The Wisconsin men’s basketball team snapped a 23-home-game winning streak Saturday in a frustrating 54-61 loss to its biggest in-state rival, the No. 16 Marquette Golden Eagles.
Despite taking Marquette’s (7-0) lead down to one point at the 10:45 mark in the second half, No. 7/9 Wisconsin (6-2) was never able to make up for the fact that it couldn’t shut down Marquette’s prolific offense. Down 41-40 in front of a rowdy Kohl Center crowd, Golden Eagle guards Todd Mayo and Darius Johnson-Odom sealed the Badgers’ fate by sinking their shots when it mattered most.
Marquette’s defense held Wisconsin scoreless for more than three minutes after the Badgers closed in on the lead, ending any hope of a comeback in a game often dominated by the Golden Eagles on the offensive end.
“I thought that the 10 consecutive stops that we got after they brought it to within one was absolutely critical,” Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said. “The guys that we had on the floor amidst that run was a collection of guys that have never even dreamed of playing in a situation like they were in.”
With starting point guard Junior Cadougan suspended for a violation of team rules, the Golden Eagles relied on Mayo off the bench to fill the void of Cadougan’s 7.7 points per game.
Down by 10 at halftime after shooting a disappointing 26 percent from the field and 14 percent from beyond the arc, the Badgers found themselves in a double-digit hole for a good portion of the second half. Allowing the Golden Eagles to build a lead as high as 12 in the first five minutes of the second period, Wisconsin struggled with its shooting throughout the game as only one player, senior point guard Jordan Taylor, finished with double figures.
“I’m sure they want to take the ball out of my hands or whatever, but we got guys who are plenty capable of making plays,” Taylor said. “As a team, we’ve got guys who are capable of making plays – we’re not worried about what people are doing to us, it’s more worried about what we’re doing.”
Taylor, who turned the ball over an uncharacteristic five times, failed to ever really find a rhythm as Marquette sustained a lead for most of the game.
Wisconsin controlled the lead early in the first half and forced a back-and-forth contest for much of the first 20 minutes, but once the Golden Eagles found their stroke, they never looked back.
Led on offense by Johnson-Odom (17 points, five rebounds) and Mayo (14 points, five rebounds), Bo Ryan’s squad solidly contained Marquette’s athletic offense but was unable to get its own shots to fall. The Badgers finished the game shooting 32 percent from the field and 26 percent from beyond the arc, a major slide from a team that was shooting the lights out through its first six games.
“[Darius Johnson-Odom] made some tough shots down the stretch, [Todd Mayo], he did too, but like I said, I think it was just we let them get comfortable doing things that they’re used to doing,” Taylor said. “We’re good at taking guys out of their comfort zone, and we just didn’t do that.”
As the clock wound down, Wisconsin continued to fight for a victory in front of its home crowd, taking the Golden Eagles’ lead to three with just over two minutes to play. However, Johnson-Odom, along with the support of forwards Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner off the bench, made sure that the late run was not enough to make up for the Badgers’ offensive struggles.
In a physical contest, Marquette won the rebounding battle with 44, including 17 on the offensive end that gave them plenty of second-chance scoring opportunities.
“I think they did a good job playing physical, I think they were even more physical than a North Carolina team,” redshirt junior forward Ryan Evans said. “They were playing more Big Ten ball out there, and I think that showed on the rebounds.”
Aside from Taylor, UW’s top scorer was guard Ben Brust, who provided a spark off the bench with nine points. Relying too heavily on their perimeter shooting and posting just 16 points in the paint, the Badgers showed that their lack of a dominant inside game can hurt them when shots aren’t falling from outside.
Although Wisconsin dropped its second straight game to a ranked opponent Saturday, head coach Bo Ryan still sees much to like in in his team as it heads into the heart of the regular season.
“I like some things that I’ve seen this week, and I think those things are going to benefit us later,” Ryan said. “This was a heck of challenge, the next game will be a challenge. But I just saw some things that I really liked, and we saw some things that we know we have to work on.”