This season, senior Ryan Evans has seemingly lost his stroke from the free throw line, even in practice. A career 71 percent free throw shooter, Evans' 1-for-9 performance against the Golden Eagles brought his season percentage down to 31.8 percent (14-for-44).
Even most of the free throws he missed were inconsistent. One shot would miss long and the next one would barely graze the rim. Evans had to use the backboard to bank in his lone made free-throw.
"That's how much that's in his head," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "He banked that on purpose."
Senior forward Jared Berggren said that the only thing he can do is try to boost Evans' confidence at the line, but that's not easy to do when the rest of the team's struggles, too.
"I thought we did a good job of drawing fouls and getting a chance to get to the free-throw line," Ryan said, "but when you come away with nothing it's … I don't think they count free-throws as points in the paint."
Evans finished the game with 9 points on 4-for-10 shooting with six rebounds.
Marquette's free-throw shooting didn't shoot much better, which made it a tougher loss because the Badgers could've cut into the Eagles lead. The Eagles shot 1-for-9 in the first half and finished shooting 41.2 percent, but still better than Wisconsin's.
Entering the game, Wisconsin was shooting 66.3 percent as a team, but that dropped to 62.8 percent after its abysmal performance at the charity stripe.
Dekker's first start
With Mike Bruesewitz out with a concussion, true freshman Sam Dekker made his first career start, but it was a struggle. Dekker played 36 minutes in the first half, but shot 2-for-10 from the field, 2-for-5 from the line and hauled in a team-high eight rebounds.
"His first start when you come on the road in a game like this, it looked like he was ready for it early," Ryan said of Dekker's first start. "As things started to build up he realizes he has got a lot to learn. That's what's great about having him on our team. He'll be better."
Dekker made his first two shots and first free throw attempt, but missed his final eight shots and went 1-for-4 on his final free throw attempts. Dekker was also stuffed by Juan Anderson on a strong drive and fell to the court, causing chants of ‘overrated' from a boisterous student section.
"He looked loose," Ryan said of Dekker. "He's a guy that competes but results were not there, so he'll get those opportunities again and [we'll] see what he does with them."
Struggles in the Low Post
Wisconsin was missing Bruesewitz in the low block and it showed. The Badgers were outscored 22-8 in the paint in the first half even though they grabbed one fewer offensive rebound, and the struggles persisted in the second half with only scored two points in the paint.
The Golden Eagles' low post presence was the reason they got out to a 34-20 halftime, as there were numerous times that Wisconsin couldn't finish an offensive rebound.
"Everybody knows his strengths," said Ryan. "If he's not there somebody else has to do it. We're not the only team that gets injuries and things like that. We have to find ways to overcome it."
Marquette edged UW, 39-35, despite Wisconsin hauling in 14 offensive rebounds. Wisconsin only converted those second chances into 10 points and a bevy of missed free throws.
"We didn't really get much going offensively," Berggren said. "I didn't contribute anything."
The Badgers' struggles in the paint – where it was was outscored 36-10 for the game – wasn't limited to one person. Berggren didn't score in the first half and finished 3-for-7 with 9 points. Zach Bohannon and Frank Kaminsky played a combined 13 minutes. Kaminsky contributed 6 points. "The second half we did a much better job of taking care of the ball, getting the ball inside, getting stops and showing some fight," Berggren said. "I could've done a better job of attacking quicker instead of waiting for the double-team, and then getting on the offensive end of the glass, too."