The Wisconsin Badgers made a statement on Monday with a 65-41 win over the No. 24 Virginia Cavaliers, improving to 3-2 on the season and notching their first Quad 1 victory after losing to Tennessee and Providence.
It was a stout defensive effort for the Badgers, while Wisconsin relied on ball movement and the paint to function offensively against a smaller Virginia team.
The Badgers ultimately controlled this game for the majority of the second half, leading by as much as 24 points in the victory.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 65-41 win over Virginia.
Through the first few games of the season, Wisconsin struggled defensively, specifically with fouling, which allowed opponents to get to the free throw line at a high rate.
The defensive struggles were uncharacteristic for the Badgers, who had been one of the better defenses in 2022, while usually holding a reputation for their efforts on that end of the field.
Against a tough opponent that had scored at least 73 points in three of their four games, the Badgers were shutdown defensively, holding Virginia to just 32.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three.
It felt that Wisconsin was just suffocating Virginia on that end, forcing tough shot after tough shot from the Cavaliers, while allowing just three offensive rebounds, minimizing second-chance opportunities.
Wisconsin also allowed just 14 points in the paint in a dominant effort, with several players stepping up and showing out on that end.
Credit to head coach Greg Gard for keeping his players fresh, which allowed for more defensive tenacity and just 41 points from Virginia on 0.788 points per possession.
With the size advantage Wisconsin had, the paint was going to be vital to Wisconsin’s success, which meant relying on Steven Crowl to make plays.
Crowl was phenomenal on Monday, scoring 15 points on 7/10 shooting, while bringing down 10 rebounds, including four offensive boards, and two assists.
His impact went beyond the stat sheets, as Virginia looked to double Crowl nearly every time he touched the ball in the post. Last season, Crowl would sometimes struggle with his decision-making in those situations, but that wasn’t the case at all on Monday.
Crowl consistently found the kick-out, which led to good ball movement and open shots as a result.
Additionally, Crowl worked the pick-and-roll well with Chucky Hepburn, setting up shots, while also finding paint touches in that way.
After the loss to Providence, head coach Greg Gard called upon Crowl and fellow forward Tyler Wahl to finish. Crowl has stepped up to the challenge since with a strong performance against Robert Morris, as well as an efficient double-double against Virginia.
In the loss to Providence, a key issue wasn’t just the finishing, but also the starters not stepping up to the task.
There were inherent struggles against Robert Morris as well, as Chucky Hepburn, Max Klesmit, and A.J. Storr combined to shoot 7/21 from the field.
This game was an important one for the Badgers because it proved they could be functional on offense without A.J. Storr being a significant factor, which had been the case over the first four games.
Last year, Wisconsin significantly struggled to score, but that’s changed over the first few games with the increased depth, headlined by Storr.
Storr had been a high-volume scorer over the first three weeks, taking up a significant number of shots, while leading the team with 15.5 points per game heading into this contest.
But, on Monday, Storr shot the ball just six times, scoring seven points on 2/6 from the field, while seeing just 21 minutes of action.
Instead, the Badgers saw Tyler Wahl overcome an ugly start to score eight points on 4/7 shooting in the second half and Max Klesmit pour in nine of his own, while making a variety of shots.
Then, once again, John Blackwell showed up, scoring 10 points, while hitting 2/3 from distance. While Blackwell missed all four of his twos, the guard was aggressive and knocked down all four of his free throws.
The Badgers needed to show themselves that they could count on others to score, which was the case against a tough Virginia defense on Monday, and they also reclaimed their three-point touch, shooting 8/18 from distance.