-MADISON, WI – 1/21/2022
By: Mitchell Speltz
A seven-game winning streak came to a sudden halt on Friday night for the Wisconsin Badgers (15-3) as they suffered their first loss in over a month at the hands of Michigan State (15-3). An 8-0 start to the game got the sold-out, Kohl Center crowd into the game early but the Spartans quieted them quickly and dominated the contest from there on out. “We lost our intensity and we couldn’t get it back”, said Johnny Davis. Playing in front of their largest collection of home fans this season, it came as a major surprise Michigan State was able to come to Madison and frustrate Wisconsin as much as they did, and now after taking a punch in the mouth, how will this young team respond? The Badgers will look to get right and perhaps healthier over the weekend as Tyler Wahl was held out Friday with an ankle injury. The team hopes to have him back on Thursday when they visit Nebraska, but here are my conclusions from Friday’s loss:
- Johnny Davis finished the game as the leading scorer with 25 points, but earning those points was anything but easy. The Player-of-the-Year candidate needed 20 shots to register 25 points, and it was a frustrating night all around. This game was truly one of two halves for Johnny – In the first half, he scored 10 points on 3/13 shooting compared to 15 on 5/7 in the second. What changed? It felt like Johnny was forcing too many shots in the opening half and the frustration with the Spartans defense and officiating appeared to get to him. In the second, I thought he let the game come to him and played through his teammates more. He showed more discipline and didn’t feel the need to score on every possession. There will be moments where he must have the ball in his hands and needs to make a play, but it felt like he was playing with the world on his shoulders and tried to make plays that weren’t there. Johnny Davis on a mediocre night can still produce in a major way, but playing to be more efficient and trusting his teammates more is something he has to develop for the final two months of the season.
- What got exposed most in this game was Wisconsin’s lack of depth. Playing without Tyler Wahl is a big deal and Greg Gard emphasized such following the game. The Badgers only got seven points out of their bench on Friday and being productive off the bench doesn’t always point to scoring, but Gard insisted that players on the bench need to be better and step up. This team has been fortunate to have opportunities to develop younger players with Johnny missing two games earlier in the season, but the five starters cannot do all the heavy lifting. You need consistent bench play to complement the starting five in order to have a complete team, and Wisconsin does not have that right now.
- One positive I’ll end on is the growing development of Wisconsin’s three-point shooting. Wisconsin made 12 shots from behind the arc and have now made 31 over their last three games at a 45% clip. Half of their makes on Friday came from Brad Davison but this is something to watch going forward. This was not expected to be a strength coming into the season and I don’t think it will be an aspect of the offense the Badgers want to overly depend on. However, there’s always been confidence amongst the players they’re capable of shooting the ball better than the percentages indicate. The Badgers will look to continue their focus at scoring in the paint and getting to the line, but a consistent inside-out game will create better floor spacing, which is beneficial to any offense.
AT THE PODIUM:
- “It was a little frustrating but I can’t control what refs see or call. I tried to set up my teammates but they didn’t make shots at a consistent rate” – Johnny Davis on Michigan State’s defensive game plan against him
- “Not great. They got a lot of transition buckets, offensive rebounds, and they got confident because of it. We didn’t play great tonight but we look forward to seeing them again in a few weeks” – Brad Davison on the team’s performance
- “Two of the better players I’ve seen in this league in Davison and Davis. I’ve been in the league for a long time and we put an emphasis on them and they still torched us” – Tom Izzo on containing Brad Davison and Johnny Davis
- “I don’t think the physicality affected us; we’ve faced physical teams before. It was the transition game that took us too long to adapt to, and defending for 25 seconds and then giving up an offensive rebound” – Greg Gard on Michigan State’s physicality