Every week, Herald Sports will look back at the Wisconsin men’s basketball team and grade the Badgers in various aspects of the game, including offense, defense and bench scoring.
Here is how the Badgers fared last week on the road at Minnesota and at home versus Northwestern:
Offense — 2 of 5
One strong half of the four was enough to get the Badgers a win Sunday against the Wildcats. Three halves of poor shooting against varying zones earned Wisconsin its lowest mark yet in our grades. UW shot just 30.5 percent for the game at Minnesota. While the Badgers did connect 11 times from beyond the arc, they made just seven 2-point field goals and went just 5-of-7 from the charity stripe on the night.
Wisconsin appeared to have figured things out in the first half against Northwestern, missing just five shots before halftime en route to a 75 percent mark and 14-point lead. NU amped up its extended 1-3-1 zone in the second half, though, and it changed everything. If the Badgers had shot and missed one more time, they would have finished with the exact opposite mark as they had in the first half. Before the break, UW went 15-for-20. In the final 20 minutes, they were 5-of-19.
Defense — 1 of 5
One more made basket by the Gophers and UW opponents would have finished the week at exactly 50 percent from the floor. Still, Minnesota managed an impressive 47.6 percent in a 68-52 victory over Wisconsin. Four of five Gophers starters reached double-digit points in the game with guard Blake Hoffarber leading the way with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. UM also dominated UW at the free throw line. The Gophers made 23-of-28, compared to just 5-for-7 for the Badgers.
When the game started Sunday, it was a shootout. Between the two teams, only one shot was missed out of the first 13 attempts. Northwestern contributed that miss but still managed to shoot 50 percent from the floor in the game. That consistency — and 26 points by forward John Shurna — allowed the Wildcats to withstand the Badgers’ hot shooting in the first half and get back within one point late in the second half when the Wisconsin offense went ice cold.
Bench Scoring — 2.5 of 5
This should come along with an asterisk, as forward Jon Leuer came off the bench for Wisconsin in his return from a left wrist injury. Thursday night, Leuer was ineffective, scoring just four points on 2-of-12 shooting from the floor at Williams Arena. That would be all for UW off the bench, however, as UM outscored the visitors 13-4 in bench points.
In Sunday’s matchup with Northwestern, Leuer contributed 11 points off the bench to boost the Badgers in their 70-63 victory over the Wildcats. Also off the bench, Mike Bruesewitz added four points and Ryan Evans had two, giving UW 17 bench points to just five for NU.
Quotes of the Week — Greg Gard and Trevon Hughes (tie)
Hughes’ quote is a bittersweet one for Wisconsin basketball fans.
On the one hand, it’s nice to see Hughes own up to his mistakes following the loss. But as Gard admits, Hughes’ answer to the team’s poor play Thursday in Minneapolis may have been something he should keep to himself.
“It was all my fault,” Hughes said after the game. “I was being a goofball in practice all week.”
“Sometimes he’s too honest,” Gard said of Hughes after practice Friday. “Obviously he’s got to be a leader, and he understands that. But you accept that responsibility and you need to move on. I didn’t see all the practices, but you’ve just got to continue to get better.”
Story of the Week/Other Quote of the Week
Obviously, the biggest story of the week was the return of junior forward Jon Leuer. And when he stands 6-foot-10, it’s kind of hard to miss a guy like that getting back on the court for 20 minutes a game. Jordan Taylor offered a similar opinion.
“We got the giraffe back,” Taylor said, referring to Leuer. “It’s hard not to notice somebody who’s 6-foot-10. Obviously, you notice he’s not there.”
Leuer’s first week back featured mixed results. The Minnesota native struggled at “The Barn” and scored just two points in the Badgers’ loss. But against Northwestern at home Leuer played well — aside from three missed free throws — to help guide UW to victory.
As head coach Bo Ryan said after the game, Leuer needs more reps in practice with the team to get back to where he was before the injury. Still, it added excitement to an otherwise disappointing week for Wisconsin basketball.