Badgers shocked at home
Ben Brust got a shot he wanted and an outcome he despised.
The rest of the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers felt about the same way after shooting 26 percent and getting upset by Northwestern 65-56 on Wednesday night.
Brust finished with 21 points and hustled for putbacks late to do his best to try to rally Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4 Big Ten).
But a tough night from the field and Drew Crawford's season-high 30 points were too much to overcome for the Badgers, who lost for the fourth time in five games.
“We got a lot of wide-open looks. I don't even know what to say,” Brust said before recounting one of his misses. He finished 7 of 18 from the field and 3 of 10 from 3-point range.
“To throw the ball into the post and get a wide-open kick and air ball is just ridiculous. That's just unacceptable.”
He's not the only Badger to blame. The misses were contagious. Northwestern played solid D and got Wisconsin out of sorts at times and away from their advantage up front with Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky.
On the other end, the smooth Crawford glided around the court for tough shots—none harder than a 3 off a curl with Wisconsin's Josh Gasser's hand in his face to give Northwestern (11-11, 4-5 Big Ten) a 13-point lead.
Wisconsin turned up the pressure late to get within six with 41 seconds left. But Traevon Jackson lost the ball on a drive with 23 seconds left to seal the Badgers' fate.
Jackson finished 2 of 12 shooting for eight points. Dekker was 2 of 9 with 11 points and seven boards.
“Once you start missing, that basket gets pretty small—and obviously it got pretty small,” coach Bo Ryan said.
JerShon Cobb added 10 points—all in the second half—for Northwestern, which got its first win over the Badgers in Madison since 1996.
After a 16-0 start to the season, defense has been a problem for the Badgers. Coach Bo Ryan's club had their issues again, especially during an 8-0 run in the second half by Northwestern that broke a 34-34 tie.
But offense was the bigger problem for Wisconsin.
Crawford hit an off-balance layup with the shot clock winding down for a 54-39 lead with about 3:30 left The Badgers used pressure to get within 62-56 after Nigel Hayes went 1 of 2 from the foul line.
The Wildcats, though, held on from there and Jackson's turnover proved costly.
Crawford finished 10 of 15 from the field and added eight rebounds, though he was most proud of his team's defense.
The Badgers overall finished 15-of-57 shooting, and hit more foul shots, going 21 of 27 from the line. They were 5 of 24 from 3-point range.
“Defense is where we hang our hat, that's what we work on every day in practice,” Crawford said.
Northwestern first-year coach Chris Collins earned his first big win on the road, and the Wildcats got their first victory over Wisconsin overall since 2009. It was a sharp contrast to teams' first meeting this year, a 76-49 Badgers blowout in Evanston earlier this month.
But things have changed for Northwestern since then. They're 4-2 in their last six games, and had held opponents to an average of 51 per game prior to a 76-50 loss last weekend to Iowa.
“In one month's time, we've become a very tough group,” Collins said. “And we've had to become tough because we've had a tough time scoring.”
Crawford, a fifth-year senior who has played a school-record 132 games, showed his savvy all night. Often playing against one of the Big Ten's best defenders in Gasser, Crawford repeatedly made clutch shots down the stretch.
With 8:19 left, Gasser played nearly-perfect defense, but the 6-foot-5 Crawford jumped high to hit a long bucket, pumping his right arm and letting out a yell as he turned back up the court to play defense.
Wisconsin shot just 25 percent in the first half, but got back into rhythm briefly to start the second after getting the ball into the lane.
Crawford had the answers down the stretch for the Wildcats.