The Wisconsin Badgers pulled away from Stanford late in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis to improve to 4-0 this season.
On paper it appears Wisconsin coasted to a stress-free 62-46 victory. In reality, the two teams traded blows for the majority of the 40 minute contest.
The Badgers hit four of their first five field goals to build an early 8-2 lead. Stanford responded, as the Cardinal did continuously when Wisconsin attempted to build a comfortable lead.
A Josh Sharma dunk gave Stanford an 11-10 lead about seven minutes into the action. This ended up being the only lead the Cardinal had on Wednesday. However, it was often within striking distance.
Wisconsin held a 28-24 halftime advantage after four ties and two lead changes. Greg Gard’s squad increased its lead to 10 early in the second half.
Effective defense then allowed the Cardinal to cut the deficit to two with under seven minutes remaining. Wisconsin responded with a 9-0 run to put the game on ice. The Badgers led 53-42 with under three minutes remaining.
Wisconsin will face the 4-0 Oklahoma Sooners in a semifinal matchup tomorrow. Let’s take a look at what we learned from the Badgers’ victory on Wednesday.
What We Learned:
In an encore performance, Wisconsin’s three-headed monster does it again.
Senior forward Ethan Happ, sophomore guard Brad Davison, and junior guard D’Mitrik Trice solely carried the Badgers to a key victory over Xavier on the road last week.
The three players combined for 71 of Wisconsin’s 77 points against the Musketeers.
With plenty of other scoring options such as Brevin Pritzl, Khalil Iverson, and even Kobe King, one would think the Xavier game wouldn’t become a regular occurrence.
However, though not quite to that extent, the Badgers’ scoring distribution was similar against Stanford.
Happ recorded a 16-point, 12-rebound performance for his fourth consecutive double-double. Davison contributed 14 points and went 8-9 from the free throw line. Despite a less than ideal 6-20 mark from the floor, Trice managed to add 16 points for Wisconsin.
The three players combined for 46 of the Badgers’ points and were Wisconsin’s only players to reach double-figures scoring.
Nate Reuvers played impressively, but we’ll get into that later. Regardless, the previously three mentioned players have established themselves as Wisconsin’s only consistent scoring options thus far.
Having three guys score double-digits every game is something a lot of teams don’t possess. So, I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. Especially considering the Badgers handled Stanford and Xavier
Still, it would be ideal to see players such as Pritzl and Iverson display more consistency on offense. There probably won’t be many games in which Happ is shut down. However, there will be situations in which Trice and Davison don’t produce.
It would be nice if other players on Greg Gard’s roster prove they can be relied on if necessary. Wisconsin wouldn’t have beat Xavier or Stanford if each member of this trio didn’t produce.
Depth will undoubtedly come into play sooner or later for the Badgers.
Nate Reuvers provides Wisconsin’s defense with a new dimension.
Reuvers has been impressive early on in his sophomore campaign. No performance was more awe-inspiring than Reuvers’ effort against Stanford, though.
The forward has proved his value as a starting option to Gard so far this season. Besides a dud against the Musketeers, Reuvers has averaged over 10 points per game.
But, I’m here to talk about the sophomore’s defensive presence. Reuvers tied a program record with nine blocks against the Cardinal on Wednesday.
The 6’11 forward recorded multiple blocks every game this season. Reuvers is now averaging an even four blocks per game.
Wisconsin has not possessed a shot-blocker quite like Reuvers in a significant amount of time. The Badgers have boasted plenty of rock-solid defenses even when lacking a true shot-blocker.
Now that Wisconsin seems to have that, its defense could really take a step forward. It has begun to do so this season.
Defense makes the Badgers a constant contender.
Staying on the topic of defense, Wisconsin’s smothering defensive play has been nothing short of spectacular through four games.
Standards are high in terms of defensive production in Madison. The Badgers’ defense has finished in the top 10 of points allowed numerous times over the last decade or so.
Wisconsin isn’t quite there. But, the program is extremely capable of being a top-10 unit when the 2018-’19 season concludes.
Currently, the Badgers rank 19th in the NCAA with an average of 59 points allowed per game. The numbers are extremely good. And as previously stated, Reuvers capabilities bring another element to Wisconsin’s D.
Beyond the numbers, it is evident that Wisconsin’s defense will keep them in most, if not all of the games it plays this season. With how deep the Big Ten is this season, that is extremely significant for the Badgers.
Theoretically, if Gard’s bunch advances to the Battle 4 Atlantis finals and plays defensive-jugrnaut Virginia, the Badgers will be able to keep pace.
The Cavaliers’ defense currently ranks first in the nation in just about every meaningful category. Wisconsin’s defense is good enough to at least have the Badgers within striking distance against Virginia.