Wisconsin 56, (17) Maryland 54: Last word

MADISON — Brad Davison hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to lift Wisconsin past No. 17 Maryland 56-54 on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

Player of the Game: Davison

The junior guard didn’t lead Wisconsin in any specific category against the Terrapins but he made the two biggest plays of the night. The first came with the Badgers trailing 54-53 with 12.3 seconds left when he managed to tip away an inbounds pass and then knock it off a Maryland player. It allowed for his second big play when he came off a screen by Nate Reuvers for a corner 3-pointer that gave Wisconsin its final points of the night.

Wisconsin’s Brad Davison (34) watches his game-winning 3-point basket over Maryland’s Darryl Morsell (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 56-54. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

The good: The two bigs

They didn’t share the floor at any point Tuesday night but Reuvers and Micah Potter combined for 31 of Wisconsin’s 56 points. Potter did much of his damage in the first half, scoring nine points and grabbing three rebounds. He finished 6-for-7 from the field and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. Reuvers also hit a pair of 3-pointers and had a huge steal late in the game.

The not so good: Early second-half defense

Wisconsin led 30-25 at the half, but Maryland came out and took it to them early in the second. Coach Greg Gard said the Terrapins scored 21 points in the first 13 possessions, which works out to a significantly higher number than the 1.0 points per possession the Badgers aim to keep teams under. They were better in the final 12 possessions (8 points), but their early struggles put them in a tough spot at the end of the game.

Stat of the Game: 3

That’s the number of ranked teams the Badgers have beaten in their last four games. They took down then-No. 5 Ohio State and then-No. 21 Penn State on the road before handing the 17th-ranked Terrapins their second-straight loss.

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What they said:

Greg Gard on Davison:

“He’s the heartbeat. I’ve said that before. I don’t play him necessarily because of the numbers that he produces. He obviously shot the ball well tonight (and) made big plays, but he’s on that floor because he’s the mortar between our bricks. The kid is just a winner.”

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon:

“That’s a devastating loss.”

In Case You Missed It

— Assistant coach Howard Moore’s son, Jerrell, was sitting on the bench for the game. When Davison hit his 3-pointer, he went crazy on the bench. He was also one of the first to run on the court and celebrate when the final buzzer sounded. Howard Moore is not coaching this season as he recovers from a car accident that took the life of his wife and daughter last May.

— Potter played just six minutes in the second half. Gard said in the postgame it was because he liked the way Reuvers was playing the ball screens on defense.

— Turgeon told reporters that the goal on the final possession was to have guard Anthony Cowan drive to the basket to try and tie the game. Cowan instead pulled up for a 3-pointer that he missed.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (11-6, 4-2) will travel to No. 15 Michigan State (13-4, 5-1) on Friday to face the Spartans.

Badgers in the Way-Too-Early Top 25s

With the 2019 season officially in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2020.

Even before the last piece of confetti had fallen in New Orleans after LSU’s win over Clemson in the national title game Monday night, there were already numerous Way-Too-Tarly Top 25s scattered across the internet. Many have the usual names at the top, including Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia.

A little bit further down, though, is where Wisconsin finds itself. Though the Badgers lose their top playmakers on both sides of the ball — Jonathan Taylor, Quintez Cephus, Zack Baun and Chris Orr — the various outlets still believe they’ll be more than competitive next fall.

Here’s a look at where Wisconsin is in some of the early polls:

ESPN — No. 14
CBS Sports — No. 15
247Sports — No. 14
USA Today — No. 18
The Sporting News — No. 14
Athlon Sports — No. 10
Saturday Blitz — No. 12
Saturday Down South — No. 11

Wisconsin takes out No. 20 Penn State on the road

Micah Potter is making up for lost time.

In just his sixth game since becoming eligible, the junior scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Wisconsin as it topped No. 20 Penn State 58-49 Saturday afternoon. Both totals were career highs for Potter.

