It was a game Wisconsin could not lose. It was not easy going into their rival’s arena despite a 2-17 record in Big Ten play. After a bad defensive first half, the Badgers re-grouped and escaped Minnesota Basketball with a 71-67 win. Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl were both excellent tonight, with 21 points a piece. Both looked like the players we expected this season. Chucky Hepburn added 12 points, while Connor Essegian added 11. The Badgers also shot 60% in the second half. Here are three takeaways from tonight’s win.
Wisconsin Did Whatever They Wanted In The Paint
Minnesota’s plan on defense was to take away the three from Wisconsin. They wanted to force the Badgers to beat them in the paint. Not only did Wisconsin go into the paint, but they also dominated the paint. At one point in the second half, Wisconsin scored 44 of their 55 points in the paint. They did not attempt a three in the second half until almost two minutes left in the game. Wisconsin ended the game with 48 points in the paint.
Minnesota Basketball has two potential stud forwards in Josh Ola-Joseph and Pharrel Payne. Tonight, Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl showed why they are the upperclassmen and put on a clinic all game. They got Payne to foul out and Ola-Joseph to commit four fouls. Going into the Big Ten Tournament, this should give Crowl and Wahl a ton of confidence.
Chucky Hepburn Was Clutch vs. Minnesota Basketball
I have been really tough and probably too tough at times on Chucky Hepburn this season. Tonight, he committed two early fouls by the first media timeout vs. Minnesota Basketball. Greg Gard decided to gamble and sit him for the rest of the half. I thought Gard should have brought him back in. However, there’s a reason he’s coaching, and I’m writing game recaps.
The second half was Hepburn’s best half in a long time. He showed why he’s a top-tier point guard in the Big Ten and scored all 12 of his points in the last 20 minutes. He also broke a 62-62 tie with a huge step-back three he’s used to shooting. The Badgers would not trail the rest of the way. This was a confidence builder he can bring to Chicago, as well.
Max Klesmit Was Fantastic On Minnesota Basketball’s Jamison Battle
Jamison Battle is a headache for just about any defense. He is a walking bucket and can get hot in a heartbeat. After the buzzer-beater against Rutgers, Max Klesmit drew the primary assignment on Battle. Battle did hit a three at the buzzer to end the first half on a defensive miscommunication, but that would be the only shot he would hit all night.
Minnesota Basketball did get a really good night from Dawson Garcia, who had 19 points, but Klesmit never let Battle get into a routine or comfortable. He also hit three huge free throws in the closing seconds as well. We didn’t see the offensive clinic Klesmit had Thursday, but he did it all and then some on defense. The Badgers don’t win this game without his effort.
Up Next for the Badgers
After this win over Minnesota Basketball, the Badgers will be the 12 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They will take on Ohio State, who is the 13 seed. This will be the first game of the tournament. Wisconsin won the only meeting between these two teams in Columbus 65-60 on Feb. 2. This would be a quad-two win for the Badgers if they can get it. It would also be big for their NCAA Tournament resume.
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