Five Takeaways From Wisconsin’s 59-52 Loss to Minnesota

Five Takeaways From Wisconsin’s 59-52 Loss to Minnesota

Basketball

Five Takeaways From Wisconsin’s 59-52 Loss to Minnesota

Five things that stood out from Wisconsin’s 59-52 loss to Minnesota Thursday at the Kohl Center, dropping the Badgers to 10-4 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play.

Free Throws Killing Wisconsin

There have been some bad free throw shooting teams at Wisconsin in past seasons (2012-13 comes to mind), but this year’s group could eventually take the cake.

The Badgers had a lot of issues in the 59-52 loss to Minnesota but a big one is the team’s consistent ineffectiveness from the free throw line. The Badgers were 7-for-17 from the line, an ugly 41.2 percent that was easily the worst of a season that has delivered countless bad free throw shooting performances. How many? Thursday was the fourth sub-.500 game from the line and the third in the last six games.

As a team, UW is shooting 67.4 percent from the line with five rotation players shooting under 71 percent from the line.

Those 10 lost points, including three missed free throws on the front end of the bonus, were a huge difference and cost UW a second time this season (Marquette being the first)

Interesting to note, since Greg Gard became the full-time head coach for the 2016-17 season, UW has shot 64.4 percent as a team and 69.7 percent as a team from the line. A large part of that has been Ethan Happ being woeful from the line, which leads us to ….

Happ Is Becoming a Late-Game Liability

The senior is likely a slam-dunk first-team All-Big Ten candidate and a potential first-team All-American, but there comes a time where Gard might have to put Happ on the bench down the stretch in a tight game.

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino admitted after the game that the Gophers’ plan was to foul Happ late in the game and not let him shoot. The plan worked with Happ going 1-for-7 from the line in the second half, including missing the front end of two bonuses and missed a pair with 37 seconds left and UW down eight.

Happ said the only way to stop that tactic is to make free throws but the in-game improvement hasn’t been there over the course of his career. Currently, Happ is 29-for-61 (47.5 percent) from the line.

There’s no question that Wisconsin needs Happ’s offense in order to currently function at a high level, but it’s coming at a cost when teams follow Pitino’s line of thinking.

Iverson Not Delivering

Although a clear role player in Wisconsin’s scheme, asked to do more defensively than offensively, senior Khalil Iverson did nothing to shock a stagnate offense back into rhythm. He scored just three points, attempted just two shots, missed three free throws (two coming with under four minutes left and UW could have cut the deficit to four) and grabbed only one rebound.

While he scored 10 points at Western Kentucky, that performance was outside the norm. Iverson has been held to five points or less seven times this year, including four of the last five, and three straight games with one rebound or less.

Wisconsin needs players to step in offensively when others are struggling, and Iverson has shown he can’t be counted on in this regard to this point of his career.

UW Sinks Or Swims With Trice’s Offense

Wisconsin entered the night 0-3 when Trice scores 10 points or less and remain 10-0 when he surpasses 10 points. Trice was 3-for-10 from the field, didn’t attempt a free throw, finished with eight points and the Badgers lost again.

Marquette exposed a flaw with the junior point guard when overplaying his right hand and had led the UW point guard to go into a shooting funk from 3-point range. After his blistering start to the season from the perimeter, Trice is now 9-for-30 from the perimeter, including his 2-for-7 performance against the Gophers.

Lack of a Bench

The Badgers held Minnesota to just 43.8 percent shooting for the game and outscored them 38-30 in the second half. That should be enough to win. Problem was UW’s offense stunk in the first half in scoring only 14 points. For Gard, it’s coming to the point in these kinds of games that he has to roll with his starters to figure it out, as he’s getting no consistent pop from his bench.

Yes, UW’s reserves delivered nice performances against Savannah State and Grambling State but those came against struggling programs. The Badgers got six points at Western Kentucky from the second string and only eight against the Gophers. Worst yet, the reserves haven’t hunted their shot the last two outings (attempted a combined 15 shots in 97 minutes).

Brevin Pritzl has attempted five of those shots and made only two (all 3-pointers), Kobe King is still just a redshirt freshman, Aleem Ford plus/minus scoring was a team-worst minus-12 Thursday, senior Charles Thomas barely plays and true freshman Tai Strickland hasn’t played. It’s a mess that needs to get corrected with Big Ten play heating up.

 

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