Wisconsin basketball: 5 things we learned from Badgers’ loss to Marquette

MADISON, Wis. — Marquette defeated Wisconsin 82-63 on Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center, continuing one of the most-difficult stretches for the Badgers in recent memory. It would have been a tough task to keep pace with the Golden Eagles even if fully healthy, but a shorthanded Wisconsin team had little chance to match Marquette.

Here are five things we learned about Wisconsin from the Badgers’ loss to their in-state rival:

1. Injuries to D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King are a major problem

Wisconsin officials announced before the game that point guard D’Mitrik Trice (right foot) and guard Kobe King (left knee) would be out indefinitely with injuries. Trice is scheduled to undergo foot surgery Monday and will begin rehab in 2-3 weeks. No timetable for King’s return was provided.

These are huge blows for the Badgers. Trice was averaging more minutes per game (31.5) than any other player on the team. He ranked third on the team in scoring (9.4 points) and second with 23 assists. King’s minutes had increased significantly, and he played a season-high 34 minutes in the Big Ten opener against Ohio State. Without them, Wisconsin’s backcourt rotation is a mess.

Brad Davison slid over from off guard and took over the starting point guard role for Trice, while Brevin Pritzl entered the starting lineup again. Davison played 38 minutes Saturday — including all 20 in the first half — because the Badgers are so limited if he isn’t on the floor. Walk-on T.J. Schlundt was the backup point guard, and the Badgers dressed freshman Walt McGrory in case of an emergency. McGrory is taking a redshirt season.

Badgers coach Greg Gard said he learned of Trice’s injury status Friday morning but didn’t find out about King until 9 p.m. King was supposed to be the backup point guard Saturday, and Wisconsin had no time to practice for an alternative.

“To have to adjust and to have different people out there without any repetition puts a little more stress on it,” Gard said. “But it is what it is, it’s part of the game and we’ve got to continue to improve and regroup.”

Gard said he believed Wisconsin felt the absence of Trice and King more defensively than offensively because of their ability to defend the perimeter. Marquette buried 14 of 22 3-pointers (63.6 percent).

Wisconsin is 4-7 and staring at the real possibility of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997-98. Without Trice and King, things could get worse for the Badgers before they get better.

2. Lack of frontcourt options continue to hinder Badgers

Before the season began, Wisconsin figured to rely on three forwards from its 2015 recruiting class: Charlie Thomas, Andy Van Vliet and Alex Illikainen. And when Van Vliet averaged 15.5 points per game as a starter through the first two games, it appeared at least some consistent production from part of that group might materialize. But Van Vliet has fallen far and fast to the point that he isn’t even trusted to earn any playing time. Thomas and Illikainen have combined to play 81 minutes this season. Of those three, only Thomas played against Marquette. He was in for 6 minutes in the second half and finished with 0 points and 2 rebounds.

That lack of production forced Gard to burn the redshirt of freshman center Nate Reuvers after five games. Reuvers has shown flashes of the player he can be down the road but could have used this season as a practice player to gain strength. Reuvers and former walk-on Aaron Moesch were the first frontcourt players off the bench Saturday. Moesch has played a total of 20 minutes all season.

Aleem Ford, who took Van Vliet’s place in the starting lineup, has shown he can contribute with his athleticism, rebounding and passing ability. But he, too, has been inconsistent on offense. Ford was held scoreless twice earlier this season and finished with 2 points on 1 of 3 shooting in 18 minutes against Marquette.

3. Brad Davison and Ethan Happ keeping Wisconsin afloat

Davison knew he would have to handle much of the load at point guard Saturday, and he was tremendous. He played 38 minutes and finished with a career-high 20 points. His ability to consistently attack the rim has helped him stand out. Davison connected on 11 of 16 free throws. The rest of Wisconsin’s team was 2 of 4 from the foul line.

“I think the young man Brad Davison is going to be a star for Wisconsin,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “I love his competitive spirit. For a freshman to get to the line 16 times shows a lot.”

Davison has been wearing a bulky brace around his left shoulder since suffering an injury earlier this season, and it continues to impact him in small ways. During practice Thursday, which was open to the media, he aggravated the injury under the basket and briefly left the practice floor.

“I just try not to use it as an excuse,” Davison said. “It’s still basketball. Just try to do as much as I can with it. When I start playing, I try to forget about it and just act like it’s there, it’s not ideal, but it’s something I’ve got to deal with, so I just want to keep playing basketball.”

Happ finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds Saturday and once again consistently faced double-teams when he had the ball in the post. Marquette took advantage and forced him into committing 5 turnovers.

Happ (16.3 points) and Davison (10.9 points) are the only players averaging double figures in scoring for Wisconsin. That level of production can’t diminish given that the Badgers don’t know what they’ll get out of many other rotation players.

Afterward, Happ was asked about his ability to be a leader as the team battles adversity.

“I think it stays the same,” Happ said. “Things don’t go right, a lot of guys look to people with experience and I’m one of those guys. Just have to have positive body language and just keep fighting through, whether it’s injuries or mistakes that happen.”

4. Nate Reuvers has been a nice addition off the bench

Reuvers was thrust into a difficult spot when the Badgers burned his redshirt five games into the season. His play offensively has been up and down. He scored in double figures in consecutive Big Ten games against Ohio State and Penn State. But in the other four games he has played, Reuvers shot 3 for 23 from the field.

Still, Reuvers has demonstrated a willingness to battle despite his shot not falling. He finished with 5 points and 4 rebounds against Marquette and blocked 3 shots in the first half.

“I thought he could’ve been a little stronger around the rim early,” Gard said. “I thought he battled though. He competes. That’s why we pulled the redshirt. I really like the way he competed. He’s got to get stronger. He’s got to continue to learn what he can and can’t do. And he will. He learns every time he comes in and out of the game.”

5. Wisconsin will have to be mindful of team morale

Wisconsin’s basketball program is not used to experiencing something other than success in the past two decades. While there have been difficult moments, the Badgers have consistently found ways to respond and still make the NCAA Tournament. That streak will be significantly tested this season with the Badgers at 4-7. Not having Trice and King for the foreseeable future doesn’t help.

“I think they’re upset in terms of they’re very competitive,” Gard said. “They want to have success now. But it’s an adjustment. I think they probably found out after I did or shortly around we told the team [Friday] afternoon about D’Mitrik and obviously with King not until [Saturday]. So it’s part of it.

“You have to rally and everybody needs to step up. We need to fill into those positions and have the next man step forward and then everybody needs to also do a little bit more, whether it’s that position or in other areas, continue to improve.”

Gard said he might look into shifting some positions around as the team attempts to cope with the losses of Trice and King. But in doing that, there are bound to be more hiccups.

So, where does Wisconsin go from here?

“Stay together,” Happ said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’ve had struggles both my first two years of playing here. That’s what we did. We just stayed together and kept fighting. Didn’t hang up the shoes. We’re just going to keep doing that, keep playing.”

The post Wisconsin basketball: 5 things we learned from Badgers’ loss to Marquette appeared first on Land of 10.

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