In ending their three-game losing streak with a win at Purdue on Saturday afternoon No. 14 Wisconsin seemed to have turned things around, and in theory a home game against Northwestern represented the opportunity to go on a run. Unfortunately for Bo Ryan’s Badgers things didn’t work out that way, as they struggled on both ends of the floor in a 65-56 loss to the Wildcats in Madison.
The most glaring problem would be Wisconsin’s shooting, as they made just 26.3% of their attempts from the field. Ben Brust scored 21 points on 7-for-18 shooting but the other four starters combined to make just seven of their thirty-five shot attempts, resulting in the Badgers putting forth their worst offensive performance of the entire season.
Northwestern does deserve some credit for this, as they didn’t give Wisconsin anything easy nearly four weeks after getting blown out in Evanston. However with that 76-49 result from January 2nd in mind one can only wonder what happened to Wisconsin’s ability to make shots, something that wasn’t even an issue during the aforementioned three-game losing streak.
What was a problem in those three games was the way in which Wisconsin defended, and while Northwestern’s point total didn’t reach the 70-point plateau the task of guarding Drew Crawford proved to be too much for the Badgers to handle Wednesday night. Crawford scored 30 points, making ten of his fifteen shots from the field while also grabbing eight rebounds.
As a team the Wildcats shot 47.9% from the field and 7-for-16 from three, with their proficiency making up for the fact that they turned the ball over 14 times (Crawford and Sanjay Lumpkin were responsible for ten). Wisconsin didn’t defend as poorly as they did in their three prior Big Ten losses, with each of those teams shooting at least 51% from the field, but down the stretch they simply did not have an answer for the Wildcats.
The big question to ask in the aftermath of this defeat is whether or not tonight’s offensive showing will fester into something far worse. And the answer, based upon what Wisconsin has done throughout the season, is no. Players such as Brust, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky have all proven to be highly capable scorers, and Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser can hit shots as well.
Wisconsin simply endured its worst offensive night of the season. And with Drew Crawford knocking down shots for Northwestern, the Badgers paid dearly for it.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: