The name Western Kentucky may sound a bit benign but this Hilltoppers are anything but. This team has beaten a Purdue team that boat-raced a Marquette team that, in turn, boat-raced the Wisconsin Badgers. WKU also lost to No. 1 Villanova by just eight.
So, this would be a pretty strong non-conference win for most Badgers teams but for this bone-stock model, it could be huge. Even more, despite some considerable cold streaks and Hilltoppers runs, this is a game the Badgers deserved to win.
Beyond this game, it showed us how the Badgers will likely have to gut-out wins as the Badgers push for an NCAA Tournament bid.
BREVIN PRITZL MUST BE THE THIRD SCORER
On paper, the Badgers had four players in double figures and a total of six players that scored six or more points. Brevin Pritzl led all Badgers with a career-high tying 17 points. He was 4-of-5 from three including a buzzer-beating three at the end of the first half that proved to be massive. That bucket cut WKU’s halftime lead from seven to four. Pritzl also showed a willingness to drive to the hole which is especially encouraging. He crashed and burned a couple times but he also finished strongly and quite capable on two occasions. The ability to finish off the bounce added to his potent perimeter shooting would make Pritzl the weapon that the Badgers need him to be.
FRESHMAN DAVISON IS THE LEADER
Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the country but freshman point guard Brad Davison is the leader of this team. His ability to pivot the team on the floor to either fire up, lockdown or whatever necessary is clear. One especially telling bit of leadership occurred during the second half when the shot clock was malfunctioning. Davison was preparing to inbound the ball underneath the hoop on the offensive end and the four on the floor were set up. After the referees went to the scorer’s table to address the clock, the four on the floor stood frozen for several seconds until Davison called for the team to huddle. And when they broke the huddle, the four on the floor appeared to set up in a different formation. That’s a true freshman commanding the floor of which he is the youngest player.
HAPP GON HAPP
Seventeen points, six assists, four rebounds and 3-for-8 from the free-throw line. If he can start bangin’ in those free throws, he will be nearly unstoppable. Happ gon Happ.
ALEEM FORD FROM THREE WILL BE INVALUABLE
Aleem Ford was 4-for-5 from deep. His 14 points were, obviously, crucial to the win on Wednesday but looking forward, his ability to set a screen for a ball handler and hit the open three when the ball handler dishes to him is essential to the offense’ overall success. Another wrinkle to that where he can be so valuable is when Happ gets the ball in the post, gets swarmed and can kick to Davison, Pritzl AND Ford for the open three.
REUVERS BECOMING MORE CONFIDENT
Freshman forward Nathan Reuvers went from being redshirted to averaging 15 minutes-a-game in a week, so it’s more than fair that Reuvers has looked a bit timid at times out there early on. But, Reuvers has looked much more confident as of late, which is essential for the Badgers to be successful in some form or fashion this season. He has become more aggressive in the post, collecting feeds in the block and then going up. He now possesses a new zeal for taking midrange jump shots. Although they have not been going in as of yet, they’ll begin to fall and that will be huge for the Badgers.
DON’T GIVE UP HOPE
In the words of that dude from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead yet.”