We make a lot of jokes around these parts about Wisconsin’s pace of play. Generally speaking, their near glacial effort results in minimizing the number of points scored in a game on a regular basis. In fact, it’s not entirely odd to see the Badgers score 58 or fewer points in a game. They scored just 56 points earlier this season in a loss to North Carolina, and they scored 58 or fewer points seven times in a game during the 2015-16 season.
On Saturday, #17 ranked Wisconsin scored 58 points IN THE SECOND HALF against Marquette on their way to a 93-84 victory over the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee. Marquette falls to 7-3 overall on the season and 2-3 against KenPom.com top 100 opponents.
Here is a list of Wisconsin players who missed more than one shot in the second half:
- Nigel Hayes, who was was 3-for-6 and made his only three point attempt
- Bronson Koenig, who was 2-for-6, but shot 2-of-3 from behind the arc
That’s it. That’s the list. The Badgers shot SIXTY-FOUR POINT THREE percent after halftime, and SIXTY-TWO POINT FIVE percent from behind the three point line. That’s an effective field goal percentage of 73.2%. Mar quette’s defense was, in a word, garbage. In two words: hot garbage.
Here’s what makes all of that all the more depressing: Marquette was leading this game by five points at halftime, 40-35. The Golden Eagles had rallied from a seven point deficit with 9:19 left in the opening frame to take a five point lead at half. In retrospect, it was probably a bad omen that MU wasn’t able to do more against Wisconsin, as sophomore big man Ethan Happ spent the final 18:19 of the first half nailed to the bench after he picked up two quick fouls while defending Luke Fischer.
Happ learned his lesson well, committing just one personal foul in 15 minutes of the second half, shooting 5-of-6 from the field, grabbing five rebounds, dishing an assist, and blocking a shot. While Wisconsin looked energized and rejuvenated with Happ on the floor, Marquette went the other direction, looking lost, confused, and disjointed as the Badgers built a lead as high as 18 with 6:44 left in the game.
It was probably over at that point, to be quite honest, as MU had allowed Wisconsin to open the second half on a 35-12 run. But the Golden Eagles showed some vague signs of life while cutting the lead down to just eight, first on a pair of free throws from Markus Howard with 3:06 remaining, then again on two free throws from Haanif Cheatham with 2:22 left to go. The Badgers answered that with a 4-0 run completely built out of free throws, and with 1:12 left, it was definitely over.
Except the score was only 83-71, believe it or not. The last 72 seconds of this game sucked. Badly. Marquette insisted on fouling to extend the game, and then Wisconsin turned around and fouled the Golden Eagles as they attempted to score quickly to maximize their incredibly unrealistic chances of dragging a win out of the game. I don’t blame anyone for leaving. It was terrible basketball, capped off by Pat Driscoll calling a technical foul on Khalil Iverson for hanging on the rim when all he did was swing a bit because of his momentum and Andrew Rowsey was close enough to believe it was for his own safety anyway.
Here’s the thing: Marquette’s offense was more than good enough to win this game. They shot 47% overall from the field, 46% from three point line, and committed just 12 turnovers. The offense is fine, in fact, it’s probably great, considering that Wisconsin is ranked in the top 25 in the country in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency according to KenPom. The defense, though, was an absolute nightmare.
After Tuesday’s second half disaster against Fresno State, where Marquette flushed a 19 point lead at halftime and nearly blew the game, the Golden Eagles, both coaches and players alike, are stuck staring in the mirror to try to figure out what the hell is going wrong with this team and what they can do to fix it in the future.
Up Next: Finals Week. As has been the case under Steve Wojciechowski, there won’t be a post-finals Saturday game. MU will reconvene on Monday, December 19th to tangle with St. Francis (PA), and then again two days later against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Both of those teams are ranked in the 300s on KenPom, and SIUE just lost to a non-D1 team on Saturday.