Failure to Finish

After countless seasons of being the well-conditioned team that thrived in the closing minutes, Wisconsin basketball has seen three second-half leads slip through its hands during its five-game losing streak.

MADISON – It's an observation that doesn't get associated with a Bo Ryan coached team very often, if at all:

UW being out muscles, out hustled and not be the aggressor in the crunch minutes.

Glance at the results over the past two seasons, a combined record for 71-11, and games last season against Texas, Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan State further accentuate the point that the Badgers don't fumble the ball down the stretch.

That is, until this season.

Wisconsin continues to slide downward on a losing streak that has reach five games, the Badgers longest skid since dropping eight in a row in 1998, by seeing the opponents find their spark while UW shoots itself in the foot.

In UW's latest outing against Purdue, a banged-up Boilermaker squad quickly erased a four-point, going on an 11-2 spurt that saw Purdue score on five of their final six possessions to secure the win.

Not only did Purdue – who shot 59.5 percent overall – make the shots when it counted, the Boilermakers made a majority of their late-game buckets without so much as a hand in their face.

"If they aren't going to hit (those) shots, they've got to be earned and it wasn't," UW point guard Trevon Hughes said. "That's what hurts."

What hurts Wisconsin, a team that prides itself on conditioning every preseason by running countless sprints up the hill at Elver Park, is the Purdue game wasn't just a coincidence, it was another chapter to a growing trend.

Against Minnesota, a team the Badgers had beaten 12 straight games in Madison, the Gophers were down 12 with five minutes remaining, closed the game on an 8-2 run and never showed signs of distress in an overtime win.

At Iowa, the Badgers managed to erase a late seven-point deficit but watched the Hawkeyes, the conference's second-worst scoring offense, went a perfect 3-for-3 from the field in overtime (including two three pointers) and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line.

In fact, during UW's five-game losing streak, the Badgers have had 13 field goal droughts lasting at least four minutes.

"It is frustrated, because we (closed games) earlier and now we can't close it out," Hughes said. "Other teams are getting the victory when they shouldn't."

When the Badgers (12-8, 3-5 Big Ten) take the court at Welsh-Ryan Arena against Northwestern (11-7, 3-5 Big Ten) tonight, Wisconsin's shooters will need to find its shooting touch, along with its late-game aggressiveness.

The Badgers top three scorers – Marcus Landry (13.1 ppg), Hughes (12.2 ppg) and Jason Bohannon (10.9 ppg) – are shooting a combined 35.7 percent (55-for-154) during Wisconsin's four game losing streak. The trio has led UW in scoring only twice, both coming off the hands of Landry.

During UW's four game skid, Wisconsin has shot less than 40 percent from the field three times, less than 35 percent from three-point range all four games and have shot more than 15 free throws only once.

With Northwestern leading the conference with a 4.59 turnover margin and averaging 70 points in its last four games, the Wildcats have found their shooting touch.

"We just have to keep playing and knock (shots) down," senior Joe Krabbenhoft said. "Northwestern is doing a really good job of making shots. Northwestern is on a roll and good shooting is contagious. One of the guys gets hot, all the other guys are going to get that feeling and good thing are going to start happening."

Wisconsin certainly has the bruises that come with having one of the toughest schedules in the nation, but the Badgers know life now could be much better. With Wisconsin losing its last four games by an average of four points, the frustration is mounting for the Badgers and is due to erupt.

"It's frustrating because we have seniors that have played on two of the best teams in Wisconsin history the past two years," freshman Jordan Taylor said. "I know when I am a senior, I don't want to be in this position. We've got to get it together for them … get this turned around, get an NCAA bid and make some noise in the tournament when we get there."


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