(12) Wisconsin 69, Rutgers 64: Last word

MADISON — No. 12 Wisconsin rallied back from a 10-point deficit to beat Rutgers 69-64 on Monday night at the Kohl Center.

Player of the Game: D’Mitrik Trice

The sophomore point guard continues to be on fire shooting the ball from the outside. Trice hit both of the 3-pointers he took, including one in the final minute that gave the Badgers an 8-point cushion.

He’s now 30 of 50 on the year from beyond the arc, which is an insane 60-percent. That leads the Big Ten and is the second-best mark in the country.

The good: Khalil Iverson

Iverson finished with just four points and four rebounds, but it seemed like he was everywhere on Monday night. It was his two buckets, including one off a steal, that got the team going at the start the second half on their way to outscoring Rutgers 43-33 after the break. Also, his size and athleticism allowed the Badgers to matchup defensively against the various unique lineups Rutgers threw at them.

Obviously, coach Greg Gard would take more scoring from the senior, but if he gets more games like this from Iverson he’ll be just fine with it.

The not so good: Foul shooting

You can almost pencil this negative in after every game it seems. Since opening the season going 23 of 26 against Coppin State, the Badgers are shooting just 66.1-percent from the line in the eight games since. That included a 6 of 13 performance on Monday night. Most of the issues are a result of Ethan Happ (13 of 31) struggling but Nate Reuvers, Kobe King and even Charlie Thomas are also below 70-percent from the line. It was an issue the last two years and remains one for Wisconsin.

Stat of the game: 1

That’s the number of turnovers Wisconsin had in the second half after turning it over five times before the break. It’s the Badgers fourth time this year with seven turnovers or less. They managed that a total of six times all of last season.

What they said:

“It’s the Big Ten. It’s going to be rough. It’s going to competitive. It’s probably, nationally, top to bottom, as you’ve all heard, one of the best leagues in the country, if not the best in terms of the depth. This is how it’s going to be.”

— Greg Gard on the tougher than expected fight with Rutgers

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In Case You Missed It:

— Happ scored a game-high 20 points. It’s the 25th time in his career he’s topped the 20-point mark and the third time this year.

— In just 16 minutes of work, Reuvers had 10 points and was clearly more aggressive in the paint.

— Brad Davison left the game in the second half after appearing to injury his left ankle. He was taken to the locker room but eventually returned to the game.

— Guard Trevor Anderson re-injured his knee against Iowa last Friday and did not suit up. No timetable has been given in terms of his return, but he’s not expected back anytime soon.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (8-1, 2-0) will travel to Milwaukee on Saturday to take on Marquette (6-2).

Badgers move up in latest AP poll

The national media is starting to take note of the Wisconsin basketball team.

Following wins against North Carolina State and at then-No. 14 Iowa, the Badgers jumped 10 spots in the Associated Press poll to No. 12. It’s their highest ranking since coming in at No. 11 for the week of Feb. 13, 2017.

At 7-1, Wisconsin is off to its best start since the 2014-15 season. That’s the year that saw the Badgers go on their second run to the Final Four in as many seasons before losing to Duke in the national championship game.

Wisconsin is one of seven Big Ten teams in the poll. Voters have Michigan at No. 5, Michigan State at No. 10, Iowa at No. 18, Ohio State at No. 19, Maryland at No. 23 and Nebraska at No. 24.

The Badgers will host Rutgers on Monday night before going to Milwaukee on Saturday to face Marquette.

Wisconsin to face Miami in New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Fans are getting the rematch that no one asked for.

It was announced Sunday that Wisconsin and Miami would meet in the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York. The game comes a year after the two teams matched up in the Orange Bowl, a contest won by the Badgers 34-24.

“We are very excited to be selected for the Pinstripe Bowl,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a release from the school. “The Yankees are a first-class organization that exemplifies tradition and success and it is truly an honor to be associated with them.”

Not a lot has gone right for either program since that night in South Florida. Each entered the 2018 season with high expectations and in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll. The two now find themselves at 7-5 and playing in a lower tier bowl game in a cold weather city.

