Preview: Men’s Basketball vs. Wisconsin
By Kendall Wright
Following two postponed games last week, Northwestern men’s basketball hopes to snap its two-game losing streak in a matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers on Monday.
Wisconsin (12-5, 4-3 B1G) enters after snapping its three-game losing streak with a win over the Penn State Nittany Lions last Tuesday. The Badgers hope that a win against the Wildcats (12-5, 3-3 B1G) can serve as a confidence boost and propel them closer to Big Ten-leading Purdue.
To defeat the Badgers, the Wildcats must rely on their highly-rated defense and Chase Audige, who is first in the Big Ten in steals per game. Northwestern’s goal should be to force the Badgers inside the arc and make them earn their points at the charity stripe through stifling, physical man-to-man defense.
Northwestern can’t allow Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian to continue having the magical touch that they’ve had all season from deep. The backcourt duo is shooting 47.9% and 45.6%, respectively.
The biggest concern for Northwestern is its efficiency from the free throw line during late game situations. Although the Wildcats’ 74% bests the Badgers at 67%, free throws will likely dictate the game’s outcome, so it’s important that all five Wildcats on the court sink their free throws, regardless of who is fouled.
If the ‘Cats exhibit poor shot selection down the stretch, they will give the game away to the Badgers. While Northwestern averages more rebounds per game than Wisconsin – 37.4 to 31.8 – the ‘Cats need to keep boxing out and crashing the boards so they can push the pace. Getting out in transition will be key for ‘Northwestern as it currently averages more points off turnovers (16.5) than Wisconsin (13.5). On the other side, the ‘Cats will have to hold onto the ball. They currently average more turnovers than the Badgers, 10.6 to 9.1.
With the stellar backcourt of Audige and Boo Buie leading Northwestern in scoring, the tandem will need to continue leading by example with better shot-selection and more discipline on the defensive end to come out victorious.
At roughly the midpoint of the regular season, another conference win would mean the world for Northwestern as it currently sits at tenth in Big Ten standings. Additionally, a win on Monday would prepare the ‘Cats for a difficult stretch, which includes Purdue and re-matches against Michigan and Indiana.
Ally Navarrete and Dylan Friedland have the call with tipoff set for 5:30 p.m. CST. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, January 21st, but was postponed because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols within the Wildcats’ program. Bundle up and join the Wildcats as it takes on its northern neighbor as teams jockey for seeding.