Some legends may be told, some may turn to dust and some may turn to gold. Northwestern’s story may or may not be written for this season, but on Saturday afternoon in Madison, the fifth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers showed why they just might be a team that will be remembered, for centuries, as they beat the ‘Cats 65-50.
Led by steady scoring from NBA prospects Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, and former reserve guard Bronson Koenig, the outcome of the game was never truly in doubt, as the Badgers (21-2, 9-1) kept the Wildcats (10-13, 1-9) at bay from the start. It was NU’s ninth consecutive loss, keeping the ‘Cats winless in 2015.
Things started just about as poorly as they could for Northwestern, as it shot 2-12 from the field against an 8-12 showing from the Badgers, who jumped out to a 21-4 lead in the first nine minutes. NU showed great improvement in its perimeter defense, having clearly learned its lesson from the last time these two teams met (when Wisconsin waltzed to a 23-point win), but the Badgers still simply had too many weapons, and gashed the ‘Cats’ 2-3 zone early.
A 9-0 run from the Wildcats got them within 25-17 with four minutes left in the first half, but Wisconsin responded, closing out the half on a 12-4 run to lead 37-21 at intermission, despite shooting just 12-for-29 from the field.
In the second half, the Badgers led by as many as 22, but the ‘Cats did just enough to keep themselves from facing embarrassingly large deficits, playing Wisconsin tight on both ends of the floor. Bryant McIntosh and Alex Olah quietly played solid offensively against a physical defense, putting up 13 and 15 points, respectively, but despite their efforts, the ‘Cats could never get any closer than 11 points.
On the bright side, NU’s zone eventually became effective and the ‘Cats were one of just three teams to hold the Badgers, one of the most offensively efficient teams in the country, to less than 42-percent shooting. In fact, the ‘Cats outshot the Badgers percentage-wise from the field, 39.6 to 38.9, and ‘won’ the second half 29-28. But Wisconsin outdid Northwestern 15-5 on the offensive glass, effectively neutralizing Northwestern’s otherwise solid defensive play.
Fortunately for Northwestern, that’s likely the last time it will have to match up against a potential Final Four-caliber team this season. The ‘Cats will get a few days off before they welcome Tom Izzo and his Michigan State squad to Welsh-Ryan Arena Tuesday at 6 p.m.