“It was tough getting back into a rhythm when I was finally allowed to play,” Potter told the Big Ten Network. “But I really started to feel like I’m getting more comfortable now that I’ve got a couple of games under my belt.”

Potter scored 18 of his points in the first half, including going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. It was a much needed lift off the bench because the starting unit couldn’t much of anything going. In fact, Potter scored the first basket by either side with 15:16 left in the first half. He went on to score the first 12 points for the Badgers.

“It was a slugfest,” Potter told BTN. “It was 0-0 before the first media timeout. I was glad I could provide that spark for the team.”

Wisconsin led 31-22 at the break, but Penn State got to within 41-37 with 10:43 left in the game. The Badgers answered with a 9-2 run capped by a 3-pointer from junior Brad Davison. The Nittany Lions would get no closer than 7 the rest of the way.

Davison had 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, while sophomore Kobe King had 10 points.

A few days after watching Illinois score 43 points in the second half alone, the Badgers held Penn State to just 49 for the game. It was the Nittany Lions lowest output this season.

The Badgers have now won three-straight on the road (at Tennessee, at No. 5 Ohio State, at No. 20 Penn State) after opening 0-5 away from Madison. They’ll now come home and face No. 12 Maryland on Wednesday.

LA Rams reportedly had interest in hiring Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard

The NFL is starting to take notice of what Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is doing.

Before hiring Brandon Staley as his defensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay reportedly had interest in Leonhard for the spot.

Leonhard just finished his third season leading the Badgers defense and fourth season overall as a college coach. After his first year as the defensive coordinator in 2017, he was reportedly in the running for the same job at Alabama and Florida State, but decided to remain at Wisconsin. He also got a hefty raise and made nearly $1 million this season. That made him the fourth-highest paid assistant in the Big Ten.

Prior to the Rose Bowl, Leonhard spoke about his rise in the profession and it seemed clear he was happy in his position at his alma mater.

“There’s only one place to do this job,” he told reporters. “That’s home. And that’s Madison for me.”

Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable: Jan. 10, 2020

On this week’s Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable, we chat with our former Badgers — Brian Butch, Josh Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz — about what they’ve seen from the team so far, the strength of the Big Ten and catch up with what they’ve been doing in their lives. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin also joins the show. 

Wisconsin to open 2020 season at night

Wisconsin will open its home season on a Friday night for a third time in four years.

The Badgers announced Thursday that their game against Indiana on Sept. 4 would be at night, with the exact time to be announced.

Coach Paul Chryst’s team is unbeaten in night openers, taking out Utah State in 2017 and Western Kentucky in 2018. The Badgers also went on the road this past fall and beat South Florida on a Friday night in Tampa.

But this will be the first time they’ve opened the season against a Big Ten opponent since the 1982 season. That year they went to No. 12 Michigan and lost 20-9. It’s the first time the home opener is against a conference opponent since Wisconsin took down the No. 1 Wolverines in 1981.

Indiana went 8-5 and fourth in the Big Ten East this season.

Here’s the Badgers full 2020 schedule:

Sept. 4 | Indiana
Sept. 12 — Southern Illinois
Sept. 19 — Appalachian State
Sept. 26 — @ Michigan
Oct. 3 — vs Notre Dame (Lambeau Field)
Oct. 10 — vs Minnesota
Oct. 24 — at Maryland
Oct. 31 — Illinois
Nov. 7 — @ Northwestern
Nov. 14 — @ Purdue
Nov. 21 — vs Nebraska
Nov. 28 — @ Iowa

Illinois 71, Wisconsin 70: Last word

MADISON — Illinois snapped a 15-game losing streak to Wisconsin with a come-from-behind 71-70 win in Madison Wednesday night.

Wisconsin Player of the Game: Kobe King

The sophomore caught fire early in the second half scoring eight of Wisconsin first nine points. Then, with the Badgers trailing 71-67 in the final minute, he drilled a step-back 3-pointer. King finished with 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting. He’s now averaging 19.0 points per game in Big Ten play.


