Game Notes: Wisconsin at Northwestern
Badgers make quick work of Wildcats.
by Quinn Peterson
It’s easy to say Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers aren’t a fun team to watch. They plod, run dull offense and ruin their opponents’ like the Scrooge. But for purists, it’s an absolute joy, especially when everything is clicking as it was on Sunday afternoon. That being said, the 78-46 thumping the No. 17 Badgers laid on Northwestern was a beautiful clinic.
“Northwestern is a very good team. For our guys to come in and execute the way they did, our guys deserve a lot of credit,” Ryan humbly stated after the game.
“I thought our guys did a good job of including everyone one the offensive end. Defensively, for the most part, sticking to our rules.”
The star of the matinee was guard Josh Gasser, who messed around and got a triple double—the first in UW history—finishing with 10 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds.
“I just went out there and played,” said the 6-foot-3 freshman from Port Washington, Wis. “Went through the normal routine, did everything the same. Northwestern is a tough team to play against, their offense is hard to cover—especially for my first time covering it—but the older guys really helped me out a lot.”
After an evenly matched first few minutes, with Northwestern trailing just 17-16, the Badgers bust the game wide open with a 9-0 run to take complete control. As has been the case so consistently during Ryan’s tenure in Madison, the Badgers were always patient, always under control, never once letting Northwestern play the role of dictator. They carried out their task by executing on O and winning the rebounding war 32-18.
“They did a great job of executing their offense,” recalled Wildcat point guard Juice Thompson. “Every time that we did play good defense, certain possessions when they did miss, they always came up with the rebound, getting second and third and fourth opportunities at the basket. I think that killed us.
“We just didn’t come out ready to play.”
Though they shot a modest 47 percent, they never came close to slowing down the well-drilled Badgers.
“We had a very good practice yesterday,” said NU head coach Bill Carmody. “I thought we had been playing pretty decently. Then we came out and just never stopped them. They got the shots they wanted—no matter defense we were playing. We never made them feel uncomfortable. Each time down the court, it seemed like they were in control.”
Leading a balanced attack that featured seven guys in the scoring column by the end of the first half were guards Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser, and forward Keaton Nankivil. Taylor was especially impressive carrying out his role in the repetitious Wisconsin offense. In the several instances the Badgers would run the shot clock down, it was Taylor with the ball in his hands to make something happen, and he often did.
“I’ve watched a lot of tape on these guys and seen a lot of their games,” Carmody reflected. “They just have a lot of different guys that can score, very good at the end of the clock with Taylor. He’s been playing at a real high level.”
“He scores in a lot of different ways,” said Carmody of Taylor. “Makes shots off the dribble, gets to the basket, gets to the foul line. He’s a powerful kid and he’s figured out a way. His role is to take shots and he’s stepped up this year.”
Ryan had plenty of praise for this point guard, as well. “He takes the team and he runs it. My point guards have always had that freedom, and Jordan is one of those guys that handles it as well as anyone I’ve ever had.”
The steady Badgers shot a comfortable 62 percent from the field, including seven threes. Assisting on 13 of their 18 field goals—to go with just one turnover—show just how fluid the Wisconsin offense was, against man or the Northwestern 1-3-1. Making their performance even more impressive was the minimal role Jon Leuer played as the forward was hindered by foul trouble, playing just 10 minutes.
“There was never any pressure,” said Carmody. “We always talk about making them have their back to the court, to the basket, but we were never able to get them to turn. They were just always facing the court and making the passes they wanted to make. We were really on defense on defense. We weren’t the aggressor.”
Wildcat center Luka Mirkovic’s attempt to save a loose ball under the Wisconsin’s basket wound up in the hands of Gasser who converted on the layup seconds before the buzzer giving UW a commanding 45-26 lead heading into halftime.
What Leuer missed out on in the first half, he made up for right away in the second, scoring the Wisconsin’s first 10 points. Picking up where they left off as team—two offensive rebounds—the Badgers methodically pounded the Wildcats into the ground, quickly doing away with any bit of hope left in Evanston. Behind a 21-4 run over the span of eight minutes, the UW had Northwestern fans heading for the doors to get an early start on Bears-Packers festivities by the 12:58 mark.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats endured a six-minute scoring drought. By the time Thompson ended it with a layup with 10:21 to play, the game was well out of hand, the margin never dipping lower than 32.
Gasser completed his triple-double with three minutes to go, picking up an assist on Brent Valentyn 3-pointer. “Towards the last couple minutes there I had an idea that I was close,” Gasser reflected. “Just wanted to get one more there at the end, fortunately Brett knocked it down, but we got the win which is most important.”
“I don’t want to really get into those numbers. It doesn’t really affect me that much. Some games I don’t have any stats but I still feel like I played well and helped the team. Sometimes the ball falls your way, sometimes guys makes shots, sometimes your shot falls.”
On the ensuing possession, Gasser fouled and subbed out of the game, although Ryan said he was unaware of the situation.
“Somebody yelled it after he got it,” said Ryan. “I was gonna be subbing him anyhow. I don’t coach to a statistic.”
Five Badgers, including Gasser finished in double digits, Leuer leading the way with 19. John Shurna and Mirkovic had 12 apiece for Northwestern.