One bonus for the Badgers playing in the New York is it will allow the nearly 4,000 alumni in the city a chance to see their team play. Wisconsin has not played in the area since facing Rutgers in New Jersey in 2014 and haven’t played this close to the city since opening the 1997 season against Syracuse at the Meadowlands. It will be just the second time the Badgers have actually played in the state of New York.

“We have a very large contingent of dedicated fans and alumni in the New York area and look forward to being able to connect with them,” Alvarez said in the release. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our players to spend the holiday season in New York City. I am sure it will be an experience they never forget.”

No. 22 Wisconsin off to best start since 2014 after win at No. 14 Iowa

No. 22 Wisconsin overcame another second-half deficit to beat No. 14 Iowa 72-66 and hand the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season.

Player of the Game: D’Mitrik Trice

You know you’re having a good season shooting the ball when you go 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and your 3-point percentage for the year goes down. But that’s exactly what happened to Trice on Friday. He was shooting 60-percent coming in and now he’s down to 58.3 percent. The Badgers, obviously, will take that, just as they’ll take his team-high 20 points and seven rebounds.

Just like he was against North Carolina State on Tuesday, Trice was at his best in the dying moments of the game. After senior Ethan Happ fouled out in the final minute, it was Trice that knocked down a contested 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. It gave the Badgers a 5-point lead and it proved to be the winning bucket.

It was the just the latest eye-opening effort in a season full of them for the sophomore

The good: Brad Davison

Davison was a polarizing figure after drawing four charges in the win over the Wolfpack. One prominent figure at ESPN told him to have some self-respect, others called him a flopper and there were some that said he wasn’t even a “real” basketball player because of the charges. All of those people should be required to sit and watch what Davison did in the second half on Friday.

The sophomore didn’t draw a single charge against the Hawkeyes and was actually called for a couple blocks. But his contributions after halftime came in all facets of the game. He drilled a contested 3-pointer late in the shot clock, finished a couple nice drives with layups, found Happ for an easy bucket on another drive and was relentless on defense. Davison also calmly knocked down two free throws to salt the game away in the final seconds.

He may still be trying to find his role on offense after being the preliminary ball handler last year, but he continues to make the plays that the Badgers need him to make for them to win. There aren’t too many guys in the country that are more “real” basketball players than Davison.

The not so good: Foul trouble

It was not a good night for the officials and it led to a bad night for Wisconsin, who saw a number of players deal with foul trouble much of the game. Aleem Ford had three fouls in the first half, while Khalil Iverson, Nate Reuvers and Davison all picked up two before the break. In the end only Happ fouled out, but minutes were impacted, including Davison going for 27 — tied for the fewest in a non-blowout this year.

Stat of the game: 12

That’s how many points Wisconsin got from Brevin Pritzl on the night. It came after he managed just four points over the last four games combined. His 3-pointer with 1:35 left turned a 61-60 deficit into a 2-point lead — a lead the Badgers would not relinquish.

What they said:

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In Case You Missed It:

— At 7-1, the Badgers are off to their best start since 2014

— Friday’s win marked the fourth time Wisconsin has won away from home this season. That’s the same number of games they won away from the Kohl Center all of last season.

— The win was the fifth over a major conference opponent, which is the most in the country. The Badgers have beaten teams from the Big East, ACC, Big 12, Pac 12 and Big Ten.

— Guard Trevor Anderson left in the second half with a knee injury and did not return. Anderson has been dealing with the injury since before the season started.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (7-1, 1-0) will welcome Rutgers (5-2, 0-1) to the Kohl Center on Monday.

All-Big Ten offensive honors announced

For the third time in the award’s short history, a Wisconsin running back has been named the top player at his position in the Big Ten.

It was announced on Wednesday that Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor had been named the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year. He joins former Badgers Montee Ball (2011, 2012) and Melvin Gordon (2014) as Wisconsin players to win the award, which is actually named for two other former UW players and Heisman Trophy winners — Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche.

Taylor ran for 1,989 yards in 12 games, the top mark in the conference and in the country. With a bowl game still to be played, Taylor has run for the fourth-most yards in a single season by a UW back and his 3,966 career yards are the most for any FBS player in their first two years on a college campus.

In addition to being named the top running back in the conference, Taylor was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection for a second straight year. He’s also a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the top running back in the country.

