Wisconsin hits the road out to rediscover its trademark defense when it travels to play suddenly-explosive Marquette in the annual in-state rivalry game on Saturday at Milwaukee.
Marquette (6-2) routed No. 6 Baylor 96-70 at home on Tuesday, while the Badgers (5-2) lost 78-75 to visiting Wake Forest on the same night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, while allowing the Demon Deacons to shoot 53.7 percent from the floor.
Wisconsin and Marquette have split the last 10 matchups in the hotly contested series, with the Badgers winning last season 89-76 at Madison. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 69-59, with the teams playing each other every season since 1917, except for the 1958-59 campaign.
Wisconsin is 68-8 under coach Greg Gard when holding opponents to 60 points or less, including all five wins this season. The Badgers entered the Wake Forest game third in the nation in scoring defense, but gave up 41 points in the second half, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range.
“There was a lot of uncharacteristic things that we had not done this year,” Gard said. “And we’ve got to figure them out and learn from it and get better in a hurry.”
Wisconsin’s only other loss was 69-68 in overtime to No. 9 Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis event at Paradise Island, Bahamas.
After a three-game slump in which he shot 5 of 33 (15.2 percent), Badgers point guard Chucky Hepburn has 40 points in his last two games, including a career-high 23 against Wake Forest with six 3-pointers. He had eight combined 3-pointers in the previous six games.
Tyler Wahl leads the Badgers with 14.4 points per game and is tied for the team lead with 7.1 rebounds. Freshman Connor Essegian has come off the bench to score in double figures each of the last four games and is shooting 51.7 percent (15 of 29) from 3-point range.
Marquette steamrolled Baylor with an early 23-2 run. The Golden Eagles shot 58.3 percent, including 12 of 25 (48 percent) from deep.
“It’s just a big win for our team,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “And a step forward because, up until tonight, we’ve played seven games, the two best teams we played we came up short against. We felt like we were in those games, in position to grab those games, and we didn’t.”
The Golden Eagles’ two losses were by a combined eight points, including 75-70 at fifth-ranked Purdue on Nov. 15, when they let a nine-point lead slip away over the final 10 minutes. They also lost 58-55 to Mississippi State at the Fort Myers Tip-off on Nov. 21.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Kam Jones each average 14.1 points, with David Joplin at 11.8 and Oso Ighodaro at 10.6 and a team-best 6.1 rebounds. Prosper has 42 points in the last two games, including 24 against Baylor.
Marquette forced Baylor into a season-high 20 turnovers, which led to 26 points. Wisconsin entered the Wake Forest game averaging 9.5 turnovers per game, but turned it over 12 times. The Badgers led the nation last season in fewest turnovers with 8.7 per game.
–Field Level Media