It’s nearly impossible to deny: Wisconsin basketball is taking a nosedive in the Big Ten and damaging its NCAA Tournament seeding.
The Badgers have lost four of their last five games — the most recent setback coming at the hands of Michigan State in an 84-74 drubbing on Sunday in East Lansing. It was the second straight game in which Wisconsin (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten) allowed more than 80 points. Clearly something is amiss on defense, and Badgers coach Greg Gard might have a hunch.
“I’ll have to look through the film. Decent idea but I’m not going to speak to it until I go through the film and see where the breakthroughs were,” Gard said during his postgame radio show with Wisconsin announcer Matt Lepay.
However, the problems for Wisconsin go much further than “the defense is bad.” The team shot 13-of-25 from the free-throw line on Sunday. It is consistently getting outmuscled in the paint and on the boards. Ethan Happ has failed to break double figures in points in four of his last six games.
Here’s what else Gard had to say:
On Wisconsin’s effort
“We played hard. Defensively, we still had leaks at the wrong times when we didn’t need to have them. I thought we had plenty of opportunities. We had it down to six in the second half. Had a paint touch and missed a layup there, missed two more free throws. Then obviously they had a little spurt and we were never able to recover from that. The effort was there, but we have to convert. Can’t go 4-for-12 from the free-throw line (Nigel Hayes), can’t go 0-for-3 (Ethan Happ). When you have opportunities, you’ve got to be able to deliver on them.”
On scoring in the paint
“17-of-36 in the paint for the game. You can’t convert at a rate under 50 percent when you’re having it point-blank. We can’t have it any tighter to the rim other than a layup. We’ve got to convert in there, we have to play more physical, we have to go through contact better. We can’t fade away from it. A lot of things with technique and the ability to finish inside consistently.”
On free-throw shooting
“It’s mental. We’ve been down that road and we’ve addressed that all in practice, so it just comes to a point where you have to step up and make them. Plenty of opportunities to be there, so we’ll get back to work at it again in practice when we reconvene on Tuesday and put them in various positions at the foul line. We can only simulate it so far in practice, and then it comes up in game you have to step up and splash them in.”
On where the Badgers go from here
“We’ll need a day off after this one. This one was physical, I can’t fault the effort. Again, they played extremely hard, much better than what I saw Thursday night at Ohio State.”