The 2024 calendar year started off on a good not for Wisconsin basketball. The Badgers resumed Big Ten play with an 83-72 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes last night at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin is now 2-0 in conference play while Iowa falls to 0-3 in league play.
Wisconsin had four players score at least 14 points. Tyler Wahl led the way with 19 points. Here are three takeaways from last night’s win.
Wisconsin Basketball Was Great at the Free Throw Line in the Second Half
The Badgers won this game at the free throw line. After going 5-9 at the line in the first half, Wisconsin basketball shot 20-26 at the line in the second half. Free throws were a struggle for this team last season as they only took 15 attempts a game. This year, they are a top 25 team in free throw shooting.
Iowa’s defense had a little bit to do with this too. Wisconsin basketball dominated in the paint with 42 points and out-rebounded Iowa 38-32. The Hawkeyes don’t play good defense to begin with and it showed. Fran McCaffrey mentioned after the game they fouled way too much. Credit Greg Gard for finding out a weakness on this team and addressing it.
Balanced Scoring Was the Difference
Tyler Wahl led the scoring last night with 19 points, but AJ Storr (16), Max Klesmit (15), and Steven Crowl (14) all were in double figures too.
Early in the season, it looked like the Badgers wanted to let AJ Storr be the engine of the team and play the Johnny Davis type role where everything went through him. It didn’t work. Credit to Greg Gard and the players for adjusting and letting this be a balanced offensive attack.
It’s becoming clear this is Wisconsin basketball’s best style of play. Storr isn’t asked to do everything, but he is still productive and makes an impact on the game. I also think this team is doing much better getting the ball in the paint and letting Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl work.
Three Point Shooting Continues to be an Issue
It isn’t making a difference right now, but Wisconsin basketball only shot 25% from three and is shooting only 32% from three this season. That needs to improve once we get into the thick of Big Ten season. If the Badgers are going to stay at the top of the Big Ten, they will need to have games where they make 8-10 threes.
At the end of day, I hope once Connor Essegian gets going that this takes care of the problem. Gard mentioned after the game he has been practicing better, but is still struggling to get him on the court. I still believe the Badgers need Essegian if they are going to threat Purdue and Illinois in the Big Ten.
I think this is too good of a team to struggle from three and I expect them to fix it.
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