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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Grit and grind seal victory in ‘Brew City Battle’

Wisconsin picked up the 60-50 win over Stanford at the Brewers’ American Family Field.

Wisconsin’s first Power Five matchup of the 2022-23 season tipped off Friday night, when the Badgers topped the Stanford Cardinal 60-50 — helping propel the Badgers to an undefeated 2-0 start to the season. 

The matchup took place at one of the most unique neutral sites to ever host a college basketball game. The Milwaukee Brewers’ American Family Field played host to the first basketball game in a baseball stadium since 2015, and the game was a part of the series dubbed the ‘Brew City Battle.’ 

Both Badger basketball teams played in the Brew City Battle, with the women’s team falling to a strong Kansas State in the first of two games in Milwaukee. The men’s team took the court for the 6:30 p.m. slot, looking to even Bucky’s record at American Family Field.

While the game was considered a neutral site, the feeling was far from it. Badger fans packed the home plate seats as well as the bleachers constructed on top of the Brewers’ infield. The final attendance consisted of 17,927 Badger, Cardinal and local fans.

As was the case with the Badgers’ previous win over South Dakota, Tyler Wahl led all Badger scorers with 17 points, while Hepburn poured in 11, and Crowl contributed nine points and 11 rebounds. 

The other two starters, Jordan Davis and Max Klesmit, completely reversed roles in comparison to last game. Klesmit, who was an exciting bright spot in his first game with the Badgers against South Dakota, did not score in Milwaukee and found himself on the bench for most of the game due to foul trouble. 

On the other hand, Davis, who had minimal contributions against the Coyotes, was Wisconsin’s second leading scorer with 13 points. His hustle plays, quick cuts and solid shooting demonstrated his deep experience in a game that felt like a classic mid-February Big Ten slugfest.

The Badgers jumped out to a solid start as Wahl continued his scoring from last game, confidently getting into the paint and shooting from three. On the other side of the court, the first half offense held strong, but defensive rebounding was a recurring problem that allowed Stanford to grab easy second-chance points. At certain points, four Badgers would fight with one Stanford center for a board. 

With a noticeable lack of calls from the officiating crew, Stanford implemented a 3/4 court press just halfway through the first half. While the Badgers were able to break the press without much struggle, the offense stalled out for most of the half, eventually taking a 12 point lead into the locker room (or dugout). 

In the second half, Greg Gard flipped the switch for the Badgers. Wisconsin came out firing — Wahl scored his 10th point of the game, Davis put away a backdoor pass from Hepburn and Essegian drilled a three in transition. 

However, as both teams worked hard on defense, the players were clearly growing exhausted. Missed layups and scrappy Cardinal defense led to some chippy plays, as Davis forced jump balls and a few extra pushes, too. 

The leadership of Wahl, Hepburn and Davis allowed the Badgers to see through their second-half stall, as they put Stanford into foul trouble late in the game. An elbow jumper from Hepburn followed by two free throws from Wahl secured the Badgers’ second win of the season, topping Stanford 60-50.

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The Stanford defense was a large contributor to Wisconsin’s offensive struggles. The Cardinal finished the game with nine blocks, four of which came in the first nine minutes of the game. This, combined with frequent lapses in offensive judgments and generally sloppy and confusing offensive executions, were the main reasons the Badgers only managed 60 points on Friday. 

Neither team, though, had an offensive performance that could be considered anywhere near impressive. The defense shined through, as the Badgers put away transition points and the Cardinal recorded an abundance of blocks. While the offensive output was not exactly encouraging from Wisconsin, the pure grit and confidence they demonstrated to close the game provides encouragement that this team will be able to hang with the strong forces within the Big Ten.

The Badgers take the floor next against the Phoenix of Green Bay at the Kohl Center. Tip-off on Tuesday, Nov. 15 is at 8 p.m., and it can also be found live on the Big Ten Network.

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