The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team returned to the Kohl Center on Wednesday night after the Badgers big win against in-state rival Marquette. This win put Wisconsin at five wins against KenPom top 100 teams so far this season, tied with Alabama for most in the nation.

The Badgers hope to add to this mark by beating Indiana in their opening game of Big Ten Conference play. With three players out with a non-COVID illness, including Lorne Bowman II and Jahcobi Neath, the marquee matchup of the game was set to be in the post between preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis and the Badgers’ big man Steven Crowl.

First Half

The battle between Crowl and Jackson-Davis began at the tip off, with Wisconsin getting the first possession. From the tip, the defensive plan on Jackson-Davis was clear with the Badgers sending double-teams his way on multiple occasions. Wisconsin’s strong defense was answered with solid shooting from Indiana’s wings, keeping the game close in the opening minutes.

The Hoosiers’ hot shooting kept up as they shot at a 68% clip nearing the end of the half with an early ten-point lead. As the half progressed, the Badgers shot a poor 27% from the field, with flashbacks of their matchup against Providence starting to set in. The narrative continued through the half with the lid staying locked over the rim for the Badgers compared to a clinical shooting performance from Indiana coach Mike Woodson’s NBA style offense.

Slowly, the Badgers began to score, getting into their sets and getting paint touches. With that being said, the Hoosiers’ hot start carried through for much of the first half, shooting 70% from 3-point range. Sloppy shot attempts and some poor defensive rebounding from Wisconsin allowed the Indiana lead to balloon to 17 at halftime.

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Second Half

The bad juju of the first half slowly improved as the Badgers came out with a fast start, including a great pass and subsequent slam between Crowl and guard Johnny Davis. This dunk proved to be a springboard for Davis, pushing him to six unanswered points. Davis’s brother, Jordan Davis, got involved as well and the duo kept shooting, fueling a Wisconsin run that revved up the Kohl Center.

As subs came in, the Badgers saw themselves facing a ten-point deficit with just over ten minutes to go. The defensive effort contributed to the team slowly chipping away at the Indiana lead. The unexpected story this game was Chris Vogt, who snagged nine points in the second half, mainly off of hard nose rebounding and push shots.

With the game getting close near the final minutes, the Hoosiers began to foul Davis, leading to opportunities at the line. Fouls didn’t get the best of Davis as he made a step-back three to give the Badgers their first lead of the half at 1:20 left in the game.

On the other end, the Hoosiers’ attempt to regain the lead was taken up by Tyler Wahl on the defensive end, leading to two ice-cold free throws from true freshman Chucky Hepburn to seal it for the Badgers.

Takeaways

Today, we saw that Ben Carlson has the potential to play a key role for this Wisconsin team. We saw him on the ground on multiple occasions and really battling in the paint against an NBA quality big man in Jackson-Davis. With this being said, Carlson needs to spend some time strengthening his base and playing wider with his hips in order to limit being easily knocked off his spot. Even with this, my optimism comes from the potential he showcased, particularly in the way he naturally flowed to the rim on both the defensive and offensive glass. Along with this, he takes two to three 3-point attempts a game, a piece of his skillset that will be key as he improves over time.

In the first half, there was definitely a lack of fresh legs out there with the loss of both Bowman and Neath. The biggest thing these two add to this team is their shooting. It is no exaggeration to say Crowl and Wahl are great passers out of the low post, and the same can be said for Davison and Davis from the wings.

In the first half players in the post were either not getting touches or passing out to shooters who were not hitting their threes. With multiple scoring droughts, players like Bowman and Neath are excellent spot-up shooters who would have helped with the shooting slump in the first half.

Vogt shows up in my post-game takes a lot, but this was the first game where he will be getting talked about from others across college basketball. From the beginning, I have said Vogt is a really under-appreciated part of this team, especially his offensive rebounding. Vogt’s length and ability to hop around and poke at the ball off the backboard really shook up Indiana’s rebounding effort. While the Badgers have just played one conference game thus far, I believe Vogt could be the answer to the question of how Wisconsin can hold their own against the Kofi Cockburns and Zach Edis of the Big Ten Conference.