Xavier 80, Wisconsin 70; Last shots

MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers fell to the University of Xavier 80-70 on the hardwood Thursday night. Wisconsin got tremendous efforts out of Ethan Happ and Brad Davison, but it wasn’t enough to overcome 25 points from Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett.

Here are 16 last shots for the 16 minutes played by Wisconsin guard Brevin Pritzl against Xavier Thursday night:

1. Bluiett knocked down a pair of three-pointers late to seal the game for the Musketeers. That came after Wisconsin had fought back from down as many as seven in the second half.

2. Bluiett was quiet most of the night. He finished with 25 points, but 12 of them came in the final 2:25 of the game. Guard J.P. Macura also had a strong night for Xavier, finishing with 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He added in eight rebounds and four assists as well.

3. Xavier was the more experienced team on Thursday night, and that showed down the stretch as they outscored Wisconsin 16-4 over the last 2:55 of the game. Bluiett was huge in that stretch for the Musketeers, as he had 12 of the 16 points. Outside of that stretch, Wisconsin did a relatively good job containing him, but he was too much in the end.

4. Bluiett is a player that has played in many big moments over the course of his four seasons at Xavier. The fact of the matter was that outside of Happ, no one for Wisconsin has that type of experience. That hurt the Badgers, but tonight is a tremendous teaching moment for the young team.

5. Davison kept Wisconsin alive in the first half against Xavier. He played 13 minutes and the Badgers outscored Xavier by 13 points. Entering the game his career-high was eight points. He had 11 in the first half alone.

6. The biggest stretch for Wisconsin in the first half came in the final 4:29 of the half when Happ subbed out after picking up his second foul. Wisconsin was trailing 32-23. The closed out the half on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 34 heading into the break. Davison had six points and a pair of steals in that stretch.

7. Davison did more than just create for Wisconsin offensively. He’s shown early on that he is the type of player that doesn’t mind doing the dirty work that most athletes his age don’t like to do. Against Xavier he was extremely disruptive on the defensive end of the court. In the first half alone he had four steals and a charge drawn while only committing one foul. He makes several plays at that end that typically aren’t made in college basketball, let alone by a freshman.

8. “If you have been around Brad Davison you understand these are the type of games he flourishes in. He likes being physical, he likes getting on the floor. He made a lot of good things happen,” head coach Greg Gard said following the game. “Maybe I should’ve played Brad even more.”

9. However long Davison is at Wisconsin, he is going to be lamented by fans of opposing teams, but he will be absolutely adored by Badger fans. The best comparison to make for him might be former Ohio State guard Aaron Craft. Craft played for the Buckeyes from 2010-2014 and was an incredibly pesky defender and general annoyance to the opposition. Davison is exactly that, but with a better offensive game.

10. Zach Heilprin said all of the above in a simple five-word tweet during the game.

11. The second half was not as productive for Davison, however. He only was able to score a single point.

12. He finished with 28 minutes played on the night, taking many of Pritzl’s minutes. Pritzl wasn’t the only starter to play under 20 minutes, as Andy Van Vliet had a tough night for the Badgers. He finished with one point and one rebound in 11 minutes. Pritzl did have 13 points, but struggled defensively against Xavier’s Macura.

13. Happ had another strong game on the offensive end as he finished with a team-high 21 points to go along with eight assists and four rebounds.

14. This was the first game this season where Happ wasn’t consistently double-teamed. It did happen at times, but it was not done throughout the game by XU’s defense. When the double-teams did come he did an excellent job passing out of them, as he has consistenly this season.

15. In the second half, he did break the 1,000 point mark on a driving layup. Quite an accomplishment for Wisconsin’s leader.

16. Wisconsin travels to Kansas City for the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic on Monday night. They take on No. 25 Baylor. Tip-off is at 8pm.

Have Mercy on the Young

I’m not surprised at the outcome of the two games last week for the Marquette Golden Eagles. It doesn’t make it easier to stomach, though. Taking on #6 Villanova in Philly and then #7 Xavier in Milwaukee wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. What makes the losses difficult to take were the moments of brilliance by the young Golden Eagles followed by the horrid display of youth.

I’ll make it easy: against ‘Nova and Xavier, Marquette went on scoring droughts that mimic near-apocalyptic events in desert regions of Africa where we see dying, starving children and want to send them milk cartons filled with coins that we saved. Against Xavier, after a brilliant start and an 18-6 lead, we watched the Golden Eagles score zero points for 8 minutes and Xavier go on a 21-0 run.

No change in a milk carton can help the starving Golden Eagles with that.

We also watched the 1-3-1 zone from Xavier befuddle Marquette for most of the game as none of Marquette’s guards could feed the ball into Luke Fischer or Henry Ellenson after getting 10 of their first 12 that way in the first half; remember, that’s Marquette’s plan each and every game since the Golden Eagles have no outside shooting game. For some perspective on that, Marquette shot 24-70 for the game against Xavier, 4 for 25 from behind the three-point line.

You read that right. Making matters worse, more than half of those three-point shots were wide open.

“The really tough teams don’t make excuses when they are not making shots,” Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We may not be that good of a shooting team. We have to figure out ways to win when we are not making shots. That’s the end of the story.”

Fischer getting 3 fouls in the first half didn’t help much since he had to sit from the five minute mark on. He eventually fouled out. We did see moments of brilliance from him when the ball could be fed to him, but he was overpowered by Xavier Senior forward James Farr. Marquette lost 74-66.

Ellenson did manage 20 points in the game and we did see a huge spark from his brother Wally who had a career game coming off the bench; in 20 minutes he had 9 points and 8 rebounds. Xavier did manage 15 turnovers and Marquette did show it could hang with the big boys…it wasn’t a blowout. Marquette also went into the half against ‘Nova last week up one point only to get stuck in a scoring drought as well.

Look, ‘Nova and Xavier are possible Final Four teams. I would have been more shocked if Marquette had beaten either of them. Luckily, DePaul comes to the Bradley Center Wednesday. I’ll be shocked if Marquette blows that one.