The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (20-10, 13-6 Big Ten) found their way to a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten Tuesday night in an ugly 63–48 win over Northwestern (7-22, 2-17).
The Senior Night victory makes seven straight now for the red hot Badgers whose season has done a complete 180 since a shaky 13-10 start.
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Nathan Reuvers led the way as the only Badger in double digits with 11 points, and no one player stood out amongst the rest in Wednesday’s conference matchup. But, Northwestern sits in last place in the Big Ten for a reason, so quality contributions across the board were enough for Wisconsin to come away with a win.
UW relied on the deep ball throughout and made sure to feed Brevin Pritzl, the lone senior, to play substantial minutes this year. He finished with nine points and six rebounds on 3-6 (50 percent) shooting from beyond the arc. Despite getting out to a big 28-11 lead with 5:40 left in the first half, Wisconsin went cold and only led by six at the intermission.
Luckily, however, Northwestern’s year-long offensive struggles really started to show in the second. The Wildcats shot just 7-27 (25.9 percent) from the field and failed to connect on all eight of their three-point attempts.
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Sophomore forward Pete Nance was NW’s lone bright spot, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. With the game in hand and a minute left up 12, Wisconsin gave Pritzl his well-deserved Kohl Center send off. Replacing him was Michael Ballard, the only other senior on the team.
Ballard only logged nine minutes all season and never got the chance to score until Wednesday night. With five seconds on the clock, Ballard drove through four Wildcat defenders and banked in a lefty scoop layup.
Brad Davison, Micah Potter and Aleem Ford all matched Pritzl with nine points each, while D’Mitrik Trice wound up with eight points and four assists. It was Greg Gard’s 100th career win as the Badger head coach, who now sits at 100-57 since taking over the team back in 2015-16.
In addition to Pritzl and Ballard, UW honored Rashard Griffith, who left after his sophomore year back in 1995 to go pro but more recently returned to finish his degree.
The win pushed Wisconsin into a three-way tie with No. 9 Maryland and No. 16 Michigan State. They will finish the regular season in Bloomington this Saturday against the unranked Indiana Hoosiers.
When the two squads met earlier this year on Dec. 5, Kobe King was still in UW’s lineup and the Hoosiers were 8-1. It wound up being a huge 20-point victory for the Badgers. Now sitting at 19-11, Indiana needs to win this game if they want any chance at a single-digit seed, so expect Hoosier faithful to come out in droves.
Wisconsin held leading scorer Trayce Jackson-Davis — averaging 14 points per game — to just nine in the first game. But they had trouble stopping Al Durham, who wound up with 15 on 75% three-point shooting.
To keep their win streak alive and head into tournament play riding high, Greg Gard will need to make sure he has guys in Durham and Devonte Green’s faces all night. If they get hot, it might spell trouble.
Wisconsin definitely holds the size advantage with Reuvers and Potter holding down the paint. They should look to stretch the floor early per usual than attack Indiana’s relatively small front court. March Madness is in the air, folks.
You can catch the game live on ESPN or listen in on Badger Radio Network — tip is set for 11:00 a.m.