While sitting on the bench as the final buzzer sounded in Wisconsin’s (1-1 Big Ten, 4-7 overall) 82-63 loss to Marquette (7-3), freshman guard Brad Davison buried his head in his sweat towel. Moments later, after going through the handshake line with his towel draped over his neck, he tossed it at the now-empty bench in frustration.
Davison was the last Badger to leave the Kohl Center floor Saturday afternoon. His career and team-high 20 points were not nearly enough for a depleted UW team to overcome its injuries and lights-out 3-point shooting from the Golden Eagles.
From the opening minutes of the game, the loss of starting point guard sophomore D’Mitrik Trice and freshman guard Kobe King was apparent. Davison threw up an air-ball on UW’s opening possession — its first of three in the first half — and after a turnover on the Badgers’ second possession of the game, Marquette knocked down its first of 14 3-pointers.
Head coach Greg Gard said that he learned Trice was going to miss Saturday’s game with a foot injury Friday morning and that he was told King was going to be out with a knee injury Friday night. Both are out indefinitely according to UW Athletics.
The Golden Eagles’ star backcourt took advantage as Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey combined to score 47 points including nine 3-pointers, five more than UW’s total as a team.
“I think Trice and King being absent hurt us more on the defensive end because they’ve had so many reps,” Gard said.
Their absence meant that seldom-used redshirt junior guard T.J. Schlundt played a career-high 13 minutes and Davison, who is dealing with his own left shoulder injury, played all but two minutes on the night.
Marquette led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but a 5-0 Wisconsin run in the waning minutes of the period cut the Golden Eagles’ lead down to nine.
The Badgers opened the second half with a 3-pointer by redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl to slice MU’s lead to six, but Wisconsin would never get any closer than that.
With 17:21 to play, the Golden Eagles’ lead went back up to 11, and while less than two minutes later, the Badgers again trailed by merely six, a 14-4 run by Marquette gave MU a 16-point lead with 12:23 remaining.
The Badgers would never get the margin closer than 15 in the duration of the contest.
“In time this will help as they continue to improve,” Gard said, “and hopefully in the long run we’ll be better because of it.”
Sports editor @benpickman and men’s basketball beat writer @TommyValtin break down @BadgerMBB’s 82-63 defeat to Marquette. pic.twitter.com/j7yAJYi7dk
— DailyCardinal Sports (@Cardinal_Sports) December 9, 2017
Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said he found out just moments before tipoff that UW’s backcourt would be depleted, but that the Badger injuries did not effect the Golden Eagles’ gameplan.
Just as it had practiced all week, MU keyed in on redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ, and while the forward from Milan, Ill., finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, he had to fight through constant double-teams in order to muster up his offense.
“We have to rally,” Gard said. “Everybody needs to step up and we need to fill into those positions and have the next man step forward.
As fans trickled out of the Kohl Center following UW’s seventh defeat of the season, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” played over the stadium sound system.
Now in Trice’s absence, Davison and Happ will be tasked with helping keep Wisconsin’s spirits up and its belief high. Happ has experienced early-season adversity before, but much of the Badgers’ young roster is going through a steep new learning curve.
“We’ve had struggles both my first two years of playing here and that’s what we did,” Happ said. “We just stayed together and kept fighting, didn’t hang up the shoes and we’re just gonna keep doing that, keep playing.”