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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: No cause for concern in Madison if Badgers can get back on track with win over Illinois

Even though Wisconsin’s seven-game win streak snapped, team can still prove it is dangerous
Marissa Haegele

As the law of averages would have it, Wisconsin men’s basketball’s seven-game win streak had to end at some point — it was only natural.

But a demoralizing 69-57 on-the-road loss to No. 8 Michigan State is not the end of the world by any means for the Badgers (16-10 overall, 8-5 Big Ten) , who’ve brought themselves from the gutter of college basketball and back to its forefront in a grand fashion.

That seven-game win streak included three ranked wins and two moments of besting top-five opponents (No. 2 Maryland and then-No. 4 Michigan State), proving the Badgers are a formidable team. So long as Wisconsin picks itself up from a 12-point loss to a top-10 opponent and continues on its way, there shouldn’t be much cause for concern in Madison.


A solid win over Illinois (12-14 overall, 4-9 Big Ten) Sunday in Madison can get the Badgers back on track.

Last time out

Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine elevated himself to another level Thursday night, one which no Wisconsin player could match.

Valentine, a senior and on the shortlist for the Wooden award this season, shot nearly 50 percent from the field and was only three rebounds shy of a triple-double (24 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds).

His performance by far topped that of Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes, Valentine’s counterpart.

Hayes was unable to get going as a result of the Spartan’s stingy defense, which committed its top defenders to man-defense on the junior for the entirety of the game.

Hayes shot an abysmal 8 percent from the field (1-13), but recorded seven rebounds and three assists. Not many other Wisconsin players, however, provided offensive help.

Only two Badgers, Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig, scored more than 10 points, and the team’s bench provided nine total points — not the type of production needed to beat one of the best teams in the country.

Wisconsin’s key to victory:

Quicker ball movement

At points throughout the Michigan State game, it seemed as if Wisconsin struggled to find shots they were willing to take, let alone had the opportunity to shoot.

The Spartans, who possess one of the top defenses in the country, were able to make Wisconsin’s shooters uncomfortable on nearly every one of its field-goal attempts. Wisconsin shot 34 percent from the field as a team and tried to force three pointers, but shot only 30 percent from behind the arc. The three-point shot that carried them to victory for much of this stretch wasn’t there against an athletic Spartan defense capable of defending the perimeter.

The Badgers held on to the ball for far too long, allowing Spartan defenders to trap them into bad passes, turnovers or poor shots when not in the paint.

Slow play is a defining characteristic of Wisconsin’s program — following the game plan, limiting opponents’ possessions and usually making smart plays — but on nights when the team isn’t scoring a quicker tempo is needed.

To get back on track and gain confidence in their shots once more, Wisconsin will have to be committed to quicker ball movement and using set plays to find open shots.

Illinois player to watch: Malcolm Hill

Hill, a junior, leads the Illini in points (18.5) and assists (3.4) and is second in rebounds (6.7). His skill set makes him Illinois’ all-around best player and he will require heavy defense to contain.

But Illinois plays a dangerous game. They live and die by Hill’s performances, relying heavily on him to provide points, much as Wisconsin relied on Hayes in the early portion of the season.

While it will be no easy task to contain Hill, if Wisconsin is able to, Illinois’ offense will be decimated without his production.

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