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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s Basketball: Badgers fend off Gophers without Wahl, survive Minnesota’s second half surge

UW outlasts Minnesota 63-60 in first contest of 2023
Justin Mielke/The Badger Herald

In a tight match against Minnesota (6-7), the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (11-2) clinched a 63-60 win Jan. 3.

With roughly 11 minutes to spare before intermission, UW’s swiss army knife, Tyler Wahl, departed the hardwood for the Badger locker room with an apparent ankle injury.

Even without its senior anchor, Wisconsin outlasted Minnesota’s star-studded frontcourt with 44 combined points from Chucky Hepburn, Steven Crowl and Connor Essegian.


Even with Wahl temporarily sidelined, the Badgers appeared poised and tenacious on the defensive end. The red and white accumulated 13 steals and two blocks compared to just five steals and two blocks for the Gophers.

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Yet, Wisconsin opened the door for Minnesota and enabled its opponent’s 23-9 second half scoring surge over an eight minute stretch. In such a talented conference, Gard’s group cannot afford to spoil leads. Considering the widespread utilization of the three-pointer in their gameplans, what once appeared as a sure-fire win can now vanish in a matter of minutes.

With 17 consecutive conference battles looming on the horizon, three storylines defined UW’s performance Tuesday night.

Wahl’s Status

Following his team’s victory, Greg Gard acknowledged the uncertainty associated with Wahl’s ankle impairment.

“I didn’t know what exactly happened,” Gard said in the postgame press conference. “He tried to do some stuff backstage, and it just wasn’t gonna happen… We have three days here [and] we’ll see where he’s at.”

Wisconsin’s head coach also alluded to how Wahl’s absence complicates his rotations. Junior Carter Gilmore played a season-high 29 total minutes while teammate Markus Ilver contributed three points during 11 minutes in front of the Badger faithful.

Both Gard and Hepburn mentioned Ilver’s blunders when boxing out on the defensive glass, something Wisconsin certainly struggles with on a game-to-game basis.

“Missing Tyler, that’s one of our key guys and one of our best players, and when he goes down, we know somebody else has to step up,” Hepburn added postgame. “That’s why we have 16 players, and I believe, for the most part, we did a good job.”

As of right now, Wahl’s ailment does not seem to usher a sense of urgency among both teammates and the coaching staff. Still, as one of the integral pieces on a nationally ranked squad, his status remains noteworthy.

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Rebounding Woes

Wisconsin, which ranks 307 of 352 qualified Division I programs in rebounds per game, snatched just 24 missed shots. The Gophers, on the other hand, seized 40 total rebounds, including 18 combined boards from Jamison Battle and Dawson Garcia.

Without Wahl, who averages roughly 6.5 rebounds per appearance, the Badgers lacked assertiveness on both the offensive and defensive glass. Against aggressive players in the Big Ten, such as Purdue’s Zach Edey and Michigan State’s Mady Sissoko, Wisconsin’s rebounding issues may decide the victor of nail-biters down the line.

Essegian’s Bench Boost

Per usual, UW’s first-year scoring sensation, Essegian, provided an offensive spark for Wisconsin’s second unit. In just 19 minutes, he scored 11 points, snagged four rebounds and secured two steals.

Wednesday’s match marked his 10th straight outing with eight or more points, and despite missing his first look from the charity stripe of the season, he leads all Badgers in free throw percentage (95.8%).

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As Essegian bolsters his offensive skillset throughout the season, his role in UW’s half court schemes will surely expand. His shooting stroke mimics some of the most efficient deep shooters on the professional level, and his confidence off the bench compares to the likes of Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams and Tyler Herro. At this rate, Essegian projects to become one of the most notable scorers in school history.

Looking ahead, Wisconsin ventures to Champaign for its first showdown of the season against the Fighting Illini Jan. 7.

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