The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team returned to the Kohl Center on Wednesday night after the Badgers’ big win over rival Marquette State. The win puts Wisconsin five wins against KenPom’s top 100 teams so far this season, tied with Alabama for most in the country.
The Badgers hope to add to that mark by beating Indiana in their Big Ten Conference opener. With three players suffering from an illness unrelated to COVID, including Lorne Bowman II and Jahcobi Neath, the flagship game of the match was set to be between preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis and Badgers big man Steven Crowl.
The battle between Crowl and Jackson-Davis began early on, with Wisconsin securing first possession. From the point, the defensive plan on Jackson-Davis was clear, with the Badgers sending in doubles on several occasions. Wisconsin’s solid defense was hit back with a solid wing shot from Indiana, keeping the game tight in the opening minutes.
The Hoosiers’ hot shot continued as they shot 68% towards the end of the half with a ten-point lead at the start. As the half progressed, the Badgers shot a weak 27% from the field, with flashbacks of their clash against Providence starting to set in. The narrative continued throughout half time, with the cover remaining locked to the rim for the Badgers over a clinical shot. NBA-style offensive performance from Indiana coach Mike Woodson.
Slowly the Badgers started scoring, getting into their sets and touching paint. That being said, the Hoosiers’ hot start continued for much of the first half, shooting 70% on a 3-point range. Sloppy shooting attempts and poor defensive rebounds from Wisconsin saw Indiana lead on the ball to 17 at halftime.
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The poor first-half juju slowly improved as the Badgers got off to a quick start, including a superb assist and subsequent slam between Crowl and goalie Johnny Davis. This dunk proved to be a stepping stone for Davis, pushing him to six unanswered points. Davis’ brother Jordan Davis also got involved and the duo continued to shoot, fueling a Wisconsin run that energized the Kohl Center.
When the substitutes arrived, the Badgers found themselves facing a ten-point deficit with just over ten minutes to go. The defensive effort helped the team slowly eat away at Indiana’s lead. The unexpected story of this game is that of Chris Vogt, who notched nine points in the second half, mainly thanks to hard nose rebounds and hard shots.
As the game drew closer to the final minutes, the Hoosiers began to foul Davis, creating opportunities down the line. Fouls didn’t get the better of Davis as he fell back three to give the Badgers their first halftime lead at 1:20 to go.
On the other side, the Hoosiers’ attempt to regain the lead was echoed by Tyler Wahl on the defensive end, leading to two icy free throws from real freshman Chucky Hepburn to seal the game for the Badgers.
Take away food
Today we saw that Ben Carlson has the potential to play a key role for this Wisconsin team. We’ve seen him on the ground several times and really fight in the paint against a great NBA grade man in Jackson-Davis. That being said, Carlson needs to spend time strengthening his base and playing wider with his hips in order to limit the chances of getting knocked over easily. Even with that, my optimism comes from the potential he presented, especially in the way he naturally moved towards the edge of the glass defensive and offensive. Along with that, he makes two to three 3-point attempts per game, a part of his skill that will be essential as he improves over time.
In the first half there was definitely a lack of fresh legs with the loss of Bowman and Neath. The most important thing these two add to this team is their shooting. It’s no exaggeration to say that Crowl and Wahl are great passers of the low post, and the same can be said of Davison and Davis of the wings.
During the first half, the players at the post were either not hitting or switching to shooters who weren’t hitting their threes. With several noticeable droughts, players like Bowman and Neath are excellent backup shooters who would have helped weather the shooting crisis in the first half.
Vogt appears in My Time consuming postgame, but it was the first game where he will be talked about by others through college basketball. From the start I have said that Vogt is a really underrated part of this team, especially his offensive rebound. Vogt’s length and ability to jump and kick the ball from the back panel really rocked Indiana’s rebound effort. While the Badgers have only played one conference game so far, I think Vogt might be the answer to the question of how Wisconsin can defend against the Big Ten’s Kofi Cockburns and Zach Edis. Conference.