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.