (6-5 Junior Guard, 14.1 ppg)

30 Bryant McIntosh (6-3 Junior Guard, 14.6 ppg) 

34 Sanjay Lumpkin (6-6 Senior Forward, 6.3 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

12 Isiah Brown (6-2 Freshman Guard, 6.8 ppg)

32 Nate Taphorn (6-7 Senior Forward, 4.5 ppg) 

44 Gavin Skelly (6-8 Junior Forward, 6.2 ppg) 

PLAYER TO WATCH

Missing Northwestern’s win in Madison last month, Lindsey scored 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting to lead the Wildcats into their first Big Ten tournament semifinals.

LAST TIME OUT

WASHINGTON – A sound performance on both ends of the court prolonged No.24 Wisconsin’s postseason stay, as five players reached double figures to lead the Badgers to a 70-60 victory over the Hoosiers at the Verizon Center.

Bronson Koenig had 16 points and five assists, while Ethan Happ contributed a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice chipped in 13 points and Zak Showalter added 12 on a night where Wisconsin clicked on both ends of the floor, something that had been missing during a late-season slide that saw them lose five of six.

“I think for a while there, our offense kind of sputtered,” Happ said. “Our defense was keeping us together. Once we got the offense going, our defense was kind of lacking. Now we're focusing on both. We've been doing a good job of maintaining both, not letting one lapse.”

James Blackmon scored 17 points and had eight rebounds to lead Indiana (18-15), which put three other players in double figures but got little help from sophomore center Thomas Bryant. Averaging 12.9 points per game, Bryant finished with two points with and no field goals for the first time in his college career, having no answer for Happ and Company in blanketed coverage.

Indiana had entered Friday scoring at least 90 points in its last two games, but the Badgers’ defense locked down the Hoosiers to only 41.1 percent shooting and less than one point per possession.

Wisconsin had a 59-47 lead with 6:28 to go after a Happ layup, but consecutive 3-pointers by Indiana on either side of another Happ layup cut the lead to eight. A Koenig three increased the lead to 64-53, but the Hoosiers reacted with a 7-0 run of their own to cut the lead to four. 

Unlike last Thursday, when failures down the stretch cost the Badgers a home win against Iowa, Wisconsin ended the game on a 6-0 run that included hitting four straight free throws down the stretch.

“I would say we were just trying to keep our poise,” Koenig said, “not give them anything else easy, not turn the ball over, and just get good shots every time down the floor.”

The Hoosiers scored 20 points on their first 13 possessions, including hitting four of six 3-pointers. Two of Indiana's early three pointers came off offensive rebounds, accounting for six of the Hoosier's 10 early second chance points.  Another three pointer came in transition following a steal by Robert Johnson.  When Gard burned a timeout to emphasize getting body on bodies, things started to change.

After that point, Indiana scored seven points on its final 17 possessions of the half.

Trailing 22-19 in the first half, Wisconsin pulled ahead for good with a 12-2 run that was a combination mid-range jumpers, low-post presence and perimeter marksmanship. The Badgers shot 5-for-9 on threes in the first half and 10-for-22 for the game, balancing out their 17-for-35 on two-point shots.

Wisconsin continued to push the lead in the second half, stretching the lead to 14 points by outscoring Indiana 14-6 over the first 6:08. The Badgers reached their biggest lead at 57-42 off of a Trice 3-pointer with 8:14 left to play.

SERIES NOTES

Wisconsin and Northwestern have only met once in the Big Ten tournament, a 51-41 Badgers victory in the second round in 2000.

The Wildcats have won two straight in the series for the first time since sweeping both meetings in the 1995-96 season.

The Badgers haven’t lost three straight to Northwestern since March 1993 to March 1994.

The Badgers have held Northwestern to 70 or fewer points for 35 consecutive games.

LAST MEETING

MADISON – Save for a brief run to start the second half, No.7 Wisconsin was stuck in the same shooting rut, only this time couldn’t make enough defensive plays to save itself in a 66-59 loss to Northwestern.

Junior Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points on 23 shots to give Northwestern (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) a signature win to its resume, ending the Badgers’ 19-game home winning streak.

A day after fans created an uproar that the N.C.A.A. tournament selection committee didn’t view the Badgers as one of the top 16 teams in the country, Wisconsin responded by shooting 38 percent (19-for-50) and – in a change from recent weeks - sloppy play that prevented things from balancing out.

Not only did the Badgers finish with as many turnovers as points in the paint (12), they allowed the Wildcats - playing without leading scorer Scottie Lindsey for the third straight game – to shoot 48.3 percent from the floor in the second half, drop seven 3-pointers and deliver a defensive effort the likes the Badgers hadn’t seen since early January.

Ethan Happ scored seven points on Wisconsin’s first eight possessions, but the Wildcats took a page out of Nebraska’s playbook and threw double teams at him whenever he entered the low post. The result was the sophomore missing the four shots he took over the final 34:15 of the game, managing only a pair of free throws.

Because of Northwestern being undermanned, head coach Chris Collins said he was planning on double teaming Happ, and even Hayes to a degree, and live with the other players on the floor attempting jump shots. 

Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter combined for 21 points on only six missed shots, but Bronson Koenig continues to struggle. Finishing 1-for-8, Koenig has missed at least seven shots in three of last four games and is 14-for-55 (25.5 percent) over that stretch, including 7-for-31 from 3-point range. The shooting slump coincides with a leg injury suffered in late January.

Wisconsin sprinted out of the gates on an 11-4 run, going 5-for-8 from the floor and holding the Wildcats to only 2-for-9. But like they have many times over the last month, the Badgers’ offense crashed down to earth. Only this time it took its defense and ball security with it. 

For as quick as Northwestern dug itself a hole, the Wildcats delivered a 22-5 run over an 8:38 stretch, including a 16-0 run in six possessions that concluded with 3-pointers on three straight trips down the floor.

It didn’t help that the Badgers committed five turnovers in a 3:56 span, enabling the Wildcats to start sprinting ahead and lead 31-22 at the break.

There was a glimmer of hope to begin the second half, as Wisconsin ripped off a 10-0 by holding Northwestern scoreless on its first five possessions (including three airballs) and dropping a couple early perimeter shots, but a 14-5 counter run built the Cats’ lead to 47-38 with 9:31 left.

The Badgers couldn’t cut the lead closer than four. After D’Mitrik Trice’s layup cut the lead to 51-47 with 5:36 remaining, the Badgers finished the game 2-for-11 that included a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.

WISCONSIN NOTES

The Badgers are 22-16 in Big Ten Tournament games. 

Wisconsin converted 10 of its 22 3-point field goal attempts vs. Indiana. It was the 10th game this season in which the Badgers had 10 or more treys. Koenig added to his school record for career 3-pointers with four treys against Indiana, giving him 241 3-point field goals.

Wisconsin held Indiana “three-less” from 13:01 of the first half to 12:18 of the second half, causing an 0- of-7 streak without a 3-pointer. During that span, Wisconsin turned a three-point deficit (IND 16-13) into a 47-37 lead. Indiana made four of its first five attempts from beyond the arc, but ended up the game 9-of- 22. 

Five Badger players scored in double-figures against Indiana, marking the third game this season Wisconsin has reached that mark. UW is 3-0 in such games.

NORTHWESTERN NOTES

Northwestern’s victory over Maryland sends the Wildcats to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for the first time. 

Vic Law, Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh combined to score 50 of Northwestern’s 72 points vs. Maryland.

Through two Big Ten Tournament games, Northwestern is shooting .577 from the field (56-of-97) and .457 from beyond the arc (16-of-35). The Wildcats have out-rebounded their two opponents, 65-43.

Individually, through two Big Ten Tournament games this year: Vic Law has scored 33 points on 10-of-13 shooting (4-of-5 3-pointers); Scottie Lindsey has scored 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting (4-of-13 3- pointers); Bryant McIntosh has 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting (3-of-4 3-pointers); and Dererk Pardon has 17 points and 16 rebounds. 

PREDICTION

After giving up 83 and 84 points in a four-day span, many wondered what was going to become of a senior-laden Wisconsin basketball team that many predicted would win the Big Ten and make a deep run in the month of March. To be fair, the upperclassmen in the locker room were wondering that, too.

So after the stunning home loss to Iowa, officially eliminating them from their preseason goal of winning the Big Ten, a players-only meeting was summoned for guys to air out their grievances, work the problem and fix the problem. 

“We all came together and decided what we wanted out of the season,” Koenig said. “We knew that we had to start playing more as a unit and have fun again.”

The fun was extended when the Badgers were able to pick up where they left off from the Minnesota game, delivering a balanced effort on both ends of the court with good ball movement, good balance in shot selection and aggressive defense to dispatch Indiana for the 18th time in the last 20 games.

“They are such a hype, emotional, passionate team that I think it fuels us,” Brown said about Indiana. “They can come in here yelling. Obviously they’re a good team, but we’re not going to let you get away with that, yelling in our face and get the best of us. Mainly it’s a pride thing. We want to beat every team we play, but for them especially. I think the fact that they’re good players and they also try to let you know it, OK, we’re good too and we can show you as well.”

That rivalry isn’t there with Northwestern, but the angst against the Wildcats is certainly brewing after they started the Badgers’ February slide with their win in Madison. In knocking off Maryland in front of a hostile crowd last night, Northwestern shot 55.6 percent, won the rebounding battle 32-24 and forced 14 turnovers in the upset, numbers that helped them overcome 16 turnovers of its own. Even having more miscues didn’t bother the Wildcats, which outscored the Terps, 25-15, in points off turnovers.

Northwestern went 19-for-32 on two-point shots and assisted on 15 of its 26 buckets, a sign that Wisconsin will need to be up to the test again against an offense that is on a little bit of a roll.

The Badgers were susceptible to the Wildcats a couple weeks ago, but it appears losing five of six has hardened this group and made them, as Koenig put it, “more determined than ever.” Plus I have a feeling the Badgers are wanting to give the Wildcats a little bit of payback.

Wisconsin by eight.

Worgull's Record: 26-6

Points off Prediction: 289 (8.7 per game)


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