On Saturday afternoon Wisconsin and Northwestern laced them up for the second game of the day in the 2017 Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Wisconsin was the favorite ahead of the game and they proved why from start to finish.
So, what did we learn from the game?
Wisconsin is who we thought they were
Wisconsin did what we expected and checked every question off the list by winning this game in dominating fashion while also showcasing why they’re one of the best teams in the country.
During the first half, both teams started out fairly slow in the opening minutes, but it didn’t take long for the Badgers to heat up. The great play of Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ, with contributions from seniors Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter, helped Wisconsin take a commanding 38-21 lead into halftime.
The second half was more of the same as the Badgers pulled away and got their lead to 31 points at one point. Northwestern struggled to defend the Badgers and also couldn’t find ways to score, shooting about 35 percent from the field for the game.
Hayes led the way with a stellar game of 18 points and 10 rebounds. His first team All-Big ten teammate Happ also contributed 16 points and eight rebounds. The aforementioned senior guards combined for 18 points and four assists.
The combination of all of those factors led to the Badgers grabbing the 76-48 victory.
Northwestern will be OK
Northwestern had an incredible Big Ten Tournament ride, but the Badgers were just too much to handle. The Wildcats needed to play perfect to beat a team like Wisconsin and the team obviously didn’t complete that goal. Despite that fact, Northwestern is still set to head to the NCAA Tournament - as a mid-to-lower seed - and what this game showed was that facing elite teams will be a struggle, but the team can make some noise.
Junior guard Scottie Lindsey was the the only Wildcat whose contributions were noticeable after getting 16 points on 50 percent shooting. Without his 50 percent shooting percentage, the team goes from 34 percent as a team to approximately 30 percent.
One of the main takeaways for the Wildcats is that they’ll need to find their scoring mojo again, especially when matched up against teams like the Badgers. If Northwestern has another offensive performance this dreadful, it’ll be a short stay for their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Saturday’s win was not a shock for anyone who knows how good the Badgers are (and can be), but it was a good test for Northwestern to see how they stack up against the best of the best ahead of the NCAA Tournament. Though it obviously didn’t end how the Wildcats envisioned, the end result wasn’t a huge surprise considering the Badger’s potential. That being said, it does show that Northwestern must correct problems on both ends of the floor if they want to advance through the NCAA Tournament next weekend.
The Badgers, who finished tied for second in the Big Ten regular season, have a chance to leave Washington, D.C. as tournament champions and after this game the team looks more than ready. But their toughest challenge awaits as they’ll be facing a red hot Michigan Wolverines team in the Finals tomorrow afternoon.