In the 130th rendition of the I-94 Rivarly, Greg Gard and the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (6-2) took down Shaka Smart and the No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles 75-64 at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
The Badgers extended the program’s all-time series lead over the “other” in-state school to 71-59 — in a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1917.
This was the seventh top-5 AP win for the Badgers during the Gard era, and Wisconsin has now won three straight games against Marquette, including four of the last five matchups overall.
“The environment, the atmosphere, the fans were all terrific,” Coach Gard said during his post-game press conference.
Here are a few things that stood out from the Wisconsin Badgers win over Shaka Smart and the No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles.
Wisconsin Basketball Knocked Down Its Free-Throws
The Wisconsin basketball team entered Saturday’s contest, shooting 74.6% from the free-throw line — good for No. 62 in the country. Against Marquette, the Badgers got to the free-throw line early & often — and, more importantly, made them.
UW hit 17-of-19 attempts (89.5%) from the charity stripe in the first half and finished 24-of-28 (85.7%) overall. It was the Badgers’ best shooting clip the team has had all season when attempting 20+ free throws — and the best shooting percentage when taking 25+ in a game since November 2018 against Coppin State.
Wisconsin never trailed against Marquette — and their aggressiveness and consistency from the free throw line were big reasons why.
Wisconsin Basketball Murdered Marquette on the Glass
In the last three games, Wisconsin basketball has shown a consistent pattern that persisted during the Marquette game on Saturday: a strong emphasis on crashing the boards and rebounding with conviction.
The Badgers crushed the Golden Eagles in the rebounding battle 38-23 — and parlayed that into an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points. Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl chipped in four offensive rebounds apiece, followed by two from both AJ Storr and Carter Gilmore.
“I think this group has found the offensive rebounding, whether it’s Tyler [Wahl], Steve [Crowl], Carter [Gilmore], AJ [Storr], John Blackwell,” Gard told reporters after the game. “They’ve been opportunistic, and they’ve been more aggressive.”
Wisconsin’s frontcourt imposed their will all afternoon and showed how good this team can be if they rely on their core of veteran players, play with physicality, and rebound well.
Other Wisconsin Badgers Musings
Max Klesmit was an absolute PROBLEM in the first half against Marquette.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard, who transferred from Wofford last season, scored 21 points (his career high at UW) in just under 18 minutes — and hit 6-of-9 shots from the field — including five three-pointers.
Max Klesmit is on FIRE for @BadgerMBB. 🔥
— Big Ten Men’s Basketball (@B1GMBBall) December 2, 2023
Previously, the junior’s season-high was 14 against Arkansas State in the opener. Although he didn’t score in the second half, the Badgers couldn’t have done it without Klesmit going unconscious from beyond the arc.
It was an incredible game for the Wisconsin basketball team’s glue guy.
Steven Crowl was terrific once again. The 7-footer finished with 16 points and eight rebounds (four offensive) while making 5-of-6 field goals and knocking down 6-of-8 free throw attempts.
Big Steve continues to work towards becoming a more confident and consistent player for this Badgers team. When he plays physically and decisively as he has been lately, Crowl can be a real difference-maker.
AJ Storr has done an excellent job of remaining patient and letting the game come to him as of late — and it’s allowed him to make a massive impact on the Wisconsin basketball program.
Against Marquette, Storr scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. Even though it wasn’t his best statistical output, I thought he played within the flow of the game and gave the Badgers precisely what they needed — including a few dunks that got the Kohl Center crowd involved.
STORR SLAM. 😤 @BadgerMBB
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 2, 2023
After the game, Coach Gard commended Storr for how far he’s come in such a short time — saying, “he’s been a sponge.”
The Wisconsin Badgers bench only contributed six points, all of which came from freshman guard John Blackwell.
He continues to impress me with the poise he plays with and showed against a top-5 opponent that he’s someone Wisconsin can lean out throughout the season and be a weapon off the bench in Big Ten play.
Lastly, Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl both played solid games and showed how important it is to have veteran leadership.
Hepburn had nine points, six rebounds, four assists, and just one turnover in 34 minutes. He continues to be the straw that stirs the Badgers drink.
Wahl had 10 points and seven rebounds and was a real asset as a help defender for Wisconsin basketball all game long.
This team has so many different ways it can attack you — it’s truly remarkable to see after enduring so many struggles a year ago.
“Sometimes you have to go through those rough times to grow,” Coach Gard said after the game. “The growth is starting to take place.”
Things won’t get any easier this week, considering Wisconsin basketball opens up Big Ten play on Tuesday night in East Lansing against Michigan State before traveling to Tucson next Saturday to take on the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats.
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