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Badgers end skid with narrow win over Penn State, 64-63

Wisconsin escapes the Bryce Jordan Center with a narrow win over a talented Penn State squad

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Something scary always seems to happen when the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Penn State for a basketball game. It almost happened again on Monday night as Wisconsin blew a 17-point lead only to hang on for a 64-63 win over the Nittany Lions.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak by the Badgers and gave UW its first win in Big Ten play this season. It was a nice rebound after getting blown out by Ohio State on Saturday in the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin was up by as many as 17 in second half, but foul trouble for some of the biggest names on the team and Penn State’s ability to hit anything and everything made it in to a game. UW got big nights from two unlikely contributors on the score sheet.

Junior forward Khalil Iverson led the Badgers with 16 points and reserve forward Nathan Reuvers added 11 points in the winning effort. Both were needed as Ethan Happ battled foul trouble and a bad night on the defensive end of the court. He finished the game with 9 points and 10 rebounds, but was just 3 of 12 shooting on the night.

Penn State countered with a great night from its big man, as Mike Watkins poured in a game-high 22 points to lead three Nittany Lions in double figures.

In the end, Penn State’s furious comeback just wasn’t enough though as UW made enough of its free throws to keep the lead and force Penn State in to desperation mode in the final minute of the game.

The Badgers will stay in Pennsylvania for a game on Wednesday at Temple. Tip is scheduled for 6pm CT and will be shown on ESPNU.

 

Iverson Finally Woke Up

Khalil Iverson has been one of the more frustrating players to watch so far in 2017. He’s shown all the flashes of athleticism we saw his first two seasons in a Badgers uniform, but he hasn’t been able to finish around the rim and been a defensive liability at times. That wasn’t the case at all against Penn State.

Iverson finished the game with 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half. That was good news, because Happ was struggling to find open looks on the offensive end and couldn’t keep pace with Mike Watkins on the other end. Happ was in foul trouble too, and Iverson capitalized on being in the right positions to receive passes from Happ all night long.

Wisconsin needs to see more of the kind of consistency they saw out of Iverson tonight if they want to continue winning games in conference play.

Curse of Bryce Jordan Center Nearly Happened Again

Even the best of the Badgers teams we’ve seen over the last decade have gone to Penn State and had massive trouble against the Nittany Lions. Early on it looked like the curse was going to rear its ugly head, but then a big spurt on offense gave the Badgers a 17-point lead in the second half.

Anyone that has paid attention to how games go at the BJC with the Badgers and Nittany Lions knew it wasn’t going to be over though. That’s exactly what happened, as Penn State whittled away at the lead and eventually were within a bucket with just under 2 minutes to play.

However, unlike in years past, the Badgers found a way to scrap and claw victory from the jaws of defeat. Whether that was via bad officiating at times (see ball on the end line and Brad Davison fouling out for no reason), ungodly shooting or loose balls bouncing away from the Badgers, somehow all of it was able to be put to side.

Wins like this can really galvanize a young team, let’s see how the Badgers respond when they face another tough test against Temple on Wednesday night.

Youth Finally Served to Opponents

We’ve seen pops of brilliance from the Badgers foursome of freshmen — Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, Kobe King and Nathan Reuvers — but we haven’t seen that group take over the game. That stopped on Tuesday night, as Reuvers put up double figures (11) and the trio gave UW 24 points combined (8 points for King and 5 from Ford, while Davison didn’t get on the score sheet).

Reuvers’ contributions were huge, as Ethan Happ faced foul trouble in the second half and he stepped up to replace the missing scoring. King also hit some big buckets as the Badgers needed the points in the second half and Ford contributed a solid four rebound game as well.

If this group can give the Badgers 24-30 points per game its a recipe for success. The problem is, this group is still growing and inconsistent play has been the norm so far. Let’s see if they can turn the page and become consistent players as the bulk of Big Ten play awaits in January and February.

 

Grades:

Ethan Happ: B – 

It’s hard to be really harsh on the guy who carried this team and pulled down 10 rebounds. However, foul trouble hurt him and he was just 3 of 12 from the field. Not his beset night by far.

Khalil Iverson: A

This was by far his best night in a Badgers uniform. He spaced the floor well, used his athleticism to contribute on both ends and lifted the team up when it needed it as Happ struggled offensively. Iverson was a super-efficient 7 of 8 from the field in the winning effort.

Alem Ford: B +

He wasn’t asked to do a ton of scoring, but he did hit two important shots and contributed four rebounds. There was also an assist and a steal to his name. Overall, a nice night for a role player on the starting lineup.