The good: Micah Potter

The junior had his best statistical night since becoming eligible, finishing with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. With Nate Reuvers in foul trouble, the 6-foot-9 Potter gave the Badgers another big body to battle Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. Potter did a lot of his damage at the free throw line where he was a perfect 8-for-8.

The not so good: That finish

Wisconsin led 63-56 with 4:50 left in the game. They proceeded to make just 2 of their next 10 shots and were outscored 15-7 the rest of the way. While the offense was not great, neither was the defense. The Badgers allowed the Illini to shoot 61.5-percent in the second half, including 71.4-percent from the 3-point line. Illinois had 43 points in the second half and topped 70 against the Badgers for the first time in 28 games.

Stat of the Game: 26.7-percent

That was the Badgers shooting percentage from beyond the arc. It was their second-worst effort at home this year. The 15 attempts were the fewest this season.

What they said:

Greg Gard on a rough defensive night by Wisconsin

“The offense wasn’t the problem. It was the other end of the floor.”

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin had a chance to win the game but Trice failed to convert on a drive to the hoop. Here’s what Trice was thinking on the play, followed by Gard’s take.

— Olivia Dekker did double duty Wednesday night. Not only did she serve as the Big Ten Network’s sideline reporter, she also sang the national anthem. If the last name sounds familiar it should. Dekker is married to former Badgers star Sam Dekker, who was quite proud of his wife’s effort.

— Wisconsin had allowed just one opponent (Green Bay) to score better than 1.0 points per possession this year. Illinois finished at 1.145 per possession.

— Prior to the game, the Big Ten Network aired a special “The Journey” on Wisconsin assistant Howard Moore and the tragedy that his family and the program endured in the offseason.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (9-6, 2-2) will travel to No. 21 Penn State (12-3, 2-2) on Saturday to face the Nittany Lions.

Badgers lose WR/KR Aron Cruickshank to transfer

Wisconsin is losing another playmaker.

As first reported by 247Sports, wide receiver/kick returner Aron Cruickshank has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal.

The move is a bit of a surprise as Cruickshank had really taken to his returner role, taking two kickoffs back for touchdowns, while also seeing an expanded role on offense, including some work as the quarterback in the wildcat.

But time at wide receiver was not easy to come by for the 5-foot-9, 161-pound Cruickshank. He was buried on the depth chart, with A.J. Taylor, Quintez Cephus, Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor, Adam Krumholz and Jack Dunn all seeing more playing time than him this season. Even with Taylor’s career coming to an end and Cephus declaring for the NFL draft, there was no guarantee that Cruickshank would see extended time at the position.

It is worth noting, though, that wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore did seem to believe at the Rose Bowl that Cruickshank would be around in the spring when he was asked about him.

“We need AC to take the next step,” Gilmore said. “He’s one of those that has to become more than just a situational guy.”

Cruickshank finished his time in Madison with 189 yards rushing and two touchdowns, along with four catches for 40 yards. He also averaged 24.6 yards per return on 49 kickoffs with two scores.

His departure comes on the heels of running back Jonathan Taylor and Cephus leaving early for the NFL. The trio combined for 36 touchdowns this season. It does, however, leave an opening for several other young wide receivers to step up, including Taj Mustapha and A.J. Abbott.

Wisconsin loses another player early to NFL

A third Wisconsin player is leaving early for the NFL.

Center Tyler Biadasz announced Wednesday afternoon that he would be foregoing his final year in Madison to make himself eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft.

A three-year starter, Biadasz won the Rimington Award this season. It goes to the top center in the country. He was part of an offensive line that helped the Badgers finish 15th in the country in rushing in 2019 and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for his efforts.

Biadasz joins running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Quintez Cephus in declaring for the draft early. It’s the first time Wisconsin’s had three players leave early in the same year.

The Badgers figure to move junior-to-be Kayden Lyles to center to replace Biadasz next fall.