Wisconsin stopped its own bleeding after a three-game losing streak with a win over Purdue last Saturday thanks in part to a return from the Badgers' defense. On Wednesday, the defensive struggles that led to the Badgers' earlier skid returned, with a little help from some shoddy offense.
Northwestern, which entered the night with a 10-11 record, shot 48 percent from the field and tallied 43 points in the second half to knock off the Badgers' 65-56. The loss was Wisconsin's fourth in five games after a 16-0 start to the season and marked the program's first back-to-back home losses since 1998.
During Wisconsin's three-game losing streak earlier this month, the defense that defined much of its early season success gave up almost 78 points per game in those three losses. On Wednesday the Badgers managed to hold Northwestern to 65 points, but this time their own offense couldn't keep up. Wisconsin connected on a measly 15-of-57 (26 percent) of its shot attempts, including only five of their 24 shots (21 percent) from deep. Frank Kaminsky chipped in only eight points on 3-of-9 shooting. The Badgers' 56 points marked their lowest output since a 48-38 win over Virginia on Dec. 4.
In all, Wisconsin simply stalled in the second half. After Nigel Hayes made a layup with 15:01 to play to give the Badgers a 32-27 lead, the team didn't make a field goal until Sam Dekker's layup with 2:47 remaining. Wisconsin hit only seven free throws during that 12-minute span while Northwestern reeled off 27 points. Game, set, match Wildcats. Wisconsin's performance on Wednesday raised more questions than any of its previous losses to Indiana, Michigan or Minnesota. At least those three teams boast a 43-17 combined record. Northwestern entered its meeting with the Badgers as the lowest-scoring team in the Big Ten and had dropped 45 of its last 48 road games against top-25 opponents. Since starting the season with 16 straight wins, this Badgers' squad hasn't displayed the necessary consistency to contend in a suddenly wide-open Big Ten. Which Wisconsin squad shows up when it takes on Ohio State on Saturday? What about a week later when it welcomes Michigan State to Madison? No one can say for sure, and that's what's truly troubling about Bo Ryan's team going forward.