Badgers news: 3 quick takeaways from 72-61 loss to James Madison

The Wisconsin Badgers lost to the James Madison Dukes 72-61 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, ending the season on a disappointing note after finishing as the No. 5 seed in the South Region.

It was an ugly game from the start for the Badgers, who dealt with turnover issues as they couldn't handle the physicality of James Madison.

During the Big Ten tournament, the team's heroes were A.J. Storr and Chuckie Hepburn struggled, and the Badgers couldn't really get into a rhythm during the loss.

A loss to James Madison sends Wisconsin back home in the first weekend as they have now failed to make the Sweet Sixteen since 2017.

Despite finishing the season with a promise to enter the tournament, they now head home as just the second Big Ten team to lose in the first round, joining the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers' 72-61 loss to James Madison.

Slow start

Wisconsin had one of their worst halves of the season, scoring just 20 points in the first half while shooting 6/23 and 1/6 from 3.

From the jump, Wisconsin looked sluggish and didn't match James Madison's physicality, leading to several early turnovers.

This increased the intensity of the crowd in favor of James Madison, and Wisconsin was too slow and unprepared.

AJ Store struggled in the first half, shooting just 2/9 and forcing several shots at the rim that didn't go his way.

Add in Chucky Hepburn's scoreless half and the Badgers got minimal contributions from their top two players to start the game.

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Overall, Wisconsin couldn't match the toughness provided by James Madison, who consistently coughed up the ball and couldn't move it into the paint when they tried to penetrate the lane.

Steven Grohl was the only one who found success early, but the Badgers didn't give him many touches.

After scoring eight points on 3/4 from the field in the first 11 minutes of the first half, Grohl didn't get off a shot for the next 8:50. When that opportunity came, it was on three points and it was missed.

Despite the size advantage in that matchup, Wisconsin didn't go for it early, while the Dukes did a good job of playing physical to deny entry passes.

Now, James Madison didn't have a stellar first half by any means, as they shot just 37.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep in that span.

But, they found a way to battle for six offensive rebounds and capitalize on opportunities when they did, especially off turnovers (more on that in a minute).

That led to a 33-20 halftime lead, fortunate for the Badgers that it wasn't much given their struggles.


Turnovers were different in this game.

After averaging just 9.7 turnovers entering March Madness, the Badgers coughed up the ball seven times in the game's first eight minutes.

They ultimately turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, and James Madison scored 20 of their 33 first-half points off direct turnovers.

A.J. Storr had three turnovers himself in the first half as he tried to force fouls by attacking the paint, where he was met with several scrambling hands.

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Turnover concerns related to physical issues as Wisconsin met the ball with James Madison's stifling defense killing their momentum early.

While the Dukes struggled offensively, the Badgers fueled their opponent's offense with a turnover count that led to points for James Madison.

Wisconsin turned the ball over six more times in the second half.

James Madison himself was efficient enough with the basketball, turning it over 12 times overall, with only five coming in the first half.

If the Badgers didn't turn the ball over 13 times in the first half, they could be right in the middle of the game, even with their ugly shooting numbers. But, their giveaway woes were a major factor in their loss of the game.

The leading players struggle

In the Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin relied on AJ Storr and Chuckie Hepburn. Two games.

However, both struggled greatly against James Madison.

The store never hits as quickly as it did in previous games. He finished the first half shooting 2-of-9 from the field while taking two questionable three-pointers to cause trouble at the rim.

Then, he was primarily a non-factor in the second half, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-14 from the field, though four of those came in double figures against Wisconsin in the final two minutes.

Hepburn, on the other hand, was held scoreless in the first half and scored most of his points late in the game when he nearly held Wisconsin down by double digits.

Both of those players needed to show off for the Badgers, but they ultimately struggled in Wisconsin's lone NCAA Tournament game.

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Tyler Wall's struggles from the field continued Friday, as the forward finished with five points on 1/5 shooting.

Wall missed several layups in the paint while hitting just 1/5 of his free throws in the loss.

Steven Grohl made things happen early, but ultimately didn't get many chances overall. After scoring eight points in the first half on 3/4 shooting, which came in the first 11 minutes, the Badgers center didn't get touched with nearly nine minutes to go in the half.

Then, in the second half, Grohl took a shot, finishing the game with 10 points on 4/6 shooting.

Down low, the Badgers chose to post Tyler Wall over Grohl on multiple occasions, which I thought was an intriguing choice given the success of the center early in the game.

Ultimately, he needs to get more touches, and the Badgers don't need the points.

Max Kleschmidt, who kept Wisconsin in the game during the second half, scored 18 points in the final 20 minutes while knocking down five three-pointers.

But his efforts weren't enough to cut the lead, as the Badgers continued to outscore 8 to 13 points over the final 15 minutes of the game.

Ultimately, Wisconsin needed more from their starters, but fell short in a disappointing first-round finish.

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