Tonight the Wisconsin Badgers head to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats. The Badgers are coming off a loss to Iowa Thursday night 77-52. Northwestern is coming off a loss to Illinois 73-66. The Badgers are 15-8 and 9-7 in the Big Ten. Northwestern is 6-13 overall and 3-12 in the Big Ten. Tip time is 6 PM on BTN. Below are the keys to a Wisconsin victory!
Getting On The Right Track
These aren’t bad losses for the Badgers. It’s the gauntlet of their schedule. But at some point, they have to beat a ranked team
— Wisconsin Sports Heroics (@WiSportsHeroics) February 19, 2021
Wisconsin is coming off back to back losses for the first time this season. There is no doubt the Badgers are in their gauntlet of their Big Ten schedule. Tonight is a game they need to get right and get back to their winning ways. In particular, the Badgers are struggling with defensive and offensive lapses as well as putting the ball in the basket.
Wisconsin has a great opportunity tonight. After starting 3-0 in the Big Ten, Northwestern has lost 12 games in a row. Even in a Big Ten road game, Wisconsin should be able to take care of business in a game they need really bad. Wisconsin also beat Northwestern 68-52 on January 20 in Madison. In that game, the Badgers found a rhythm early and allowed Northwestern to score only 18 second half points.
Starting The Game Fast
A big reason why Wisconsin lost to Iowa Thursday night was because they got off to a slow start in the first five minutes. In the first portion of the first half of Thursday’s game, the Badgers were 4-27 from the field, including 1-16 inside the arc. As a result, Iowa opened a 22-13 lead with 7:26 left in the first half. Despite the record of Northwestern, Wisconsin can’t continue to have games like this where they get cold from the field and struggle to score.
Update: #Badgers now 1 of 16 on 2-point shots, 4 of 27 overall. Iowa up 22-13 with 7:26 left.
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) February 19, 2021
The Badgers should also be looking for a game they can be confident in. There have been stretches in this gauntlet where the Badgers have looked good, but they haven’t been able to finish games and play 40 minutes consistently. You have to think the confidence of the Badgers has taken a hit. As a result, Wisconsin has a chance to play well, get some swag back, and potentially use this game as fuel to the finish line at the end of the regular season and the Big Ten tournament.
Stopping A Balanced Northwestern Lineup
While Northwestern won’t be playing in the NCAA tournament, they do present a balanced lineup. They have four players averaging at least nine points a game. Sophomore Chase Audige leads the way with 13.3 points per game. Junior Miller Kopp can get hot from three in a hurry and averages 12.1 PPG. Junior big man Pete Nance averages 11.9 PPG. Sophomore Boo Buie also averages 9.0 PPG.
Any of these four players can lead the Wildcats in scoring any game. Wisconisn needs to be aware of all four of these players on the court. Northwestern is also an unselfish bunch, so look for them to find whoever has the hot hand and ride with it. Audige did have 16 points in the first meeting between these teams in Madison.
This is about as close of a “must win” as this has been for the Badgers. As mentioned earlier, we have seen stretches of potential that this team has. The problem has been that this has been against the top teams in the Big Ten. Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois all are bad matchups for the Badgers. I would imagine there is a sense of frustration in the Badger locker room. They know they haven’t lived up to their pre-season expectations as well as the expectations we the fans had for them.
Road games are never easy in the Big Ten as well. Teams have to earn it every night and never apologize how they get it done, especially on the road. Northwestern isn’t going to make this easy for Wisconsin. Chris Collins does want to mirror what Wisconsin does. As a result, I expect this to be low-scoring and won in the second half.
I do see the Badgers coming out with a win tonight. I believe this a game they can put 40 good minutes together and gather some confidence with Illinois, Purdue, and Iowa remaining after tonight. A little bit of momentum and confidence moving forward to the final games and the Big Ten tournament is something this team could use. Wisconsin is the better team overall and I expect them to take care of business tonight against Northwestern.
Wisconsin 68 Northwestern 60