Two programs trending in opposite directions clashed in Lincoln on Tuesday night. The result was both Wisconsin and Nebraska’s recent streaks extending another game.
The Badgers picked up their fourth consecutive victory by beating the Cornhuskers 62-51, while Nebraska dropped its fourth straight game.
Balanced scoring and a lockdown defensive display guided Wisconsin to a commanding win away from the Kohl Center. Nebraska made a few runs but the Badgers never really allowed the Cornhuskers to gain momentum completely. Wisconsin led for nearly the entire game and kept Husker fans quiet for the most part.
Let’s take a look at what we learned from Tuesday night’s Big Ten battle.
What We Learned:
1. The Badgers are officially back.
If you weren’t convinced Wisconsin had fully turned things around before tonight, I’m certain you’ll think otherwise following a key victory in a hostile environment.
The hope was that the Badgers’ signature upset over Michigan would ignite Greg Gard’s squad, who had lost four out of five games before defeating the Wolverines. A rejuvenated team in Madison undoubtedly resulted.
Wisconsin has won all three of its games since beating Michigan. And the Badgers haven’t just won, they have dominated, by an average of 13 points per game.
Sure, Wisconsin’s last three games haven’t exactly been against great opponents. The Nebraska game tells me something though; the Badgers are finally out of their heads.
I would have told you that Wisconsin is a better team than Nebraska heading into this matchup even if the Badgers were still scuffling like they were a few weeks ago. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wisconsin suffered a defeat to the Huskers because, at the time, the Badgers were susceptible to suffering stage fright in crucial circumstances.
Wisconsin has overcome its lack of confidence and inability to keep it together for an entire 40 minutes. The Badgers didn’t even allow Tuesday night’s game to reach a point in which the game was on the line.
2. Emergence of supporting cast deserves credit for Wisconsin’s turnaround.
This point extends further into the idea of why and how the Badgers have seen success the program struggled to maintain earlier in Big Ten play.
The number one reason is the entire team is winning games, not just Ethan Happ. The star senior hasn’t even filled the stat sheets like he was earlier this season, and that is because Wisconsin hasn’t needed him to.
Compare the Badgers’ hot streak to their previous skid for proof. Happ averaged 20 points and collected 9.8 rebounds per game during Wisconsin’s 1-4 stretch. The forward was playing out of his mind, but it wasn’t enough when no one around him contributed.
During Wisconsin’s four-game win streak, Happ is averaging only 14.5 points and nearly identical rebounding numbers. But, the Badgers are winning because players such as Nate Reuvers, D’Mitrik Trice, and Brad Davison are performing well on a much more consistent basis.
What all of this tells us is no matter how well Happ plays, Wisconsin won’t make it very far if at least a few players aren’t helping him out night-in and night-out.
3. The Badgers will miss Happ next year, but Reuvers is ready to take the torch.
I’m not saying Reuvers will be as good as Happ when he fully flourishes. Doing so is nearly impossible for any player at the collegiate level. But, the sophomore has the potential to be pretty darn close over the next two seasons.
Reuvers is still a bit inconsistent, which can be expected from a true sophomore who initially intended to redshirt last season. The off games are occurring less and less as the season progresses for Reuvers though.
The forward scored 10 points in 18 minutes against the Huskers. He was limited largely in part to foul trouble. Earlier in the season, I would say that is excellent work for the sophomore in a short outing.
However, considering Reuvers recently dropped 22 and collected 10 rebounds against Illinois, a low double-digit scoring outing has become below average, if anything.
It is clear Reuvers has a bright future in Madison. I’m interested to see how it plays out, because the loss of Happ goes both ways for Nate. One can accurately claim Reuvers should be significantly better next season because Happ won’t be hogging the majority of the low-post looks.
But, there will also be an added level of difficulty for Reuvers to succeed since teams will be able to focus on him more without Happ in the lineup. Regardless, Reuvers will continue to grow for the remainder of this season as well as next. And as a result, the forward will blossom into an even better player.