No. 9 Badgers suffer first loss at hands of Creighton

Ethan Happ led the way for the Badgers as they won their first true conference test of the season.

Image By: Jessi Schoville

With just over four minutes to go in the second half, senior guard Bronson Koenig dribbled toward his right, off a screen set by senior forward Ethan Happ. Koenig took two dribbles before he lost control of the basketball. He was tripped, not by a Creighton player, but by his own teammate.

After Happ set the screen for Koenig, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year rolled to the basket. Koenig’s foot clipped Happ’s foot and the Badgers turned the basketball over.

Such a sequence epitomized the No. 9 Badgers’ (1-1) 79-67 loss to No. 22 Creighton (2-0). Time and time again, UW looked poised to try and make a run, but all night long, the Badgers tripped themselves up due to poor three-point shooting, sloppy ball handling and glaring defensive lapses.

Right from the jump, the Bluejays had a clear defensive game plan: Double hard in the post and force UW’s frontcourt players to give up the basketball. In doing so, the Bluejays were hoping to induce the Badgers into taking three-pointers and not shots close to the basket.

Creighton’s strategy worked as UW took 39 three-pointers, second most in school history, and had only five free-throw attempts.

By selling out defensively, the Bluejays baited the Badgers’ into long jumpers. UW shot a mere 28 percent from three and finished with only 20 points in the paint.

“I thought we did a good job of finding guys at times,” head coach Greg Gard told UWBadgers.com. “But it looks great when they go in, but obviously you see what happens when they don’t. We’ve gotta’ be able to touch the post more and try to play more inside-out vs. outside-in.”

Ethan Happ and senior forward Nigel Hayes seldom had time to back down their defender one-on-one in hopes of an easy layup or a foul call.

While at times Bronson Koenig showed off his NBA range, the Badger guard shot a mere 3-of-13 from three in the loss. Koenig did finish with 21 points, but struggled to get both himself and his teammates in any kind of rhythm.

On top of their shooting woes, for a program that prides itself on forcing turnovers and being especially careful with the ball themselves, the Badgers again looked like a different team.

“I thought at time we showed some very uncharacteristic Wisconsin-like handling of possessions where we got a little disheveled,” Gard said.

UW had 16 turnovers, which translated into 26 Bluejay points, whereas Creighton had a mere seven turnovers leading to only 13 UW points. Many of UW’s turnovers were unforced, whether it be the result of poor ball handling or traveling violations.

Happ turned the basketball over four times alone and for the second straight game looked lost on offense.

The sophomore forward now has only nine field goal attempts through two games, a troublesome total for a player who at times looked like the Badgers’ best offensive player last season.

Wisconsin trailed by only two points with under eight minutes to go in the game, but a 9-0 run by Creighton stretched the lead to 11 and the Badgers couldn’t muster the energy to counter.

UW tried to run offense through the post out of time-outs and out of the locker room, but got away from their traditional inside-out style of basketball over and over again.

The Badgers look to regain their offensive flow Thursday evening when they host Chicago State.

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