Taylor wasn’t the only individual award winner. Guard Michael Deiter was named the Rimington–Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year. He’s the fourth Wisconsin lineman to win it, joining Jeff Dellenbach (1984), Chris McIntosh (1999) and Gabe Carimi (2010).

Here’s the All-Big Ten offensive honorees for Wisconsin:

RB Jonathan Taylor — 1st team (consensus)
G Michael Deiter — 1st team (consensus)
G Beau Benzschawel — 1st team (consensus)
C Tyler Biadasz — 1st team (consensus)
T David Edwards — 1st team (media), 2nd team (coaches)
TE Jake Ferguson — honorable mention (consensus)

The Swing: Nov. 28, 2018

On this week’s episode of “The Swing,” Zach and Jesse look back at a successful couple weeks for the Badgers, are joined by the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin for his take on the team so far and they answer your Twitter questions.

2:50 — Impressive win over NC State. The Badgers haven’t won too many games where they trailed for as long as they did in that one.

8:28 — Fact or Fiction:
1) Wisconsin is a better offensive team than defensive right now.
2) Aleem Ford will have a bigger impact this season than Nate Reuvers.
3) Kobe King has the highest offensive ceiling on the team.
4) Ethan Happ’s free throw shooting will cost Wisconsin a game this season.
5) Wisconsin will finish in the top-4 of the Big Ten.

19:50 — Jim Polzin interview

36:49 — Twitter questions

1) Love Brad Davison’s game. Wisconsin needs what he brings defensively, and it seems the makeup of this squad needs his intangibles and enthusiasm. The question is, how he fits offensively? He’s not a pure shooter, which you want when running the offense through Ethan Happ. Thoughts?
2) How do I not get my hopes up too high for this Badgers squad like I did for the football team?
3) What’s Khalil Iverson’s role now with Ford back?
4) Thoughts on the Badgers best offensive and defensive lineups to date?
5) Updated tourney seeding please

No. 22 Wisconsin 79, NC State 75: Last word

MADISON — No. 22 Wisconsin overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to beat North Carolina State 79-75 on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at the Kohl Center.

Player of the Game: D’Mitrik Trice

Coming off a sub-par game against Virginia, Trice found his scoring touch once again. The sophomore had 18 points, including going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. He also distributed the ball well, handing out a season-high six assists in 34 minutes. His jumper from just inside the 3-point line with shot clock running down wasn’t quite the dagger, but it put Wisconsin up 76-73 with 23 seconds left and proved to be all the points the Badgers would need.

Through seven games, Trice is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 60-percent from deep.

The good: Ethan Happ

Seven games and seven double-doubles for the Wisconsin senior. Happ finished with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. After going just 3-for-11 in the first half that left the Badgers trailing by seven, the center scored 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting after the break to help his club overtake the Wolfpack.

The not so good: Free-throw shooting

Again. Like they did in another big win this year — a victory at Xavier — the Badgers struggled at the free throw line. Or perhaps more fairly, Trice and Happ struggled at the free throw line. The duo went a combined 5 of 12 from the stripe. It left Happ shooting 50 percent this season and Trice at 75 percent.

Luckily for Wisconsin, Brad Davison got the ball in the final seconds and drilled a pair of huge free throws to seal the game.

Stat of the game: 4

That’s how many charges Davison drew, the last coming with the Badgers up three and just 16 seconds remaining.

What they said:

“It was just a team win. It wasn’t relying on one or two guys. I don’t know if that’s how it would have been last year in a game like this. I think we’re a lot more balanced this year than we were last year. I think that’s what’s really helped us so far this season, and in this game, definitely.”

— Happ on all the different guys that contributed to the comeback victory

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In Case You Missed It:

— Playing his first extended minutes of the season following knee surgery, Aleem Ford scored 12 points. The sophomore forward went 4-for-7 from 3-point range, including 3 of 4 in the second half.

— He only played nine minutes, but sophomore Trevor Anderson made an impact. He had five points over 23 seconds in the second half to help in Wisconsin’s comeback effort.

— Tuesday marked the first time Wisconsin had come back from a double-digit second-half deficit to win since Feb. 21, 2016 against Illinois.

