MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin lost 68-63 to No. 2 Michigan State on Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center in a game the Badgers played well enough to win. Given the way this season has transpired, it was a welcome sight for an inexperienced and undermanned Wisconsin team. Michigan State improved to 28-3 and clinched the outright Big Ten regular-season title.
Here are three things we learned about the Badgers from the game:
Brad Davison’s performance was simply unreal
Brad Davison has produced his share of memorable moments in his freshman season at Wisconsin. But his performance on Sunday against Michigan State was truly special. Davison almost single-handedly carried Wisconsin to a victory against one of the best teams in college basketball. He exited the game after aggravating his dislocated left shoulder and caught fire from the field when he returned.
During one stretch in the second half, Davison scored 11 consecutive points for Wisconsin, which included 3 long jump shots. Davison finished with a career-high 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field. He made all 7 of his free-throw attempts and didn’t make a turnover in 37 minutes.
“I just want to get it back into place first so I can go out there and play,” Davison said of his shoulder injury. “I love playing basketball, so whether it’s a bruise or whatever it is, I usually try not to let anything hold me back. I’m just going out there trying to win. So I just try not to really think about the pain or anything that goes along with it. I just go out there and play.”
There is little doubt Davison will go down as one of the most beloved players in Wisconsin program history because of his toughness and determination. But he has shown something this season with his playmaking ability on a team devoid of many players capable of creating their own shots. Davison has filled in admirably at point guard this season with D’Mitrik Trice sidelined, and has proven to be an incredibly effective leader.
“Even though he’s still a rookie, you have a leader that they look to him and see how he plays,” Badgers coach Greg Gard said. “He speaks very well and he obviously says the right things. But just watch how he plays. Watch how he competes. He’s on the floor, coming back in after getting his shoulder put back in.
“That’s a good message even visually for other players in terms of how hard you need to play this game and how to compete. He’s helped us in more ways than just what statistically you see on paper. There’s so much he’s done for us in terms of the culture and the growth of this young group.”
Wisconsin is playing some of its most consistent basketball this season
Not long ago, Wisconsin was in the midst of a stretch in which it lost eight of nine Big Ten games. The Badgers found several ways to lose and weren’t even competitive in road losses to Purdue and Iowa. But the version of Wisconsin’s team that has shown up over the past three weeks has been encouraging.
Wisconsin upset No. 6 Purdue 57-53 and then defeated Minnesota and Northwestern. The Badgers held a 49-47 lead against the Spartans on Nate Reuvers’ free throws with 7:18 remaining on Sunday. When the teams met in East Lansing on Jan. 26, Michigan State won handily 76-61.
“This group has continued to persevere, continued to work,” Gard said. “It hasn’t been easy and obviously we have our limitations. But they’ve improved and become more consistent maybe as well as any group that we’ve had around here in a little bit in terms of where we started from and what we had to work through, specifically with inexperience and with obviously having to shuffle the deck a little bit in December.
“Even though you don’t like the result, we couldn’t have competed like this with this group maybe in mid-January. They’ve stuck with it, and that’s a credit to our players. They’ve been very, very resilient.”
Wisconsin enters the Big Ten Tournament with almost zero expectations
Wisconsin closed out the regular season 14-17 overall, including 7-11 in the Big Ten. The Badgers are now almost guaranteed of their first losing season in 20 years, which also marks the last time the program missed the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin will play Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, with top-seeded Michigan State awaiting the winner on Friday.
Wisconsin has played well down the stretch to win four of its last six regular-season Big Ten games. But the Badgers’ lack of depth makes a run of four victories in four days at the Big Ten Tournament seem almost impossible.
Still, Davison provided the team with a speech in the locker room following the Michigan State game that should resonate throughout the coming week.
“I just told them we’d rather beat them next week anyways,” Davison said. “We control our own destiny. It’s not college football. It’s college basketball, where the regular season is kind of washed away. We control our own destiny.
“We’ve got to come back to practice ready to improve, ready to get better and, like I said, this thing is far from over. It stinks that we lost on senior night for our seniors. But in our opinion, we’ve got a lot more basketball to play. So we’re going to keep working, get healthy, continue to improve and make a run at this thing.”
The post Wisconsin basketball: 3 things we learned from Badgers’ loss to Michigan State appeared first on Land of 10.