Wisconsin looks to regroup coming off a buzzer-beating loss to Marquette. The Badgers lost 67-65 to the Golden Eagles last Friday at the Fiserv Forum. Marquette won on a last-second tip-in from freshman Justin Lewis, who scored off of a missed free throw. The Badgers were led by senior point guard D’mitrik Trice with 17 points.
Wisconsin will not be facing Louisville on Wednesday, however, as previously scheduled. The Cardinals had positive Covid-19 tests within the program and have since paused basketball operations. Wisconsin was set to face Louisville as part of the ACC-Big Ten Showdown. Unlike when Wisconsin backed out of the Fort Myers Tip-Off, the Badgers might not be affected by the Louisville game being postponed. The Badgers are still hoping to face Louisville and if both teams are cleared, the game could be played on Sunday, December 13th.
I'm told there is still optimism that the Louisville-Wisconsin game is going to get played. If both teams can be cleared by medical experts on both sides, the target makeup date is six days from now, on Sunday, but depends on Louisville's progress. Program paused on Dec. 3.
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) December 7, 2020
Instead, the Badgers face off against mid-major giant Rhode Island. The Rams are currently 3-2 with wins against Southern Florida, San Francisco, and Seton Hall. Rhode Island has close losses to #23 Arizona State (94-88) and Boston College (69-64). The high powered offense looks to continue their success against Wisconsin Wednesday afternoon at the Kohl Center.
Reuver’s Block Party
One part of the Badger’s success this season is the number of blocks Wisconsin has this season. Wisconsin currently tied for the lead nationally in blocks per game with 7.0. The head of the block party, Nate Reuvers, currently averages 2.5 blocks per game. Reuvers is currently one block away from being Wisconsin’s all-time leading shot blocker. Former Badger great Ethan Happ (2015-2019) currently holds the record with 154 blocks.
❌Two All-Time Badger Blockers❌
Tying Ethan Happ with 154 career blocks, Nate Reuvers is 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙡𝙤𝙘𝙠 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮 from becoming Wisconsin’s all-time blocks leader pic.twitter.com/AR6yk0OKA2
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) December 8, 2020
Points, Points, and More Points
Wisconsin defensively played one of its most inconsistent games in recent years against Marquette. If the Badgers want to have any success Wednesday afternoon, they’re going to need to slow down this high powered offense from Rhode Island. Rhode Island currently ranks in the top 100 nationally in total points per game. Leading the Rams is senior guard Fatts Russell. Russell averages 17.6 points per game and has emerged as one of the top scorers in college basketball. While Russell is an elite talent, the Rams also have two other players who can score at high rates. Senior Jeremy Sheppard and junior Antwan Walker also average double-digits in points.
Like Wisconsin, Rhode Island also has a very deep bench and rotation. Rhode Island will play up to ten different players in a game and play at least 13 minutes a game. Bench scoring is also part of Rhode Island’s success. Averaging 31 bench points per game, it’s very clear why the Rams are such a high scoring team.
Keys to the Game: Wisconsin
During the game against Marquette, the offense went through lapses where nothing seemed to be working. Forwards Micah Potter and Nate Reivers both had early foul trouble which forced Wisconsin to go with a smaller, inexperienced lineup. With the lineup, Wisconsin picked up additional fouls, turned over the basketball and Marquette quickly found their rhythm offensively.
During the second half, the Badgers made great adjustments. When running the offense through Reuvers, the team was able to find baskets and get to the free-throw line. Wisconsin had just four free attempts in the first half. When Wisconsin gets the ball to the block, Reuvers and Potter fed off of each other and found ways to score underneath the hoop. The offense works its best when they play aggressively and get to the line. Wisconsin will need that aggression if they want success moving forward.
More importantly, it was the defense that let the team down against Marquette. Wisconsin continuously had issues with Marquette’s pace and speed. “We were fouling way too much and putting them on the free-throw line.” said senior guard D’mitrik Trice. Rhode Island is just like Marquette in this regard. If Wisconsin fails to slow the Rams pace as they struggled with Marquette, Wisconsin will have another difficult night. Wisconsin also failed to make a defensive stop on Marquette’s last six possessions offensively. These defensive mistakes ultimately cost them the game. Wisconsin must get their defense right if they’re going to succeed moving forward.
Keys to the Game: Rhode Island
Rhode Island, like a lot of other mid-major, usually run with a smaller lineup. With that smaller line-up though, they love to attack the hoop. The Rams average over 30 free throw attempts per game, which is 6th in the nation. In their two losses, the Rams struggled tremendously at the line, shooting under 60% in both games. However, they shot just over 79% in their three wins. If the Rams can continue their success at getting to the line and shooting free throws, it could be the difference against a team like Wisconsin.
The biggest part that Rhode Island needs to clean up against Wisconsin is their high foul rate. Rhode Island averages 22.8 fouls per game. Cleaning up the fouls against Wisconsin is going to be vitally important. In the Marquette match up, the Golden Eagles fouled just 5 times in the first half. Active hands and tough defending at the top of the key forced Wisconsin into tough shots and turnovers. The Rams must play one of their cleaner defensive games to beat Wisconsin.
One thing that the Badgers seldom do is lose back to back games. Last year the Badgers had a three-game losing streak early in the season and back to back losses against two tough Big Ten teams on the road. It’s bound to happen but I don’t think it happens just yet. Wisconsin will make the necessary adjustments that they need defensively and that will be the focal point of the victory. I still expect Rhode Island to make this interesting though. As good as Wisconsin is defensively, they do tend to struggle against quicker teams. Fatts Russell will find ways to score and Wisconsin will have lapses on offense. However, when the game is getting down to the end, Rhode Island’s high foul mark will be their downfall. I expect Wisconsin to turn things around and get a much-needed win after a poor loss to Marquette.
Final Score: Wisconsin 78, Rhode Island 68