Wisconsin Badger Basketball was back after two weeks since their last outing. Thanks to a Covid outbreak and Christmas break, the Badgers had a long lay off coming off the scary win over Nicholls. This would be the Badgers non-conference finale taking on a good team in the Redbirds from Illinois State. In our keys to victory, we talked about the need to be fluid on offense and also limiting their leading scorer. After an impressive start, Illinois State had an impressive comeback. They held Davis and Davison in check and other Badgers had to step up. Wisconsin squeaked out the win 89-85, here are three things from tonight’s game.
Coming off a two week hiatus with a young team that can be inconsistent, can make you worried for a slow start. Wisconsin was having none of that tonight. In the first seven minutes of the game, the Badgers had built a 22-4 lead behind a 20-2 run. Illinois State would close the gap with some hot shooting, but the Badgers offense came to play. Posting a season high for first half points with 46 points. Much like the Nicholls game though, the Badgers limped to the finish line. Again the issue being unable to string together consecutive stops. Luckily for the Badgers, Illinois State could not either and the Badgers put up 89 points.
Every major sport right now is dealing with major issues with rosters thanks to Covid health and safety protocols along with injuries. Just the other day, the NBA set a record for the most players to play in a season. We just had the Christmas day games and aren’t even close to halfway through the season. Wisconsin is just the latest team to go through a Covid outbreak in their program. On top of some lingering injuries for rotational players, the Badgers were down bodies tonight. Missing guys like Jahcobi Neath, Lorne Bowman II, and Ben Carlson. It may not matter against a non-conference opponent, but when you get into the thick of the Big Ten schedule, you need everyone available every night.
A constant theme this season for the Badgers is going to be the ability for others to step up on a nightly basis. Johnny Davis has even been vocal about the need for people to step up offensively. You know the consistent play you will get from Davis and Davison. But every night, they will need other guys to step up and give an offensive spark. Tonight was Chucky Hepburn and Steven Crowl’s turn. A fresh new haircut for Hepburn had him playing his best game of the season. Hepburn started the game scoring or assisting on 12 of the Badgers first 22 points including a nice finish in transition. Not to mention, he was taking on the challenge defensively guarding ISU’s leading scorer Reeves.
Crowl also got involved early in the paint, which gave him confidence all night. Crowl finished with 21 points which is his season high. Along with Chris Vogt giving great minutes off the bench again, the center position seems to be coming along for the Badgers. Even Carter Gilmore got in on the action, stepping into a confident looking three. Walk-on and UNLV transfer Isaac Lindsey came in and knocked down a corner three. Davis and Davison will carry the load, but on a night like tonight where Davison and Davis struggled, it is even more important for others to step up. Can’t forget Tyler Wahl who chipped in 18 points. Including going 8-12 from the free throw line. As a team the Badgers went 25-32 from the line.