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What We Learned: Wisconsin Badgers 55, Temple Owls 59

What we can take away from Wisconsin’s close loss at Temple.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

A rough start to the season continued on Wednesday night for the Wisconsin Badgers as they dropped yet another close game, this time at Temple, 59-55.

It was a close game throughout but Temple was able to make enough plays down the stretch to earn the victory. Ethan Happ led the Badgers offensively with 23 points and six rebounds. Happ was the majority of the Badgers’ offense with the rest of the starters combining for only 28 points.

Wednesday stood as the Badgers sixth loss of the season, with four being within 10 or fewer points. Wisconsin is still trying to get things going this year, and with that it’s time to start worrying about where this team is heading. Let’s take a look at a few key takeaways from Wednesday’s game.

What We Learned

1) Wisconsin in trouble of missing NCAA Tournament

It’s still too early in the season to rule out Wisconsin — especially with this program’s history — however with another early season lost, it’s time for the Badgers to worry about continuing their streak of 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

With tonight’s loss to Temple, Wisconsin is 4-6 on the season and an abysmal 3-5 in non-conference play. The Badgers also still have a few tough non-conference games left — Marquette and Western Kentucky for instance. The schedule has been extremely tough and most of their losses were close games, but at some point Wisconsin needs to pick up some wins.

The Badgers aren’t buried yet because a good Big Ten slate could salvage the season and get them back in the tournament. The home 25-point loss to Ohio State over the weekend was alarming, and tonight’s loss to decent but not great Temple makes me worry about where this team is going. Wisconsin needs to figure things out quickly, as they can’t afford to lose too many more games.

2) Badgers aren’t finishing games

As I mentioned above, this was the Badgers’ fourth loss within 10 points this year. Another one of the Badgers losses — at Virginia was a 12-point loss but felt like a closer game. So what’s that mean? It means they can’t finish strong and win the close games.

Tonight’s game was close throughout, and Wisconsin held a three-point lead with five minutes to go. However, the Badgers scored only two more points from that point on and didn’t pick up a single point in the final three and a half minutes. That included a pair of missed layups and a jumper by Happ that would have tied it with 54 seconds left in the game.

Tonight’s loss was a perfect example of how this team currently can’t finish games. There’s a lot of young players on this roster, and so far this year it has been a transition. However, if this team is going to achieve anything this season, they’ll need to figure out how to win the close games. The one-point victory at Penn State on Monday was a good start, but tonight was simply a step backwards in this area.

3) Shooting behind arc is a game-changer for Badgers

When looking at the stats, there’s one area I’ve noticed as a possible indicator of success for Wisconsin — hitting three-point shots.

In the Badgers’ wins this year, they are shooting 42.7 percent from behind the arc (32-for-75). That’s pretty darn good. However, on the flip side, Wisconsin is shooting only 27.6 percent (37-for-134) in its losses this year. That includes a 5-for-20 performance against the Owls on Wednesday.

There’s obviously more to winning games then just hitting shots from outside, but this is certainly a noticeable trend so far in the season. When the Badgers are making shots from three-point range, they are winning games. When they aren’t they are struggling offensively.

Overall

With the Badgers losing so many key players off last year’s team, we knew the program would take a step back. But I don’t think anyone saw this coming. It’s been a rough go so far this year and missing the NCAA Tournament for this first time in nearly 20 years should definitely be a concern for Badgers’ fans.

The season isn’t a lost cause since it’s still so early and it seems like Wisconsin always figures it out eventually. The two big things I believe that need to improve is finishing games strong and consistently hitting shots from outside. If the Badgers do that, then they should be able to get this ship heading in the right direction.