The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team lost 70-80 against the Tennessee Volunteers at the Kohl Center Friday.
The Badgers came into Friday’s game after a record-breaking 105-point victory in their home opener Monday against Arkansas State.
This game marked the sixth all-time meeting between Wisconsin and Tennessee in a series that dates back to 1981. The Badgers won their last three matchups against the Volunteers, including a 68-48 road win in Knoxville when the teams last met in 2019.
Badgers forward Tyler Wahl was a freshman in the 2019 matchup against the Volunteers. Now in his fifth year, Wahl and the Wisconsin defense bothered Tennessee early into the first half and forced five Volunteer turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game.
The Badgers guard duo of Chucky Hepburn and AJ Storr scorched the Volunteers’ defense and scored a combined 21 of Wisconsin’s 35 first-half points. They lightened the load for the other Wisconsin starters who struggled to score in the first half.
The Badgers shot five more field goal attempts than Tennessee in the first half thanks in part to offensive rebounding. Wisconsin grabbed five first-half offensive rebounds compared to the Volunteers’ two.
Despite the disparity in shot attempts and offensive rebounds, the Badgers struggled to defend the three-point line. Tennessee shot 55.6% from the arc on nine attempts and shot the same percentage from the field on 27 attempts.
The Volunteers took advantage of Wisconsin’s first-half foul trouble and shot 88.9% from the free-throw line on nine attempts in the first half.
With Tennessee’s high shooting percentages, the Badgers found themselves in a 35-43 deficit at halftime.
Wisconsin went on an 18-11 run in the first eight minutes of the second half to cut the Volunteers’ lead down to one. This was the closest the Badgers got in the second half.
Wisconsin suffered from shooting struggles at the free throw and three-point line in the second half, and this affected the Badgers’ ability to stay in the game, especially in the last 11 minutes. Wisconsin missed seven three-point attempts in the final 11 minutes and shot 15.4% on three-point attempts in the second half, shooting just 25% on 24 shots throughout the game.
Nothing proved more troublesome in the second half for Wisconsin than the free throw line. The Badgers shot 16 free throws in the second half and only converted 56.3% of them.
Wahl struggled on his free throws in the second half, shooting 33% from the free-throw line. However, Wahl scored 10 points in the second after going scoreless in the first half.
The Badgers were within 10 points throughout the entire second half but never took the lead from Tennessee because of the Volunteers’ continued prolific shooting.
The only Badgers starter to have a positive box plus-minus was forward Steven Crowl, who scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds — three of which were offensive — in 26 minutes with a box plus-minus of three.
Fifth-year Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht led all scorers with 24 points and five rebounds in 36 minutes. Despite this season being Knecht’s first with the Volunteers he’s done well with being their main scorer.
"There is nothing out there that happened tonight that we can't get better at and we won't try to get better at.” said head coach Greg Gard.
Wisconsin looks to improve on their shooting struggles in their next matchup where they will start their Gavitt Tipoff Games against the Providence Friars on Nov. 14 in Providence, Rhode Island.