The last time the Wisconsin Badgers (2-3) played the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-1) was 1992. The Badgers lost by 26 in Madison. Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” was the top song of the year and “The Silence of the Lambs”won the Oscar for Best Picture. But this time around, the Badgers hope their road trip to Winston-Salem marks the end of their losing road, and the beginning of their winning one.
Both Wake Forest and Wisconsin had similar external expectations coming into the season as both were predicted to finish in the bottom third of their conference. Wake Forest, though, has drastically overachieved to this point, whereas Wisconsin has played five inconsistent and mostly underwhelming games.
The Demon Deacons received multiple votes in the USA Today poll this week after beginning the season with quality wins over LSU, Davidson, La Salle and American, among others.
The Badgers floundered an opportunity to win the SDSU Thanksgiving Classic due to a poor second half against the Aztecs.
Wisconsin, much like the Demon Deacons, has four players who average more than 10 points per game, but predicting which Badger player will lead the team in scoring on any given night is like a game of whack-a-mole.
Senior point guard Dakota Whyte led the Badgers with 16 points in their opening win against Louisiana Tech, but due to turnover issues Whyte was relegated to the bench in the Badgers’ two-point win over Delaware last Friday. Making things worse, Whyte missed Sunday’s loss to SDSU due to illness.
As a result, senior guard Nicole Bauman was the Badgers’ primary ball handler. Bauman exploded for 24 points only two games after she had three points in 23 minutes.
By comparison, the Demon Deacons have gotten consistent performances from junior forward Milan Quinn, among others. Quinn has three double-doubles this season and has given nearly every power forward she has squared off against problems in the paint.
The Demon Deacons also have consistently gotten off to fast starts, and through six games have a plus-20 scoring differential in the first quarter. The Badgers, on the other hand, have a minus-17 differential in the first quarter and a minus-10 differential in the third quarter.
This weekend the Badgers fell behind early to both the Aztecs and Delaware Blue Hens before a barrage of 3-pointers gave the Badgers the lead. The Badgers shot a season-high 52 percent from three, a mark that resembled the team that led the team in 3-point shooting last season.
Wake Forest has struggled shooting from the perimeter as well as from the free-throw line.
The Badgers, though, have also struggled from the charity stripe and even failed to attempt a free throw on Sunday.
Even with similar team and player statistics, the Badgers’ record is drastically different from the Demon Deacons, and at the end of the day that’s the only thing that matters.