Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers come up short against red-hot Tar Heels

The Wisconsin Badgers held the North Carolina Tar Heels to their lowest point total all season, but were unable to keep up on offense, falling in the Maui championship 71-56.

The Wisconsin men’s basketball team will return inland from the Maui Invitational after going 2-1 in one of the most prestigious non-conference tournaments in the country. While the mark is nothing to hang their heads on, a poor offensive performance in the championship game against the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels will loom with them until their next contest on Sunday.

The Badgers could not have started off the game on offense in worse fashion, entering the gates missing their first 11 shots. Fortunately, they were able to stick with the high-flying Tar Heels, a team averaging 97 points per game entering Wednesday’s meeting, for the first half thanks in large part to their defense.

Despite the final score, do not be fooled by the margin of defeat. Wisconsin held the Tar Heels to their lowest points per possession (PPP) total in 25 games at 1.04 and at one point was holding them to under 1.00 midway through the second half.

Unfortunately, shooting 38 percent from the field and 36 from behind the arc is not going to get it done against a team of that caliber.

“It’s tough when you don’t hit shots,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said.

A simple statement that says a lot, the Badgers were unable to capitalize on open shots, finishing at 0.89 PPP, their lowest since last season’s road loss at Oklahoma. Wisconsin also was unable to capitalize on the glass like they had done so well the first two games of Maui. The Tar Heels out-rebounded the Badgers 38-26, while North Carolina big man Kennedy Meeks put on a show scoring 15 points and corralling 16 rebounds.

Vitto Brown led the way in scoring for the Badgers, posting 15 points and connecting on four of five three-pointers.

“We’ll definitely have a lot to learn from this when we go back and watch the film,” Brown said. “There’s no better test this early in the season.”

While the result was not what Badgers fans wanted, the tough schedule early in the season will only help the team in the long-run. It is evident North Carolina (7-0) is one of the best teams in the country and are sound on both sides of the ball. These types of games early in the season allow the Badgers to recognize and patch up their holes and get ready for the Big Ten season and their run to the NCAA Tournament.

The Badgers will host Prairie View A&M on Sunday before welcoming No. 18 Syracuse to the Kohl Center as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. North Carolina will head to Bloomington to take on Indiana.

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