Unbeaten start to the season? Gone. Pride? More than intact as Wisconsin dropped it's first game of the year, 60-57 at North Carolina in the night cap to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. How can pride be intact after a loss?
Well, when you are Wisconsin and you went on the road to what is probably the best team in the country and only loose by 3, you can't hang your head in disappointment too much. The Badgers played some great defense, holding UNC to a season low 60 points.
Unfortunately 33% of that scoring went to one man, Harrison Barnes, who scored 20 points on an astounding 6-12 shooting from the field. He was also 6-7 from the free throw line and led all scorers in the game. Thankfully the Badgers held the rest of the Heels in check, with only Tyler Zeller (12) reaching double figures with Barnes.
The game started off with both teams hitting their opening buckets as Wisconsin took an early 3-2 lead. UNC would start trading baskets at that point and Wisconsin would lead 5-4 before UNC looked like it would take control of this game going on a 15-5 run to lead at 19-10 with 11:03 left in the half.
You'd expect Wisconsin to never give up and that's exactly what happend as the Badgers stormed back making it 15-19 just 2:40 later, on the strength of some great defensive rebounding by the Badgers. Neither team would gain much of an advantage throughout the rest of the half, as Wisconsin would actually take a 22-21 lead with 2:23 left in the half but would be down 25-24 as the buzzer sounded to end the action.
The story of the 1st half and nearly the entire game was the horrid shooting of Wisconsin. The Tar Heels played some good defense, but Wisconsin also was missing wide open shots. For the 1st half Wisconsin was only 3 of 15 from three point land (20%) and were only shooting 32.3% from the field as a team.
Opposite of that was what UNC was doing on offense, on 11-23 shooting, good for 47.8% for the half. Interestingly Wisconsin had more opportunities on the night and in the half, shooting the ball 7 more times on the strength of 5 offensive rebounds for the Badgers in the first half.
Wisconsin would try to comeback in the 2nd half, taking their biggest lead of the night at 36-31 with 13:19 left in the game, but Harrison Barnes decided to take things over, scoring 14 of his game high 20 in the 2nd half. North Carolina clamped down on the defensive end, holding the Badgers to just 8 points for the 12 plus minutes after Wisconsin took that 36-31 lead. UNC would go up by 10 with just 1:03 left to go in the game.
That last 1:03 of the game was a bit of wild ride for the Tar Heels, as Wisconsin decided it wanted to get hot from the field. The Badgers defense came through and forced a few turnovers and a few missed FT's by UNC and Wisconsin was down by just 5 points, 54-59, with 23 seconds left after a FT by Kendall Marshall. Jordan Taylor, who had a team high 18 points, would find himself wide open from 3 with 17 seconds left but it rimmed out and the best chance at a comeback went by the wayside. Ben Brust wouldn't let it die though as he would hit a half court shot to end the game, making it a 3 point final, 57-60, loss to North Carolina.
All you need to know about how UNC was able to win this game can be seen in two stats. #1 is 3 point shooting, which Wisconsin shot a season worst 8 of 28. #2 and perhaps the biggest difference in the game? UNC was 19-24 from the free throw line, while Wisconsin only attempted 6 free throws for the entire game.
Our WiscoBadgers Player of the Game as to go to the man not mentioned much above, Jared Berggren. He scored 14 points, but it was his effort at holding Tyler Zeller in check that made this game close. Berggren ended the game with those 14 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block.
If Wisconsin gets to the line a few more times or doesn't commit a few more fouls earlier in the 2nd half this game is that much closer. However, if's and but's don't win you games. In the end you have to say if you're a Wisconsin fan that a 3 point loss to the best team in the country, on the road, on your worst shooting night of the season, isn't all that bad and definitely serves notice to the Big Ten that we are for real and not to be taken lightly.
Of course all of this will be put to the test by a very game Marquette squad as the Badgers return to the friendly confines of the Kohl Center for the Saturday instate rivalry game with the Golden Eagles. The game takes place at 3:30pm Central and can be seen on BTN.
If you're in the Green Bay area we highly suggest joining us for that game and the Big Ten Football Championship game at Knuckles Sports Bar and Grill as we'll be hosting the first ever Badgers Day!! starting at 2:30pm Central time. You won't wanna miss the silent auction items we've got for you and the debut of the WiscoBadger Girls!! Until Saturday... ON WISCONSIN!!