Don’t ask Chris Collins if he’s aware of the history between Northwestern and Wisconsin basketball. He doesn’t care.
Collins and his sub .500 Wildcats marched into the Kohl Center and did something they’ve never doe before, win. Previous coaches Bill Carmody and Kevin O’Neill had never came out of the Kohl center with victories but the 39-year-old Collins needed only one attempt. In fact, the last time Northwestern won in a game in Madison was in 1996. Collins was just Senior at Duke playing under coach Krzyzewski.
Time sure does fly and Wednesday the Wildcat’s looked as if they owned the 18-year-old win streak. With the help of red shirt senior Drew Crawford and poor Badger shooting the Wildcats were able to come away 65-56.
In the first minute and a half the Badgers looked great. Two consecutive three point field goals from Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust had the Badgers off to great start. Somebody must of then cracked open a window because they immediately turned ice cold. They followed up by missing their next 10 shots.
The Badgers however would recover, and for the remainder of the first half the score remained tight. Both teams traded buckets with neither creating a lead over three points. Wisconsin’s defense looked solid only allowing 22 points.
When the second half began the Badgers quickly jumped out to a 30-24 lead. Coach Collins called a time and must of made a speech for the ages. From there on out the Wildcats looked unstoppable.
In about 13 minutes the Wildcats went on a 30-9 run knocking down shot after shot. Drew Crawford sure got the message Collins was trying to get across. He was accountable for 14 of those 30. Sixth man Tre Demps decided to jump into the action contributing 7 to the run. The two guards took over in the second half and the high octane Badger offense just couldn’t keep up.
The last three minutes of the game were hectic. Coach Bo Ryan decided to put on a press which actually was quite successful. Wisconsin forced 7 turnovers and cut their deficit down to six but by then it was a little too late.
Fittingly, Drew Crawford finished off the Badgers with free throws. He ended the game with 30 points. Not a career high but 13 above his average. On the Badger side the only individual performance worthy of acknowledging is Ben Brust’s. The Senior made timely shots and was all over the court. Brust was a pest defensively and could be found hitting the deck for almost all loose balls.
As a team, shooting was horrendous. The Badgers went 15-57 shooting 26.3%. Nobody saw this coming. In the past four games defense had been the issue for this UW team. Wednesday’s performance just gave Badger fans another thing to worry about.
Point guard Traevon Jackson highlighted the Badgers shooting performance by going 2-12 from field. Traevon continuously forced low percentage shots. Among these were jumpers early in the shot clock, fade aways 18 feet from the basket, a floater from behind the free throw line, and perhaps his worst came in the closing seconds of the first half when threw up a right handed jumper from the free throw line. Scoring can be a strength for Jackson as long as he plays smart and sets his feet while shooting. However, last night he showed us how big of a liability he could be.
What may boggle the mind is why Bo Ryan decided to let Traevon play through his mistakes. Back up Bronson Koenig only saw four minutes of action. Defense couldn’t of been the reason. Northwestern picked apart Jackson with a repetitive attack of pick and rolls. Ryan’s trust in his point guard is apparent but decision making needs to taught.
Bo and his coaching may want to just throw away the tape. Forget about what just happened and focus on Saturday when the Ohio State Buckeyes come into town. Both teams are plummeting from the Big Ten standings.
For the Badgers a sense of panic has slowly creeped in. Can they shake off poor shooting and bounce back offensively? If so, will their defense hold? Many questions will arise but answers will be hard to come by. At this point no one knows the future for this team. My prediction has seemed to be the theme all season.
Expect the unexpected.