The Wisconsin men's basketball team (6-1 overall) suffered their first blemish on the season Wednesday night in the finale of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, losing to the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels 60-57. They now turn their attention to Saturday's matchup with in-state rival Golden Eagles as they welcome No 16. Marquette (6-0) to the Kohl Center.
Despite the loss, the Badgers proved that they could hang with and challenge one of the best teams in the country and cemented the fact that they will be a major challenger to current No. 2 Ohio State for the Big Ten title once they hit conference play.
A main reason for Wisconsin to feel good about the future prospects of the season was junior center Jared Berggren's play against one of the best front lines in the country on Wednesday night, featuring NBA lottery picks in Tyler Zeller and John Henson.
Berggren was a force as the five man, scoring 14 points, hauling in five rebounds and even coming up with three steals. He challenged Zeller and Henson at both ends of the court, playing tough post defense and forcing the two Carolina big men to guard him in the post and on the perimeter.
If Berggren is able to continue to build off of the way he played against UNC, he may be able to give Ohio State's Jared Sullinger a run for his money as the best big man in the Big Ten.
The main reason for the loss was that the Badgers' reliance on the three-point shot finally came back to bite them. Wisconsin was eight for 28 from behind the arc (28.6 percent), which pales in comparison to the 47 percent shooting from three-point range the Badgers had going into the game.
A direct result of the Badgers' reliance on the outside shot was the fact that Wisconsin was only able to get to the foul line six times (making only three), while Carolina was able to get the Badgers into foul trouble in each half, allowing them to shoot 24 free throws (making 19 of them).
To become a more complete team on offense, the Badgers must find a way to get more penetration into the lane, which will not only get them more foul shots, but get them wide open three-point shots as well.
The main concern for the Badgers against Marquette this weekend, however, will be containing Marquette's stellar offense which comes into this game leading the nation in scoring offense (88 points per game) and field goal percentage (53 percent).
The Golden Eagles are led by senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom and senior forward Jae Crowder, who are each averaging over 19 points a game this season. Crowder and Johnson-Odom were instrumental in Marquette's latest win over the Jacksonville State Dolphins, as Crowder scored a career-high 27 points and Johnson-Odom added in 19.
This Saturday's matchup will be the 118th between the two teams. Wisconsin currently holds a 64-53 edge in the all-time series and has beaten Marquette in the last two meetings.