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Wisconsin basketball: Nebraska recap

SB Nation logo SB Nation 1/22/2020 MattBelz
a man holding a basketball © Dan Sanger

After a tough loss to Michigan State over the weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team (12-7 overall, 5-3 B1G) was back to the hardwood with a chance to get back in the win column against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-12 overall, 2-6 B1G).

Nebraska has struggled under new head coach Fred Hoiberg, losing their last three games in Big Ten play, and sporting a below .500 record thanks to a lot of roster turnover.

On Tuesday night, Nebraska continued their slide down the conference standings, as the Badgers shucked the Cornhuskers to the tune of 82-68.

In the first few minutes of game play, Wisconsin started off heavily reliant from behind the three-point arc, making six of their first ten shots from deep, as each team came out shooting well. The Badgers were able to jump out to a nice early lead in large part because of the strong shooting.

The Wisconsin defense was not up to par throughout the night though, as Nebraska was able to hang around during the middle part of the first half thanks to some sloppy turnovers and a lack of defensive effort. Nebraska eventually took a one-point lead at around the six minute mark, but Wisconsin would settle back in and ultimately went into the halfway mark with a slight one point edge of their own.

In the first five minutes of the second half, everything was falling on the offensive end, as the Badgers went on a 17-4 run to extend the lead to 14 thanks to some better help defense and continued great shooting, mainly from Brad Davison.

The Wisconsin shooting expo would only rumble on, as Greg Gard’s crew was far from the team that only put up 20 points in the first half against Michigan State. The Badgers would extend the lead to as high as 17 points, but Nebraska would not back down, as they went on a 8-0 run of their own to tighten the game up near the 10-minute mark.

Down the stretch though Wisconsin would get hot again, and pull away for a 14 point win over the Cornhuskers.

Notable stat lines:

  • Nate Reuvers —> 11 points (4-of-8 from the floor), four rebounds, four blocks
  • Brevin Pritzl —> 12 points (4-of-11 from the floor), three rebounds
  • Brad Davison —> 14 points (5-of-11 from the floor), six rebounds, one steal
  • D’Mitrik Trice —> 11 points (4-of-6 from the floor), 10 rebounds, seven assists
  • Dachon Burke Jr. (Nebraska) —> 20 points (10-of-14 from the floor), eight rebounds, one assist

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Help!!!

The Wisconsin defense was bad in the first half. There is no other way to turn a phrase. Nebraska was able to shoot a crazy 55% from the field with 18 of their 38 points coming from inside the paint against the Badgers. Wisconsin struggled with help defense from the interior, as both D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison struggled with the quickness of the Cornhusker guards.

Over the past seven games, the defense was the primary reason for the overall team improvement. Against Nebraska, that was just not there for long stretches, namely in the first half. If Wisconsin wants to be a contender in the conference going forward, the defensive effort will need to be better for a full 40 minutes.

No. 2: Passing the torch

Against Nebraska the overall ball movement was greatly improved from Friday night against Michigan State. While some of that is a product of environment and competition level, Wisconsin was much better at distributing the basketball within the rhythm of the offense, and the result was better shooting opportunities.

Too often against the Spartans, the Badgers settled for contested one-on-one jump shots. That was not the case against Nebraska, as Wisconsin passed the ball quickly and efficiently, a big reason for the stellar three-point shooting in the first half.

In an offense predicated on ball movement, Wisconsin is at its best when defenses have to be mindful of the entire court. The Badgers did an excellent job of utilizing the skip pass and swinging the ball horizontally, as well as inside out.

While the defensive effort in the first half was not up to snuff, the ball distribution was a huge eye opener, as the Badgers finished with 23 assists.

No. 3: Three-point barrage

After not shooting more than 23 three-pointers in any game in Big Ten play during the first seven contests, Wisconsin was making it rain on Tuesday night against Nebraska. The Badgers shot a season high 34 three-pointers, and made a school-record 18 of them.

Wisconsin has been far less reliant on the triple as of late this season, but when you’re hot, let it fly. For the night, Wisconsin shot a balmy 52.9% from deep, after entering the game shooting only 32.5% on the season.

With some big conference games upcoming against Purdue and Michigan State, hopefully the Badgers can bottle up some of that mojo for the rest of the week.

For the game, the Badgers scored more than 80 points for the first time since against Milwaukee back in the middle of December.

Up next: Wisconsin will be back in action on Friday on the road against Purdue. You can check out the Badgers and Boilermakers at 6 p.m. CST on FS1.

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