A top-15 matchup between Michigan State and Wisconsin. The first one at the Kohl Center with fans in attendance since 2014 when Duke came to town. Without Tyler Wahl on Friday, the Badgers couldn’t overcome the Spartans. Here’s three things from tonight’s game.
#1: Replacing Tyler Wahl
About an hour and a half before tip off, it was announced that junior forward Tyler Wahl would not suit up for the Badgers. He suffered an ankle sprain in their game against Northwestern. This was a huge blow to the Wisconsin squad, as Wahl has been such a key piece of their success. In the last four games, Wahl is averaging 17.8 PPG, eight RPG, and 3.5 APG, all while shooting almost 70% from the field.
Sophomore Ben Carlson made his second career start in place of Wahl with Carter Gilmore backing him up. To say the Badgers missed Wahl is an understatement. The two plays that stand out are a Gilmore air ball three and a Ben Carlson turnover on the inbound that lead to a lay-up. Carlson and Gilmore finished a combined 2/9 from the field, and with only three rebounds. I find myself coming back to the same question I have almost every game: Why not Jordan Davis over Gilmore or Carlson? He’s proven his ability to knock down a three, has great chemistry with his brother Johnny (obviously), and rebounds well for his size.
#2: Uncharacteristic Badgers
A lot of things went wrong for Wisconsin in this match-up. That, combined with the fact that Michigan State played a great game, was too much for the Badgers to overcome.
The things that Wisconsin always emphasizes and prides themselves on simply weren’t there tonight. The Badgers committed 19 fouls and gave up 28 free throws. For one of the most disciplined teams who doesn’t commit silly fouls, it was strange to see the mistakes in that department. Even with Michigan State converting on 22 of their shots from the line, the Badgers couldn’t get consecutive stops without fouling.
Wisconsin by no means is a dominant rebound team, but I can’t remember the last time they were beaten on the glass like this. In our WSH preview, we talked about the important of rebounding in this game. Michigan State outrebounded the Badgers 41-22.
Nine turnovers is right around average for Wisconsin, but the timings were costly and it felt like they hindered a potential comeback. When the Badgers struggle offensively, their defense and intensity can usually carry them. But tonight it was clear who the hungrier team was, and the Spartans got whatever they wanted. They finished the game shooting 52% from the field and 50% from three.
#3: The Good?
Losing an important home game is never fun. But, being the optimistic fan I am, there were certainly some good things to take away from this game.
Brad Davison was fantastic on the offensive end, shooting 8/12 overall and 6/10 from three for 22 points. A great shooter like Davison can carry this moment and go on a hot streak during the Badgers’ next couple games. Another positive was Johnny Davis. His first half was a struggle, as the Spartans were getting away with some physical play. You could see Johnny’s frustration, but he responded well in the second half, finishing with a hard-earned 25 points. Like we saw in the Northwestern game, Davis is not fazed by some tough defense.
We knew Wisconsin’s win streak wouldn’t continue forever. Getting a victory while down a starter against a very good Michigan State team was a tough ask. Still, with everyone healthy, the Badgers are 14-1. There’s no time to sulk about this loss – the Big Ten gives no days off. Let’s get Tyler Wahl healthy and take care of business against Nebraska and Minnesota.
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