Confident Northwestern takes aim at No. 8 Wisconsin
Northwestern coach Chris Collins felt his Wildcats "were on the doorstep" throughout a four-game conference losing streak.
Perhaps there was something to that premonition as Northwestern scored a 64-62 road upset of then-No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday.
"I'm just really proud of my team," Collins said. "We knew we were going to have to play really hard, really tough and together in a really tough atmosphere."
While the Wildcats (9-6, 2-4 Big Ten) will return to the comforts of Evanston, Ill., on Tuesday, they expect another challenge from No. 8 Wisconsin, especially with the status of injured star Pete Nance (ankle) in question.
The visit from the Badgers (14-2, 5-1), winners of six straight, continues a stretch that sees Northwestern face five ranked foes in a seven-game span.
"You always have another team coming," Collins said.
Northwestern topped Michigan State behind a strong effort from Ryan Young. Starting in the frontcourt in place of Nance, who was injured during Wednesday's double-overtime loss to Maryland, Young contributed 18 points and eight rebounds.
Chase Audige (14 points) and Boo Buie (12) followed in double figures for the Wildcats, who won the rebounding battle 40-35.
"The last couple weeks were disappointing, but today, hopefully, can be a positive momentum-builder," Collins said. "There's 14 (conference) games left, and you've got to take them one-by-one. You're judged by what you do at the end of 20, not by the end of six games."
Collins said the team is hopeful Nance may return to the lineup Tuesday.
Wisconsin has been idle since defeating visiting then-No. 16 Ohio State 78-68 on Thursday.
The Badgers clicked behind the usual suspects to beat the Buckeyes. Brad Davison scored 25 points, Tyler Wahl finished with 20 and Johnny Davis had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Wahl has topped 20 points in the past two games and on Thursday drilled his first two 3-pointers of the season.
"He's playing with a tremendous amount of confidence," Badgers coach Greg Gard said. "When you cross that threshold from sophomore to junior, a lot of things come with that that you hope to develop. He's improved his game in all areas and finally got some threes to go in for him. It's just the confidence he's playing with right now. He knows he's a really good player."
Wisconsin is fortunate to be able to say that about a handful of standouts on its roster. While Davis finished nearly 10 points below his season scoring average against the Buckeyes, he knew there was no reason to fret.
Even if his shot wasn't falling, continuing to contribute as a distributor, defender and rebounder could only help Davison, Wahl and the rest of the Badgers.
"Not one player is the entire team," Davis said. "If either one of these guys would have had an off night, I would pick them up. That's how it goes with this team."
Wisconsin touts a six-game series winning streak against Northwestern. The visiting Badgers prevailed 68-51 in the schools' most recent meeting on Feb. 21, 2021. Four of Wisconsin's victories during the run have come by double figures.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 17, 2022