The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team has been on a roll all season long. They just completed their first full week of conference play in 2022 and it went about as well as it possibly could. Before coming into this past week of games they were sitting pretty at 10-2 overall and 1-1 in early conference games.
As Monday, Jan. 3 rolled around the Badgers moved up to No. 23 in the AP Top-25. They had three huge games on the schedule prior to the release of the next AP Poll. Let’s take a look at how the Badgers fared in those three massive Big Ten games against the Purdue Boilermakers, Iowa Hawkeyes and Maryland Terrapins.
The Wisconsin Badgers No. 23 ranking was tested just hours after the release of that AP Poll as they took on the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers on the road. Both teams had a lot on the line wanting to start 2022 with a win, wanting to beat a rival, and wanting to move up in the poll.
The Boilermakers hopped out to the early 8-2 lead in the first 3:21, but then the true battle came. At the 12:12 mark, the Badgers took their first lead at 11-10, and over the next 6:25, there were four more lead changes. At the 5:46 mark, the Badgers took an 18-17 lead and did not look back before the half. They even powered themselves to a 27-20 lead and went into the half up 29-24.
Just like the first half, the Boilermakers started the second half hot with a 7-0 run and several minutes later had an 8-0 run to go up 44-38. The Badgers however had some of that in them as they went on a 10-1 run to take the lead back at 52-50. The back and forth was constant as between 9:06 and 3:21 there were four ties and four lead changes. The last lead change came when Brad Davison hit a three to go up 65-62 and that is when it all started to go right for the Badgers. A Johnny Davis jumper capped yet another 10-1 run to put the Badgers up 70-63 which would propel them to a 74-69 victory.
The Badgers have always had stand-out players but sophomore Johnny Davis is a different level of athlete that the Badgers have not had in a long time. In this massive game, Davis put the team on his back. In 38 minutes he finished with 37 points, half of the teams 74. Even more impressive, he also racked up 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks.
It was Davis’s 10th game with 20 or more points of the season. Additionally, it was his second 30 point game of the season and no other Badger has had two in a season since Ian Happ did it three times in 2018-19. Also, it was the most points by a Badger since Frank Kaminsky scored 43 against North Dakota on Nov. 19, 2013.
This win snapped a five-game losing streak on the road against Purdue and gave the Badgers their first win against a Top 3 team since they beat the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines on Jan. 19, 2019.
Following the big victory over Purdue, the Wisconsin Badgers came home on Jan. 6 to face the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-3) in another big rivalry game. These two teams played each other three times last season and the Hawkeyes went undefeated including a 62-57 win in the Big Ten Tournament. This would be a major redemption game for the Badgers.
For the first few minutes of the game, it was very close with some back and forth, but the Badgers were dominant early. They powered their way to a couple seven-point leads but the Hawkeyes would always cut that down. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, after Keegan Murray made a layup to make it 19-20 with 12:29 to go it all fell apart. 5:52 later the Badgers were up 32-19, a 12-0 run including seven from Davis. The Hawkeyes continued to battle, but the Badgers were able to take a 45-32 lead into halftime.
The Badgers started the second half hot and pushed their lead to 19 points at 57-38. Iowa tried their hardest to claw their way back but the Badgers kept their foot on the gas pedal the whole way through. They extended their largest lead to 74-52. The closest the Hawkeyes were ever able to get was nine at the end when all of the Badgers reserves came in. The Badgers came away with a truly dominant 87-78 victory
This was an amazing game for the Badgers because it was a whole team effort. All five Badger starters finished with double-digit points. Davis led the team with 26 on 10-18 shooting. Davison had 18 (6-11 FG), Tyler Wahl had 16 (6-7 FG), Steven Crowl had 12 (6-8 FG) and Chucky Hepburn had 11 (3-9 FG). Davis and Wahl also led the team with nine rebounds leading to a 43-26 victory on the glass.
Each aspect of this game was controlled by the Badgers snapping a four-game losing streak to Iowa.
The Wisconsin Badgers looked to stay strong on Sunday, Jan. 9 on the road against the Maryland Terrapins (8-6). Maryland came into this game 0-3 in Big Ten play, one of only two Big Ten teams winless in conference play. Both teams had a lot riding on this game.
There are good starts and then there is the start the Badgers had. At the 7:55 mark, 7:05 into the game, the Badgers were up 29-8. They were shooting a staggering 11-15 (73.3%) including 4-7 from 3-point range. Then, the momentum took a major shift. In the final 7:54, Maryland went on an 18-4 run bringing the Badgers to lead at halftime to only 33-26. The Badgers finished the half shooting 2-10 (20%). On the other hand, the Terrapins shot 4-8 (50%) including 6-6 from the free-throw line.
The second half did not start much better for the Badgers. The Terrapins continued the successful shooting that they lacked early on. In the first 4:33, the Terrapins went on a 10-2 run to take a 36-35 lead. The remainder of the game featured plenty of back and forth as neither team could gain a strong foothold. From the point of Maryland taking the lead, there were 5 ties and 6 lead changes, making it extremely tense. The game was tied at 57 and after a Crowl, 3-pointer to go up 60-57 the Badgers never relinquished the lead and came away with a tough 70-69 victory.
This was another excellent all-around team victory. Surprisingly the leading scorer was not Davis or Davison, but rather Wahl with a career-high 21. Then it was Davis with 19, snapping his streak of six straight games with 20 or more points. Davison also reached double digits with 11.
Their biggest struggle was from behind the arc. After their 4-7 start they went 1-13, finishing 5-20. They got into stressful moments and tried to rely on the three but failed. Davis and Davison combined for 2-14 which made for a lot of wasted possessions.
Despite the struggles, this Badger team did not break under pressure, and with some clutch, late shooting came away with the win.
After a perfect 3-0 week to start 2022 the Wisconsin Badgers were able to jump 10 spots up to No. 13 in the newest AP Poll. They now stand at 13-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play. The Badgers are tied with Ohio State for second in the Big Ten behind Michigan State and Illinois who are both 4-0.
There is a lot more work for this team as they take on the No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday, Jan. 13 at the Kohl Center. This will be a revenge game for the Badgers who lost to OSU in Dec. 73-55. They have grown a lot since that game and look to keep their winning streak going.
Johnny Davis is making a case for Big Ten and College Basketball player of the year with his 22.3 points per game which is 5th best in College Basketball and 3rd best in the Big Ten. He also claimed co-player of the week in the Big Ten with his 27.3 ppg, 10.0 RPG, and 3.0 APG.
With the help of Davison, Wahl, Crowl, Hepburn, and solid bench players this is a Wisconsin Badgers team that can be highly successful.
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