After a close loss at Chapel Hill to the No. 5 Tar Heels on Wednesday, the Badgers looked to regroup against in-state rival Marquette. Playing for the 118th time since 1917 the Badgers and Golden Eagles squared off at the Kohl Center on Saturday in one of college basketball's best rivalries. This matchup marked the fourth time that No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 16 Marquette faced each other when both teams were ranked in the AP Top 25.
In an intense, physical game, it was ultimately Marquette (7-0 overall) that got the better of Wisconsin (6-2 overall), beating the Badgers 61-54. With the win, Marquette also snapped the Badgers 23-game home winning streak.
Leading the way for the Golden Eagles was senior Darius Johnson-Odom, who was able to barrage the Badgers with mid-range jumpers, scoring a game-high 17 points.
After trailing the Badgers 17-16 with 7:41 left in the first half, Marquette pulled away from Wisconsin, going on a 16-5 run that gave them a 32-22 lead going into half time.
It was a balanced attack for Marquette, but leading the way for the Golden Eagles was sophomore guard Vander Blue with seven first-half points. He hurt the Badgers both from inside and outside, in spite of the boos and cat-calls from the Badger crowd, due in large part to his choice to go to Marquette over Wisconsin.
Marquette's defense clearly agitated the Badgers, as Wisconsin went 6-23 from the field, 1-7 from three-point range and had an uncharacteristic eight turnovers in the first half. The Golden Eagles were able to turn those turnovers into 12 points.
The beat went on coming out of halftime, with Marquette able to extend their lead to 41-29 at 15:29 in the second half. The Badgers would not go down without a fight, however. Wisconsin went on to score 11 straight points to cut the lead to 41-40, despite senior guard Jordan Taylor sitting on the bench for most of the run because of foul trouble.
Marquette answered right back, however, and pushed the lead back up to nine points, capped off by two jumpers by Johnson-Odom. The Badgers were able to get the margin back to three points, but a floater high off the glass by freshman guard Todd Mayo, a tip-in by sophomore forward Davante Gardner and clutch free throws in the last minute dashed the Badgers' hopes of a comeback.
Taylor, despite the foul trouble, was the leading scorer for the Badgers with 13, but Marquette's stingy defense was able to frustrate him all day, forcing him into five rare turnovers (he had seven total on the season going into the game).
A big advantage in the game for Marquette was the play of its bench. With the Golden Eagles' starting point guard Junior Cadougan out for the game due to a suspension, Marquette needed other players to step in and fill the void. Marquette's bench was able to step up and out-score the Badgers' bench 32-11. Leading the way for the Marquette bench was Todd Mayo, younger brother of NBA star O.J. Mayo, scoring 14 points.
The biggest surprise of the day, however, was definitely the rebounding battle. While one would have expected the Badgers to dominate the boards, with Marquette only boasting two players 6'8" or taller, the Golden Eagles were able to be more physical and control the glass, out-rebounding the Badgers 44-32 for the game. Marquette was also able to dominate the offensive glass, out-rebounding Wisconsin 17-9, turning those offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points, compared to the Badgers' five.
"On both sides, both teams really didn't shoot the ball well, but our intensity and our will to win, just how we stuck together, that was the reason why we won," Blue said.
Like the Badgers' first loss to North Carolina, a big reason for the lack of offense was once again the teams inability to make outside shots, shooting only 5-19 from beyond the arc.
"We know our weaknesses, we know our flaws," head coach Bo Ryan said. "We know where they are. And we've always said we've got to hit shots, especially from the perimeter, in order to free up some stuff coming to the basket."
Despite the Badgers two losses in the last week, Badger fans should feel encouraged as the team has gone toe-to-toe with two of the nation's best teams. This tough strength of schedule could definitely pay dividends for the Badgers in the long run.
"We've played two really good teams, two hotly contested games. I like some things that I've seen this week and I think those things are going to benefit us later," Ryan said.
The Badgers will now turn their attention to their next game, against another in-state rival, the UW-Green Bay Phoenix (2-0 Horizon, 4-4 overall) at the Kohl Center on Wednesday night.