Wisconsin bullied its way to another win in Hawaii.
The 16th-ranked Badgers pulled down 20 offensive rebounds, got 20 points from Bronson Koenig and 19 from Ethan Happ as they defeated Georgetown, 73-57, in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational on Tuesday evening.
Wisconsin held just a three-point advantage at halftime, but continued to pull away from the Hoyas slowly but surely throughout the second half.
The Hoyas looked to be in position to claim a second-straight win over a ranked opponent after they bested Oregon on Monday, but surrendering 19 second-chance points to the Badgers was their undoing.
While Wisconsin finished the day with a comfortable win, there are a few interesting things to explore with coach Greg Gard’s team.
The Badgers’ uncharacteristic issues with turnovers continued yet again against the Hoyas. They finished with 13 giveaways, which rated a 19.7 turnover percentage. In the first half, when the Badgers allowed Georgetown to stay close, they were at an unsightly 24.2 percent.
For seven-straight years, they ranked in the top-five nationally in turnover percentage (including No. 1 twice) until they free-fell out of the top-100 last year amid the Bo Ryan-Gard transition with a rate of 17.1 percent. This year, it’s fallen to 22.5 percent, which ranked 289th on Tuesday night.
That’s an issue for Wisconsin given every one of their possession takes on added importance compared to other programs given their snail’s pace. Their offense runs on precision and not only are turnovers a wasted possession, they’re an indicator of sloppy play, something they’ll struggle to survive.
The other component is that when the Badgers shoot, something good typically happens. Not only is their effective field goal percentage 54.5, they are an elite offensive rebounding team, grabbing 44 percent of their misses, which ranks eighth nationally.
That’s how the Badgers were able to wear down Georgetown throughout night as they absolutely dominated the glass and erased their turnover issue and so-so shooting.
Essentially, Wisconsin doesn’t necessarily have to make shots to be good offensively, they just need to take shots.
Wisconsin’s issues obviously are offset by what the Badgers do well, and they’ll be fine with guys like Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Happ, plus their supporting cast, on the roster whether or not the turnover numbers come down or remain static.
But it’ll be interesting to see as the Badgers’ season unfolds which stats are here to stay and which will move closer to norms. If Wisconsin can clean up its turnover problems while maintaining its high-level offensive rebounding, its offense is going to be a problem for the rest of the Big Ten – and perhaps much of the country.