— Wisconsin is now 10-10 all-time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge The 10 wins are tied with Purdue and Penn State for the most among Big Ten teams.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (6-1) will open Big Ten play on Friday against No. 14 Iowa (5-0).

Big Ten announces All-Big Ten defensive honors

Wisconsin’s defense wasn’t the powerhouse it had been in recent years, but several individual players still earned recognition when the Big Ten announced its all-conference teams on Tuesday.

Linebacker T.J. Edwards was named to the first-team defense by the media and second team by the coaches after leading Wisconsin with a career-high 104 tackles and a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss. The senior added three sacks and two interceptions in his final season with the Badgers. This is the second-straight year Edwards has been named to the first-team after being a consensus pick last season.

His fellow inside linebacker, Ryan Connelly, earned third-team honors from the coaches and honorable mention from the media. He finished second to Edwards with 89 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. The former walk-on was an honorable mention pick a year ago.

Here are the rest of the Badgers earning some form of Big Ten recognition. The conference will release the offensive awards tomorrow.

LB Andrew Van Ginkel: 3rd team (coaches), honorable mention (media)
S D’Cota Dixon: 3rd team (consensus)
K Rafael Gaglianone: honorable mention (coaches)

For the full list of award winners, click here.

Wisconsin’s season goes from disappointing to failure in loss to Minnesota

MADISON — Coming into the game against Minnesota, the Wisconsin football team’s season had been a disappointment. After a nausea-inducing 37-15 loss to the Gophers, the regular season must be described as nothing short of a spectacular failure. That’s not how those within the program will look at it, but from an outside perspective it’s hard to view it any other way.

The Badgers opened the campaign No. 4 in the country in the Associated Press poll — tied for their highest preseason ranking in school history. They ended the regular season playing one of their worst home games in recent memory and falling to their rival for the first time since 2003. Not since Bret Bielema’s 2008 team walked off its home field as 48-7 losers to Penn State has Wisconsin been beaten as badly at Camp Randall Stadium as it was on Saturday.

But at least that was a loss to a top-10 team. This was 5-6 Minnesota, a team that had not won a game on the road all year and had given up 55 points to Illinois the last time it ventured away from Minneapolis. The Badgers managed just seven points when the game was still in doubt.

“As a coach, you’ve got to own it,” Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst said of the performance. “We’ve got to do a better job of coaching…”

As the Gophers were sprinting to claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the south end zone, most of the veteran Badgers were instead focused on getting to the Wisconsin locker room as quickly as possible, not wanting their last memory on a field where they found so much success to be that bitter.

“Probably, my whole life,” guard Beau Benzschawel said of how long it would stay with him that he didn’t get to chop down the goal posts like the previous 14 senior classes had.

Another senior, Michael Deiter, was unable to miss the chopping celebration.

“No, I saw it,” Deiter said. “It hurt [and] it sucked, because I wanted to do it.

“I wanted to put the Axe back in the case. [I’m] disappointed we’re not going to be able to do that.”

For other seniors, the pain of losing was more about those not even on the sideline with them.

“[You’re] not embarrassed but you feel like you let the guys down that were here before you. That’s really tough thinking about,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “I would have never in a million years thought that we would lose this game but we did. It’s tough.”

He wasn’t the only one thinking about those that came before.

“Forever,” safety D’Cota Dixon of the game sticking with him. “That’s a legacy right there. Disappointed. We let down the guys that were in front of me. Warren Herring, Mike Caputo, Leo (Musso).

“There’s no excuses. Nothing to talk about. Plain and simple, they were the better team tonight. They got the Axe.”

Wisconsin’s trophy case is empty for some of the same reasons the season didn’t turn out the way many had predicted it would. The Badgers were haunted by self-inflicted mistakes that had little to do with Minnesota. A missed chip-shot field goal by a senior kicker, four turnovers by a junior quarterback, a breakdown on special teams and frustrating penalties at inopportune times.

“Playing in this league, you’re going to play good teams. That’s tough [enough] to beat,” Chryst said. “And then when you also beat yourself…You have to be a great team to overcome both of those and we’re not right now.”