Brad Davison: C 

Davison has really struggled since picking up two shoulder injuries in less than two weeks time. I love his gritty game and willingness to play through injury, but he’s basically a one-armed player at the moment and you have to think some time off to heal up would be helpful. He took just four shots and missed them all. Luckily, his hustle turned in to a pair of rebounds, assists and one steal.

D’Mitrick Trice: C +

Scoring 9 points isn’t bad, but doing it while shooting 2 of 9 from the field and getting five of your nine points from the free throw line? Not exactly how you draw it up for your point guard. If Davison was 100 percent, it would be interesting to see if Trice would even be starting at this point. He hasn’t shown he deserves it in the past few weeks.

Brevin Pritzl: A

He wasn’t asked to shoot the ball a ton, but he did manage to hit an important triple and he was highly efficient from the free throw line. Oh and Prtizl threw in 5 rebounds for good measure. It was one of his better overall nights in Big Ten play in his career. More of that overall effort and he’ll see more minutes too.

Kobe King: A 

King came up big when the team needed points in the second half. He shot a nice 3 of 4 from the field and was 2 of 2 from beyond the arc. It didn’t hurt he also pulled down 3 rebounds and had an assist and a blocked shot. King needs more moments like this to keep seeing his minutes increase.

Nathan Reuvers: A +

All I have to say is 11 points in 13 minutes of action. Reuvers was on fire, showing a good jump shot and an ability to mix it up despite playing a bit undersized down low. Will that eventually catch up to him? That is going to be the big question, but if they can get 7-10 points out of him on a consistent basis, they’ve found the big man off the bench that actually will help this team win.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers basketball lands pair of 4-star players in 2021 class

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Witnessing a win over the Northwestern Wildcats must have done the trick, because two of Wisconsin’s biggest targets in the 2021 class both committed on Sunday.

First to commit was the more surprising name, as Top247 point guard Chucky Hepburn.

The No. 23 ranked point guard and No. 141 ranked player in the country per the 247Sports composite rankings chose the Badgers over offers from Minnesota, Nebraska, and Creighton. He also was beginning to see interest from some of the bigger names in college basketball, but chose to pick a team that had been on him for awhile.

“I called coach Gard 30 minutes ago and committed,” Hepburn told Badger247. “The education part was really great. I loved all the academic advisors are part of the basketball program and how they work with them.

“With the basketball side, I fit perfectly with the system they run. I feel like the assistant coaches will help me get where I want to be, because they all played professionally before.”

But, not long after that news broke, word of the biggest target on UW’s list committing would break as well.

Wisconsin would add 4-star forward Matthew Mors to the mix as well.

Mors comes to the Badgers ranked as the No. 115 player in the country and the No. 22 power forward in the nation as well.

The Badgers had been on Mors since his eighth grade year and the persistence paid off, despite other offers across the Big Ten and Big 12 coming to him.

Mors chose Wisconsin over names like Creighton, Iowa State, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, TCU, and more.

With these two pledges, the Badgers have solidified their 2021 recruiting class rather early and they hit on all their top priority prospects as well.

Hepburn and Mors join fellow 4-star player in 6-8 power forward Chris Hodges. With three 4-star players to their name, the Badgers currently own the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

Yes, Wisconsin isn’t likely to own that No. 1 ranking by the end of the class, but there’s no doubt that the Badgers have done something special in the 2021 class.

It is a huge statement for head coach Greg Gard after the program missed out on some massive in-state names in the past few classes. Many had begun to wonder if the Badgers could ever hit on big targets with Gard as the head coach.

Those thoughts should be put to rest with this class and how the Badgers closed out the 2020 class prior to this.

It should also be noted that assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft was the lead recruiter on each of the last four overall commitments for the Badgers, including 2020 names Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson.

Of course, we won’t know for a while how these big recruiting numbers stack up once they get on the floor for some time. But, winning on the recruiting trail like this puts the Badgers in a much better spot to be competitive for a very long time than previously thought.

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Carlson commits to Badgers 2020 basketball class

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It appears the 2020 Wisconsin Badgers basketball class has come to a close.

A day after forward Steven Crowl committed, we now have word that top target Ben Carlson, a fellow Minnesota native, has committed to the Badgers as well.

The four-star center chose the Badgers over a who’s who of basketball offers in the Midwest including Ohio State, Xavier, Stanford, Purdue, Creighton, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa State, Kansas State, Wake Forest, and others.

Much like Crowl, Carlson took his official visit to Madison earlier this month for the Central Michigan football game.

