Another day, another conference loss for the once-ranked Wildcats.
No. 10 Wisconsin (12-3, 6-2 Big Ten) beat Northwestern (6-7, 3-6) 68-52 in Madison on Wednesday night in a contest that never felt particularly close. While the ‘Cats stayed within arm’s length in the first half, the Badgers pulled away in the final 20 minutes to win their fifth straight in the series.
The ‘Cats never clicked offensively, and the stats reflect that: Northwestern shot just 30% from behind the arc and 41% from the field. Wisconsin didn’t have a fantastic offensive showing but didn’t need to. It shot 37% from three and made 10 of its 11 foul shots.
Wisconsin started the game hot behind the play of Micah Potter, as the senior big man scored seven of the Badgers’ first 10 points from all three levels of the floor. He joined D’Mitrik Trice, Tyler Wahl and Brad Davison to score in double figures.
The Badgers maintained a sizable lead for a majority of the first half. Greg Gard’s squad started off 4-for-6 from three, and the ‘Cats were unable to match that production, shooting a mere 2-for-7 from deep with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Every time Northwestern dented Wisconsin’s lead, the Badgers would answer. The teams traded baskets through the first fourteen minutes of the period, including a streak where Wisconsin made five straight baskets.
The ‘Cats finally brought the deficit to within five points following a Chase Audige corner three, but he received a technical foul for talking to the Wisconsin bench.
Audige must have taken that technical personally, as one possession later, he flared to the same spot and nailed the same corner three, this time while fouled, cutting the Wisconsin lead to four. The sophomore led all scorers in the first half with 10 points, and he finished with a game-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting (4-of-5 3PT).
Audige’s make was the last bright spot of the half for NU. After the two teams exchanged offensive fouls back and forth on a number of possessions, Wisconsin extended its lead, taking a 41-34 advantage into the break despite making only one field goal in the last six minutes of the half.
Though Northwestern finished with one more made basket in the first half, the Badgers’ key advantage came in the free throw department. Northwestern shot just one free throw in the first half compared to eight attempts for Wisconsin.
Both teams started the second half cold before Buie broke the ice with a deep pull up three. Wisconsin missed nine consecutive shots before eventually making a three to keep Northwestern at bay. During Wisconsin’s cold streak, the ‘Cats did not capitalize and failed meaningfully scared the Badgers.
Wisconsin eventually snapped out of its funk with baskets from Wahl and Trevor Anderson, and the ‘Cats could not respond. A few more made buckets, and the Badgers secured a double digit lead with thirteen minutes left in the game and never looked back.
The Badgers continued their offensive dominance with a 12-0 run to push their lead to 17, and Northwestern only furthered its own downfall with careless turnovers, missed shots and offensive fouls.
It never felt as though Northwestern was getting completely dominated till the final five minutes of the game, where another scoring run from the Badgers sent the ‘Cats deep into the abyss, searching for answers on both sides of the court. What seemed like it might have been a competitive bout vs the top ten foe again transformed into a romp, with Wisconsin winning by 16.
The big story of the night for UW was Wahl, the sub-turned-starter who scored a career-high and team best 14 points on an efficient 5-for-7 shooting.
Kopp finished the night second in scoring for NU, tallying 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field.
Northwestern gets its next shot at snapping this six-game losing streak Saturday when it takes on Penn State (3-6, 0-5 B1G) in Happy Valley.