The Gophers also played a role, obviously. Even after top tackler Blake Cashman was ejected for targeting in the second quarter, the Minnesota defense gave little ground, forcing four fumbles (recovering one) and picking off three passes. Offensively, the Gophers did what Wisconsin so often does to its opponents — crushed their will by winning on first and second down, bullying the Badgers’ defense with the run time and time again. It wasn’t that Wisconsin’s defenders weren’t in spots to make plays — they just didn’t. Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 121 yards and seemingly always fell forward.

“That’s the hard part,” Edwards said. “First and second down, I think we just lost, quite frankly. That’s kind of what it [came] down to.”

But the process of getting to where Gophers’ coach P.J. Fleck was diving into the locker room with the Axe started before a single snap had been taken in the 2018 season.

The seeds were planted when they lost defensive linemen Garrett Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk to injury, the former for the year and the latter for the first two games of the season and playing several more while limited by a different injury. It continued with the suspension of their top wide receiver, Quintez Cephus, in August after he was charged with sexual assault, a case due for trial early next year. The same incident led to the suspension of sophomore wide receiver Danny Davis for two games. A young secondary got even younger with the departures of sophomores Dontye Carriere-Williams and Patrick Johnson just before the start of the year.

Then the games started and the injuries piled up, including the loss of senior leaders in Dixon, tight end Zander Neuville and nose guard Olive Sagapolu for multiple outings. An unexpected loss to BYU and a string of double-digit losses to Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State crushed Wisconsin’s dreams of a Big Ten title and a berth in the College Football Playoff.

The dagger, though, came Saturday. No matter what happened in front of an announced crowd of 74,038, the season was going to fall short of outside expectations, but at least they’d have the Axe. Even in 2008, when they went just 7-6, they managed to beat Minnesota. But unlike the four times they trailed by 10 points or more during the 14-game streak only to rally for a win, they couldn’t find a way back. Instead, they suffered their worst home loss to Minnesota since being shutout 24-0 in 1936. Back then, the Gophers were actually considered a college football powerhouse.

The loss and a season of unfulfilled promise leaves plenty of questions for a program that was 43 yards away from making the playoff with a win over Ohio State in the conference championship game last year. Chryst must own his part in the fall. He has largely lived a charmed existence since coming back to Wisconsin in 2015 to lead the program. Three double-digit win seasons and two division titles laid the groundwork for what was supposed to be the year that the Badgers took it to the next level. Not only did that not happen, the program took a step back.

Chryst denied it after the game on Saturday, but the team often looked unprepared and undisciplined. The offense, which is what Chryst was known for as an assistant, returned nine starters from a year ago but produced fewer points and yards. That’s despite running back Jonathan Taylor rushing for nation-leading 1,981 yards. Blame can be placed plenty of places for the inability to capitalize on the opportunity to be among the best offenses in school history, though a lack of consistency from quarterback Alex Hornibrook, and to a lesser extent Jack Coan, is certainly near the top of the list.

In past seasons, the defense would overcome the offensive inefficiencies. But having to replace seven starters from 2017, losing a number of the experienced guys they did have back to injury and then having to play freshmen along the defensive line and secondary proved to be too much for defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.

Special teams were also less than special in many cases, including on Saturday. Rafael Gaglianone missed a chip shot field on the first drive, they allowed a punt return for a score near the end of the first half and then had a fumble and a penalty on kick return in the second half.

“I’d say no,” Chryst said when asked if his team had won any of the three phases of the game on Saturday.

That was the case way too often this year. In some games they were able to overcome the mistakes and being outplayed for large stretches. Their 7-5 record could easily have been 5-7 or worse.

Much of the talk afterward was about sending the seniors out with a bowl victory, whatever bowl that ends up being. It’s a worthy effort and one a special group that won a lot of games deserves.

But no matter what happens in that game, it must not overshadow what we’ve seen in the 12 games played already. Wisconsin has too much talent to be sitting home watching Northwestern play for a conference title next Saturday. The coaching staff has proven it’s capable enough to get them there, though if the the last decade of constant turnover is any indication, there will be changes before next season. Some of the best players the program has seen will leave and ones with bright futures will arrive. It will be on all parties — coaches, returning players and new ones — to make sure that the scenes that unfolded in Ann Arbor, Evanston, University Park and under the lights on the final week of the season are a one-year dip and not the start of a downward trend.