MADISON, WI – 1/6/2022
By: Mitchell Speltz
The eyes of many college basketball fans tuned in Thursday night to watch the Wisconsin Badgers (12-2) host the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-4) in a rivalry showdown, but much of the attention was on the individual battle between Johnny Davis and Iowa’s Keegan Murray, the nation’s leading scorer. Fans got what they bargained for as they finished with 26 and 27 points respectively, but it was Johnny’s team that got the win in a complete, near-wire-to-wire performance, 87-78. All five of Wisconsin starters scored in double-figures with Davis leading the way, Brad Davison scoring 18, and Tyler Wahl producing 16. Following the Badgers’ most significant win of the season, some wondered whether Thursday night would be a letdown against a Hawkeye team looking for a résumé-boosting win, but it was anything but. Wisconsin controlled the game in nearly all facets from the jump as the Badgers now look for their third win in seven days on Sunday against Maryland, but first, the recap of Thursday’s win:
- With back-to-back impressive wins in conference play, one thing has really stuck out in addition to Johnny Davis being spectacular – and that’s points in the paint. Wisconsin has scored 68 points in the painted area over the last two games including 40 in the victory over Iowa. This offense has changed and Greg Gard has adapted his offense to be more down-hill and fast-paced based on the personnel he has. This is important because it’s unlocking some of his players to their fullest potential such as Davis and freshman Chucky Hepburn who’s been a maestro orchestrating this offense. It’s also allowed them to not be reliant on threes like previous Wisconsin teams. The Badgers are barely shooting 30% as a group from downtown and struggles were expected in that department. But the fact they can score in so many ways inside makes it a deficiency they can overcome.
- The Badgers haven’t been a strong team statistically rebounding the basketball, but it was an area they dominated against Iowa. Five different Badgers had at least four rebounds with Johnny Davis and Tyler Wahl tying for the team lead with 9 boards. But I specifically want to focus on offensive rebounding. This team is averaging nearly 11 offensive boards per game… 11! For perspective, the Badgers under Greg Gard have averaged around 8 offensive rebounds a contest. Typical Wisconsin teams have never been around their current mark because they’ve put an emphasis on stopping opposing transition by dropping players back after shot attempts. This team is going for second chance oppurtunities frequently and it’s paying off. They corralled 15 misses on Thursday and registered that into 18 points, an effective ratio. Chris Vogt has been a key help to this as he has great instincts and timing when he’s around the basket and those extended possessions can wear on opposing defenses throughout a game such as Iowa on Thursday night.
- The connectedness of this group is something I did not expect to materialize quickly and it appears it’s caught Greg Gard by surprise too. The Badgers’ Head Coach mentioned after the game it’s hard to ever get mad at this group because they never have a bad day – not something you expect from a team with 12 underclassmen. It almost sounded like he was about to get emotional talking about them and really showed his love for coaching this team. He’s credited most of that due to their consistent competitiveness at practice and games and it’s led to chemistry I haven’t seen before in my years of covering this program. There’s something special going on here and it’s really started to come to light this week.
AT THE PODIUM:
- “It’s pretty cool to be ranked up there with him and all those talented scorers but I don’t care about that right now. He’s averaging more than me, but they lost” – Johnny Davis on competing against Keegan Murray
- “We got a lot of guys who bring different things to the table and whosever night it is, they look to produce as much as we can. This team is pretty dangerous and we’ve got a lot of good things coming” – Tyler Wahl on everyone playing a role
- “We have a lot of weapons, we have one of the best players in the country, Chucky (Hepburn) does a nice job at finding guys, we have rim runners, and guys who can shoot in transition. It’s important to take advantage of the opportunities, especially if it means we don’t have to work as hard on the offensive end and get those transition buckets when we can” – Brad Davison on scoring in transition
- “This is a very competitive group. When you have that everyday mentality, it shows up because every practice is competitive. It’s nothing magical, you just have to have the right people. I can’t even get mad at them. They just give me everything they’ve got, dang near every day. They haven’t had a bad day” – Greg Gard about not having a letdown after upsetting Purdue