-MADISON, WI – 12/15/2021
By: Mitchell Speltz
For the second time this season, the Wisconsin Badgers (9-2) were down their top scorer, Johnny Davis who was ruled out nearly an hour before the game with a non-covid illness after participating in shoot-around earlier in the day. Without him, earning a win against Nicholls State (7-4), the favorites from the Southland Conference proved to be anything but easy. The Badgers found themselves down 37-28 at halftime after a very uncharacteristic half on both ends of the floor. It was a script that played out very similarly for Wisconsin as it did in their record 22-point comeback against Indiana, except they didn’t have their best player to lead them back. It took an improved defensive effort and another spark off the bench from Chris Vogt as Wisconsin rallied to top the Colonels, 71-68. I wouldn’t take this game completely at face value if I’m a Badger fan, but here were my takeaways from Wednesday night:
- I’m starting to grow some level of concern about the play of Steven Crowl. What looked like an opportunity for a get-right game, Crowl struggled again and produced just 5 points and 4 rebounds in only 14 minutes. Chris Vogt was given the majority of the playing time at the five and rightfully so as he played a key role off the bench in the second half. Crowl was taken out at around the 17:00 minute mark of the second half and did not see the floor again until the final seconds of the game after Brad Davison fouled out. With competition starting to gradually get stronger, Crowl hasn’t responded the way I thought he would and it’s not going to get any easier from here. Am I giving up on Steven Crowl? Absolutely not. But he’s going to have to adapt his game and play a lot stronger with Big Ten play on the horizon. I do not believe Greg Gard wants to make a change in the starting lineup and switch Vogt and Crowl, but it is something to watch.
- With Johnny Davis out of the lineup, this was an opportunity for this team to develop and become a deeper team. Despite the performance against Nicholls State not being pretty, some players grew up in this game, especially Jahcobi Neath. Neath has been a really tough player to judge at this juncture of the season because he’s missed time with a lower leg injury and an illness. He was given the opportunity to start in place of Johnny and I thought he played well. The transfer from Wake Forrest finished with 9 points and a quiet 7 rebounds. The Junior isn’t a guy who’s going to stuff the stat sheet with points, but he’s physical, athletic, and can create high-energy plays with his rebounding ability. Greg Gard praised Neath for some of his key offensive rebounds and gritty plays that led to points. He’s been a bit of a forgotten player, but Neath is going to be a key cog for the Wisconsin backcourt.
- The Badgers rallied from 10 points or more down to win for the fourth time this season with their come-from-behind win against the Colonels. Give Nicholls State credit for the way they competed, but Wisconsin probably shouldn’t have been in this spot even without Johnny Davis. The point here is, don’t count this team out. Gard has loved the grit of his team all season long and how they’ve learned to battle against adversity, something you don’t often see from young teams.
AT THE PODIUM:
“I felt we were just kind of dead in the water. We didn’t have a lot of energy in the first half and I was just looking to provide a spark anyway I could” – Chris Vogt on helping the team rally in the second half
“The best-coached teams are the player-coached teams. We were mostly on the same page with Coach Gard at halftime and we were able to come out and play a much better second half” – Tyler Wahl on the halftime adjustments
“We were confident the whole second half that if we did things the right way we’d come back and win. You obviously don’t want to be in that spot at the end but this is a game that can help us adjust and get ready for conference play” – Brad Davison on closing them out at the end
“We benefited from this in a weird way. We’ve been trying to develop depth and those opportunities have been presented to us with guys not being healthy. Guys have been stepping and they’ve had extra practice time to prepare for these moments” – Greg Gard on players stepping up