Wisconsin hopes to end non-conference schedule on high note
The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers looks to roll through its final game of the non-conference season as the Badgers host the 1-9 Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils Friday at the Kohl Center. The game will be at 4:30 CST and will be televised by the Big Ten Network. The Badgers have won its last four games since a rare home loss Dec. 3 to the Marquette Golden Eagles. They are coming off a 66-33 victory over the Savannah State Tigers, while Mississippi Valley State lost to the Florida Gators 82-54 the last time it took the court.
This is the second matchup all-time between the two teams, with Wisconsin winning the only other meeting exactly 18 years prior to Friday's matchup. The Badgers won the 1993 matchup 115-79 behind Michael Finley's 21 points. The 115 points is the second most in school history.
Wisconsin looks to use defense to stop the Delta Devils, as the Badgers have held their opponents to just 44.7 points per game, which is the best in the nation, and have held opponents to just 33.8 percent shooting, which is good for second in the nation. With allowing 33 points to Savannah State, its season-low, the Badgers have now held 10 of its 12 opponents to their season-low point total. The only two teams who did not have their season low against Wisconsin were Marquette and Milwaukee. Marquette missed their season-low by two points and Milwaukee missed their season-low in points by three.
Jared Berggren leads the Badgers in scoring and is second in rebounding. He comes off a performance in which he scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting in 20 minutes against Savannah State. Four players scored in double figures for the Badgers. All-American Jordan Taylor has yet to play up to his capabilities, as he is just averaging 11.8 points per game and a career-high 1.7 turnovers per game. The good news is that it can only get better from here for him. Ryan Evans has picked up the slack so far scoring in double figures in seven of the 12 games so far. He is on pace to shoot a career-high in every major statistical category, including points, as he has improved his scoring by 7.5 points per game from last year.
Mississippi Valley State comes in having only won one game on the year, a 90-89 thriller over Tennessee State in double overtime. Since that time, the Delta Devils have lost five straight and none of the games have been by fewer than 17 points. They have played a brutal schedule, though, playing games at North Carolina, Florida and now Wisconsin.
The Delta Devils are led by junior center Paul Crosby who is scoring 13.7 points per game and hauling in 5.6 rebounds per game, as he is first and second in those categories, respectively. Senior guard Terrence Joyner is second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game. He shoots a lot of 3-pointers, as over half of his shots come from behind the arc. He shoots a solid 37.9 percent from behind the 3-point line, but has struggled lately, just shooting 23.3 percent from behind the arc the past five games. He is capable of going off from deep though, as he has 4-5 twice this season from 3-point land.
The key matchup with be the battle of the bigs as Berggren and Crosby face off. The Delta Devils need Crosby to have a career day if they even want to keep it close. But with Berggren playing so well right now, it will be tough for Crosby to win the battle.
This sounds like a broken record but with Taylor struggling so mightily, it has to end sometime, right? Taylor will finally reach the 20-point mark and shoot over 50 percent this game. He is just too talented not to break out of this slump soon. Wisconsin will roll in this one and Jordan Smith, Duje Dukan and company will see action late in the game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 67, Mississippi Valley State 37