In a return home to the Kohl Center after the Badgers’ first Power Five win of the season, Wisconsin struggled to take advantage of their momentum going into the in-state matchup against Green Bay.
While the starting five for the Badgers remained the same as it has all season — Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl, Max Klesmit and Jordan Davis — the offensive output and overall consistent rhythm was lacking throughout the late night matchup.
Upon tipoff, both teams started cold, trading empty offensive possessions for almost five minutes. Three pointers from Jordan Davis and Max Klesmit finally put the Badgers on the board, and while the starting unit put aggression and effort into their offense, the scoreboard read just 11-6 — in favor of Wisconsin — halfway through the first half.
While the offensive production in the first ten minutes was less-than, the defensive hustle and effort was nothing short of admirable. The Badgers tallied two blocks and six steals, forcing nine turnovers overall by the Phoenix. On the other hand, Wisconsin recorded 14 turnovers Tuesday night — the most in any single game of the season so far.
Greg Gard looked to his bench to close out the first half, as Markus Ilver slam dunked the Badgers into some late offensive momentum to close the half. Carter Gilmore also saw a lot of the floor, recording 20 minutes for Wisconsin. Gilmore scored all five of his points near the end of the first half, helping Wisconsin gain a 32-15 lead at halftime.
In the second half, Gard put his trust back in the starting unit. Wahl came out with aggression — quickly and efficiently scoring in the paint with hopes of igniting the Badger offense.
However, the opposite happened. Wisconsin found themselves on the short end of a 14-1 scoring run in the first 10 minutes of the second half. In response, Gard looked again to his bench to try to provide a spark for both the offense and defense. Isaac Lindsey, Jahcobi Neath, Kamari McGee — who transferred to UW from Green Bay at the end of last season — and Connor Essegian recorded second half playing time, but did not succeed in changing the trend of the game.
Not only until Davis rotated back in and sank his second three of the game did the nine minute scoring drought come to an end. Within the drought, the Badgers saw their turnover count rise to nine and starters picked up more fouls.
In the closing minutes of the concerningly close game, Hepburn’s jumper and Crowl’s three pointer boosted the Badger lead back to 10 points. Wahl also put late game minutes up, helping the Badgers close out despite having four fouls of his own.
The buzzers sounded at the Kohl Center just after 10 p.m., as Wisconsin narrowly — and certainly not convincingly — recorded their third straight win of the season, 56-45. Davis led all scorers with 11 points, followed by nine from Crowl and Klesmit and eight from Hepburn and Wahl.
The biggest contributor to Wisconsin’s struggles against Green Bay came from within. While Green Bay is a respected squad, they are not particularly known for staggering defense. The sloppy and often confused offensive Wisconsin possessions, combined with shooting just 30.2% from the field, were the internal issues that led to such poor offensive efficiency for Gard’s team.
Even in a rather uncomforting performance, bright spots still arise. Davis’ 11 points is a promising sign, as he picked up right where he left off with his 13 point performance against Stanford in the Brew City Battle. Davis also contributed to the 42.1% team three point shooting on Tuesday night — a percentage that continues to impress and improve from last season’s shooting struggles.
The noticeable absence of Connor Essegian’s offensive abilities may explain why he only saw 10 minutes of playing time, but Badger fans can only hope that this is a one-game trend. Essegian’s shooting and offensive creativity will be needed in upcoming games, especially as the Badgers enter the more difficult parts of their schedule.
The Badgers will travel to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis Thanksgiving tournament. Game one for Wisconsin tips off on Nov. 23 against the 21st ranked Dayton Flyers at 1:30 p.m. The entire tournament will be live on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and ESPNU as some of the best teams in the nation will be going head-to-head around Thanksgiving.