MADISON - For most of Sunday's game, at least three quarters of it, Wisconsin was looking pretty good against a desperate Northwestern squad. But, like the Badgers found out, wins aren't handed out for 30 minutes of good play as it took all 40 minutes for UW to claim victory over the pesky Wildcats.
Now, before shifting attention to the rematch against Indiana coming up on Thursday night, BadgerBlitz.com takes a final look back at the good, bad and ugly from Sunday's win.
First half shooting:
Before you can truly appreciate the beauty of Wisconsin's first half shooting display, you have to go back to Thursday's ugliness.
In that loss to the Gophers, Wisconsin had Jon Leuer making his return to the team after a long setback with a broken wrist. Unfortunately, the junior forward only hit two of his 12 shots from the field and didn't quite look comfortable out there.
On top of Leuer's shoddy 17 percent shooting clip, Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor combined to shoot 8-of-25 from the field for a nasty 32 percent combined display.
Of all the Badger shooters in that game, only Jason Bohannon had a night worthwhile as his 50 percent from the floor clip would indicate.
So, after digesting that disaster inside the barn, it was refreshing to see Wisconsin come out with a shooters vengeance on Sunday afternoon, even if it was just for a half.
Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer and Taylor didn't miss (8-for-8 combined) in the opening 20 minutes, Hughes and Bohannon combined to hit 6-of-9 shots and Ryan Evans connected on one of his two shots from the floor.
The only bad thing to happen to UW in the opening half shooting wise was yet another Rob Wilson air ball. Remember the previous Sunday, when Wisconsin crushed Indiana, Wilson also hoisted a shot that failed to touch anything. Maybe the sophomore shooter just doesn't like shooting on Sunday's.
But then again, when his team compiles a 75 percent field-goal percentage, an air ball here or there won't cause too much damage.
Withstanding the drought:
For the third time in its last four games, Wisconsin suffered through another long scoring drought. But for the first time in those three games, UW still managed to come out on the winning side.
When UW suffered a surprising, if not shocking, loss to Illinois at home two weeks ago, the Badgers scored only six points over the final 10 minutes of the contest and failed to score for an eight-minute stretch.
Against Minnesota last week, UW suffered through another eight minute drought following a sequence of four 3-point shots missing after three offensive rebounds kept giving the Badgers a chance to cut into the Gophers five point lead. UW eventually lost by 16.
On Sunday, with a seemingly comfortable 12-point lead with just over 10 minutes to play, Wisconsin hit the deep freeze again and failed to score for nearly five minutes of game action.
Luckily, Bohannon drilled a three that seemed to get the offense back on track and the Badgers were able to hold on. Though it wasn't pretty, it was good to see the Badgers fight through yet another drought in a game where it just as easily could have stayed cold and dropped one to another league opponent.
Seriously, how good is this player? He scored 15 of his 26 points in the second half and basically willed his team back into contention to steal a much-needed resume-boosting win. He dominated Tim Jarmusz and any other defender that was trying to guard him and continually scored the basketball.
"I thought he was reading what the defense was giving and what the defense was taking away," Ryan said. "He's a developing player. I'm sure when other teams see this they will have to do different things against him. It's nice to see the development of a player, he just didn't have to do it today.
"He's a great young man and a great player."
Second half shooting:
Obviously it was magnified by the fact that UW shot 75 percent in the first half, but to back that effort up with a 26.3 percent display in the second frame was not good. Maybe the expectations were too high entering the final period after such an efficient opening half, but 26.3 percent shooting is not a number that is to be expected in a game that UW seemingly had control.
Then again, one has to credit Northwestern's defense in the final 20 minutes as well. They forced UW further away from the perimeter and made it difficult to drop it down to Leuer who was being fronted by the much smaller Michael Thompson.
"They were reading well, they were flying and they were very attentive to detail," Ryan, who also said NU's second half defense was the best he's seen them play, said. "They're better at that now."
I will talk more about NU's second half defense a bit later in the story.
Guard's assist to turnovers:
Between Bohannon, Hughes and Taylor, a trio of guards who normally take great care of the ball, Sunday's game proved to be a struggle.
Those three combined for six assists and seven turnovers. Taylor, one of the nations elite assist-to-turnover players, dished four helpers but negated that with four turnovers. Hughes, who has seemingly been in a slump over the past couple of weeks, had two dimes and three hiccups. Bohannon had two of each.
Overall, Wisconsin didn't really turn the ball over that much as it finished with just nine turnovers. But the fact that seven of them came from the trio of guards who is normally very strong with the ball, was a bit eye opening.
Not attacking the gaps in the zone:
For half of the second half, Wisconsin wasn't really having that much trouble against Northwestern's zone. But when the Wildcats started making their late run, it seemed as though Wisconsin was scratching its head in regards to beating the zone.
Instead of attacking the gaps like Mike Bruesewitz did in the opening half, UW settled near mid-court and lobbed passes around the perimeter before eventually hoisting a tough, contested shot.
A lot of that credit goes to Northwestern who obviously sensed they could create some problems offensively for the Badgers. But with tournament play upcoming, both on the conference and national scale, Wisconsin had better figure out how to break down a zone because they will most definitely see this look again.
"I thought we just needed to be a little more aggressive coming from the wing from Drew Crawford and Shurna," Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. "We had the chance, and I think they did a pretty nice job. We certainly played better defensively in the middle of the second, I thought."
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