Earning itself a year of bragging rights, Wisconsin (3-1) handed in-state rival Marquette (2-1) its first loss with a score of 77-61. The Golden Eagles fought to keep the game within reach, but after an MVP performance from senior guard Brevin Pritzl, the Wisconsin-Marquette narrative was changed.
The Badgers were quick to score in the first few minutes of the game as they found themselves on a 9-0 run led in large part by junior forward Aleem Ford. Wisconsin took a 12-8 lead after five minutes of play, but Marquette’s senior guard Markus Howard stepped in and knocked down a much needed three to stop the Badger’s momentum.
Howard continued to be Marquette’s main source of offense throughout the first half, securing 16 points, but was shut down in the second half and held to just two points. Junior guard D’Mitrik Trice was the leading man in charge of guarding Howard, and his lock-down defense was a key in Wisconsin’s victory.
“We know he [Howard] is a great, great scorer, one of the best in college basketball, so we knew it was going to take all of us locking him up on defense,” Trice stated. “Holding him to 6-21 is obviously a big accomplishment, having him score only 18 points and two of them in the second half is definitely very important for us to get that win.”
However, aside from shutting down Marquette’s leading scorer, the most dominant factor in the Wisconsin’s win was Pritzl. Pritzl came off the bench and supplied the team with much needed energy and offense during the first half, which carried over into the second half. Pritzl came into the game looking to focus in on the defensive end, which inevitably allowed him to be successful on the offensive end.
“I was just staying engaged defensively and rebounding first,” said Pritzl. “The offense is going to come if you stay engaged defensively. That’s where I found my bread and butter today”
Pritzl led the team with a double-double consisting of 15 points and 13 rebounds, yet he did more than just fill out the stat sheet according to junior guard Brad Davison.
“Energy, toughness, tenacity, putting his face on the ball, going to get it, things that Coach always preaches…he was the epitome of that today, he was huge for us,” said Davison. “He hit a lot of big shots for us, a lot of big finishes inside, he did a little bit of everything and it shows up on the stat sheet, but then there are even more things he did that don’t show up on the stat sheets, it just helped us win.”
Alongside Pritzl in scoring was 5 other badgers in double figures, including Davison with 15, Ford with 12 and Trice, junior forward Nate Reuvers and sophomore guard Kobe King all with 10 points. Compared to Marquette, whose points derived primarily from Howard’s 18 and junior guard Koby McEwen’s 19, Wisconsin revealed its ability to distribute scoring effectively. Having six players in double figures also demonstrated how the Badgers have found a way to cope with the loss of their leading scorers from last season.
“I think whenever you have a guy like Ethan Happ, and pieces like Kahlil and Chuck, you can’t replace them with one person or one guy, it’s definitely got to be a collective effort,” Davison said. “We have six guys in double figures, you know that’s what we are all about, that’s what we want to be about.”
Finally, Wisconsin’s shooting percentages both from the free-throw and three-point line were also instrumental in the win today. Showing continuous growth with each game, the Badgers shot 90 percent from the line against the Golden Eagles. Additionally, Wisconsin knocked down 11-23 shots from behind the arc, another big improvement.
Overall, the Badgers ability to shoot the ball well, capitalize on Marquette’s turnovers and shut down the opponent’s leading scorer allowed Wisconsin to keep the lead for the majority of the game. The Badgers will remain at home this coming week as they prepare to face another in-state opponent, Green Bay, on Thursday.