As is routine, Herald Sports will offer a weekly report card on the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s two most recent games.
The No. 22 Badgers (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) have had plenty of time off recently, last playing on Feb. 9 in a 68-61 overtime win against Minnesota. Before that, UW lost, 58-52 at home against Ohio State – its fourth home loss of the season.
Wisconsin now sits in fourth place of the Big Ten, just a half-game behind third-place Michigan. The Badgers will resume play Feb. 16 at Michigan State, which currently resides in second place.
Offense – 3 out of 5
There’s plenty of success interwoven with failure in terms of Wisconsin’s shooting over the past two games, which earns this team a middling grade.
Against Ohio State, the Badgers shot miserably from behind the 3-point line (18.5 percent) but performed well enough inside to finish with a 40 percent field goal percentage nonetheless.
Wisconsin then lit up Minnesota in the first half, hitting 7 of 11 3-pointers (63.6 percent) before nose-diving in the second, shooting 2-for-11 from behind the perimeter (18.2 percent) and 7-for-25 overall (28 percent) in that period.
Even with the Gophers mounting a compelling comeback, the Badgers failed to score a basket of any kind in the final seven minutes and 43 seconds of the game.
However, Wisconsin’s saving grace came from some rock solid and clutch-free throw shooting in overtime against Minnesota. Fifteen of the 17 points the Badgers scored in the extra period came from the charity line, with only two attempts going astray (88.2 percent).
Defense – 3.5 out of 5
Wisconsin did well to stifle the offenses of the Buckeyes and Gophers as they both failed to reach their season averages. Ohio State, No. 2 in the conference in scoring, fell about 18 points below its average while Minnesota, in 40 minutes of regulation, was kept at about the same distance from its own.
Both opponents ran efficient offenses, however, and ran them consistently. Neither Ohio State nor Minnesota shot below 40 percent from the field in either the first or second halves.
But the two teams didn’t shoot very well from downtown – hitting a combined 7 of 24 for 29.2 percent – although neither really had to since there were opportunities inside and UW’s offense was streaky in comparison.
Although forward Jared Berggren failed to contain OSU forward Jared Sullinger in his 24-point performance, he’s quickly evolved into a hardened defender and consistent shot-blocker, swatting away five shots in the last two games. Fellow forward Mike Bruesewitz also denied three shots of his own as well.
Bench – 2.5 out of 5
Head coach Bo Ryan hasn’t dug deep into this year’s lineup very often, but the game against Minnesota marked a real lack of utilizing the bench.
Despite coming off the bench all season, guard Ben Brust averages 24.4 minutes per game (and played 22 against the Buckeyes) but played just eight against the Gophers. Meanwhile, forwards Frank Kaminsky and Rob Wilson never played more than 10 minutes in either game.
Still, the three managed to chip in somewhat. Brust hit a three-pointer late in the first half in Minnesota, and Kaminsky nailed a clutch trey against Ohio State.
Wilson also grabbed two rebounds and Kaminsky had a pair of assists against UM as well.
But there were some frowning points, too. Wilson failed to score at all and Brust, against OSU, turned the ball over twice.
Player of the week – Ryan Evans
The junior forward might have just enjoyed his best two-game stretch of the season, posting double-digit scoring outputs in both games and earning his first double-double of his college career.
Evans was both the top scorer and the most efficient scorer against OSU, hitting 7 of 14 shots for 14 points. He complemented that effort with five rebounds, an assist and one steal.
Although Evans wasn’t satisfied with his defensive performance from that game, his steady hand kept Wisconsin in the game nevertheless.
And at Minnesota, Evans did a bit of everything, totaling 17 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. He didn’t shoot all that well – hitting 5 of 14 – but was a solid 7-for-8 at the free throw line. Six of his points came in the five-minute overtime period as well.