Carlson comes to the Badgers as the No. 15 ranked forward in the entire country per the 247Sports composite rankings, the No. 82 ranked player overall and with a .967 grade from the composite.

He was high up the Badgers list for a long time, even as they targeted other highly rate options at forward like Jalen Johnson. However, as the board began to shake out, it was clear the Badgers wanted Carlson no matter what Johnson or anyone else was going to do in this class.

It appears that the relationship that Carlson formed with the current roster while on his visit is what put the Badgers over the top in this lengthly recruitment.

“A big focus was on getting to know the players, so I hung out with them a lot,” Carlson told Badger247. “They talked about how the coaching staff tells you straight-up how everything is going to be, they don’t sugarcoat anything. They told me about how much they liked it there.”

“I had a pretty good idea of how Wisconsin was going in,” he continued. “The biggest thing was getting to know the players and I really liked them. I know about the history and the campus, but getting to know the players was big for sure.”

Adding this type of nationally known name to an already big class is huge for the Badgers. In fact, UW has the No. 4 ranked class per the 247Sports composite team rankings.

It would be the highest the Badgers have ever finished in the rankings, with the 2006 class under Bo Ryan the next highest at No. 20 in the country.

Wisconsin is getting easily one of the most skilled big men in the class and an instant impact type of player. What has been a question mark up front could easily be a strength of this team quickly thanks to Carlson and Crowl’s commitments to the class.

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Badgers add 4-star center to 2020 basketball class

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What could be a historic recruiting class for the Wisconsin Badgers got another boost on Tuesday as 4-star center Steven Crowl verbally committed to the Badgers.

He went on his official visit this past weekend and apparently it was all he needed to see.

Crowl has since cancelled trips to other contenders like Colorado, Iowa, and Northern Iowa. He also had an offer from the in-state Gophers and was thinking about a visit there.

However, his official visit for the Central Michigan football game weekend was all he needed to pull the trigger on a commitment to Gard and the Badgers.

Crowl joins an already loaded Badgers 2020 class that includes in-state star Johnny Davis and his twin brother Jordan Davis, as well as the No. 25 ranked point guard in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Lorne Bowman.

This class also already has preferred walk-on Carter Gilmore, who chose that offer over other mid-major D1 offers and saw his recruitment pick up considerably in the July evaluation period.

While his name wasn’t a hot one on the recruiting trail, he was a late riser and currently sits as the No. 102 ranked player in the class overall and the No. 17 center in the nation per the 247Sports composite rankings.

The St. Paul, Minn. native is also continuing the pipeline of players coming from the cross-border rival Gopher state. He comes from the same AAU program — Minnesota D1 — that produced both Tyler Wahl and Nate Reuvers.

With Crowl in the fold, Wisconsin has added 12 players from the state of Minnesota in the 247Sports composite era, according to Badger247.

When you take a look at Crowl’s film, what you see is someone that has begun to both physically and mentally mature. He’s got the skill set that UW likes out of their bigs as well, with a nice looking shot from the outside.

However, what you also see on tape is someone that may need to take a year to adjust to the college game and that may be perfectly fine with the coaching staff as they still will have Nate Reuvers and Tyler Wahl to work with up front as starters.

It will be interesting to see how Crowl digests the speed of the college game early on. If he can adjust to that and the physicality, he may indeed find himself in the rotation quickly though.

He is certainly in the mold of what has become the classic Wisconsin big man.

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Former Badger Jon Leur traded to Milwaukee Bucks

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They say you can always go home, and for one former Wisconsin Badger he’s coming back to a state he called home for four years.

Former Badgers forward Jon Leuer was traded early on Thursday morning from the Detroit Pistons to the Milwaukee Bucks. In exchange for Leuer, the Bucks gave up the 30th overall pick in tonight’s NBA Draft and traded away Tony Snell.

Last season, Leuer played in 41 games for the Pistons and made just one start. He averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in his ninth season in the NBA.

Leuer is a very similar player to Snell, but comes at a much more team-friendly salary.

In trading away Snell, the Bucks free up an additional $4 million in salary this year and another $12 million next year.

This could be seen as a way for the Bucks to pony up the big money that Khris Middleton wants from the team in order to stay in Milwaukee.

As for Leuer, he is 17th on the all-time Badgers scoring list with 1,376 points to his name. He also finished his career with 551 rebounds.

Leuer’s final season in Madison was his best statistically, as he helped lead the 2010-11 Badgers team to the Sweet 16. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game that year.

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