Rushed Reactions: Wisconsin 76, Northwestern 48Posted by Chris Stone on March 11th, 2017
RTC’s Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) is providing on-site coverage of the Big Ten Tournament in Washington, DC.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Is Wisconsin back? All too frequently this season we’ve had to ask ourselves, “Is Duke back?” Maybe it’s time to shift the subject and ask the same thing about the Badgers. Before their home win over Minnesota in the final game of the regular season, the Badgers had lost five of six. They are now on a three-game winning streak with victories over the Gophers, Indiana and Northwestern. Wisconsin’s defense against the Wildcats today was smothering, holding them to a measly 0.76 points per possession. The Badgers also seemed to find a groove offensively. They made 12-of-29 three-pointers en route to 76 total points. Wisconsin’s late season losing streak likely pushed it several spots down the seed ladder, but when the Badgers are playing like this, they are a very dangerous opponent.
- Northwestern’s offense is its biggest March limitation. There’s no doubt that Wisconsin’s defense played a role in this, but the Wildcats’ offensive weaknesses were on display Saturday as it delivered its worst performance of the season — the fifth time this year (all losses) that they had scored below 0.90 points per possession. Northwestern’s most valuable offensive pieces are inefficient scorers, with Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsay all logging effective field goal percentages under 51.0 percent. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Wildcats are doomed to a short stay in their first NCAA Tournament ever, but if they want to win a game next week, they’ll need more out of their offense or a significantly better defensive outing to get the job done.
- Wisconsin won the hustle stats and that mattered. Both Northwestern head coach Chris Collins and McIntosh mentioned the Badgers’ work on the offensive boards and getting to loose balls as a turning point in Saturday’s game. “I thought those were the areas where they were able to stretch out their lead,” Collins said. Wisconsin grabbed 12 offensive boards, and while the box score doesn’t keep track of loose balls, it was often the Badgers who seemed to come up with them.
Star of the Game: Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin. Hayes finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season. Most importantly, he was a very efficient player today on the offensive end of the floor. Hayes shot 7-of-11 from the field and made a pair of three-pointers.
- “We didn’t even deserve to be on the floor at some points.” — Bryant McIntosh, on Northwestern’s performance.
- “I hope we can continue playing for a while because this has been a really fun team to coach.” — Chris Collins, on a potential NCAA Tournament appearance.
- “These guys understand that that’s where it starts.” — Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard, on the Badgers’ defense.
Sights and Sounds: Northwestern fans didn’t have too many things to cheer about during this games so they made sure to show some love to actress and Wildcats’ mom Julia Louis-Dreyfus when she showed up on the jumbotron. Louis-Dreyfus was booed by the overwhelmingly pro-Maryland crowd last night — they were busy erupting for Scott Van Pelt — but the Wisconsin contingent seemed content with their massive lead.
What’s Next: The Badgers move on to face Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament championship game while Northwestern will head back to Evanston to await the Selection Committee’s announcement tomorrow evening. While today was a rough one for the Wildcats, tomorrow will likely be one of the best days in program history.