Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer
Northwestern welcomed No. 21 Wisconsin to Evanston Sunday evening, looking to knock off a Badgers team that handled the Wildcats 68-52 on Jan. 20 in Madison.
NU would have no such luck, however, as a Wisconsin team eyeing the NCAA Tournament dismantled the Cats by a near-identical score of 68-51. The loss sent the Cats to their 13th consecutive defeat, putting NU a loss away from a second consecutive winless calendar month.
Sophomore guard Boo Buie returned to the starting lineup for NU and immediately made his presence known by tallying the Cats’ first seven points. Wisconsin matched NU’s early aggression, however, and the teams fought to a 15-15 tie at the midway point of the first half.
The Cats struggled to take advantage of a lengthy scoring drought for the Badgers, who went 5:45 between jumpers from forward Micah Potter and guard D’Mitrik Trice. NU could only muster a 6-0 run while Wisconsin floundered, and the Cats soon stared down a 34-24 halftime deficit as the Badgers closed the half on a 14-4 run.
Redshirt sophomore guard Chase Audige hit a jumper to open the second half, and a Buie layup brought NU as close as 36-30 with 17:21 to go. Junior forward Miller Kopp then incurred his third foul, Wisconsin forward Tyler Wahl hit a free throw, and Potter laid the ball in off a turnover to bring the Badgers’ lead back to nine.
Wisconsin tightened its grip on the contest over the following minutes, as Trice and guard Jonathan Davis joined Potter in double figures. The Cats struggled to find offense outside of Buie, who dropped 19 points for his most productive scoring evening since scoring 30 on December 20, 2020 against Michigan State.
The Badgers applied the coup de grace with a 10-0 run leading into the under-eight media timeout, by which time their lead had ballooned to 17. A Buie three briefly narrowed the lead to 13, but Wahl and guard Brad Davison each hit a bucket to drop the curtain on NU’s final threat.
1. Hot three-point shooting keys early first-half surge
NU found success from beyond the arc early in the first half, making its first three three-pointers even as it missed seven of its first 10 two-point shots. Buie, sophomore forward Robbie Beran and redshirt junior guard Anthony Gaines swished the Cats’ initial attempts, and freshman guard Ty Berry chipped in with a long three shortly thereafter. NU wilted to end the half, though, and finished the half having made just four of 11 threes as the Badgers constructed a double-digit cushion.
2. Cats fall under Potter’s spell
Recalling the opening loss of their 13-game stretch of futility on Dec. 29, in which veteran Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon burned NU for 24 points, the Cats allowed another four-year player in Potter to have a banner evening. The forward scored 15 points in 11 first-half minutes, surpassing his career-high against NU of 13 from January 2018. He ended the evening with 19 points, tied for his fourth-largest output of the season.
3. It’s the turnovers, stupid
Taking care of the basketball was the Cats’ calling card in their series of December upsets, as NU turned the ball over just eight times in its upset of Michigan State and 10 times against Ohio State. Since then, the Cats have averaged 12.3 turnovers per game, and they gave the ball away 14 times Sunday. Pertinent to the Badgers’ success were their 21 points off turnovers, as NU could muster just eight points off Wisconsin’s eight giveaways.
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