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Following a bounce-back performance against an Ohio State team that rattled Wisconsin in Columbus, the Badgers have now won six games in a row, with the last four coming in Big Ten play.
A team that many projected to be on the outside looking in come March has already cemented themselves as a tournament lock in mid-January.
While sophomore sensation Johnny Davis has rightfully been grabbing headlines, four Big Ten wins in as many games doesn’t just happen because of one star. It has been a team that have individually and collectively been the best versions of themselves over the past few weeks.
From Tyler Wahl’s offensive emergence, to stifling defense in crucial moments, here are three reasons why Wisconsin is one of only three Big Ten teams with five conference wins:
Tyler Wahl's offense
Jan 13, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) goes up for a dunk in the game with the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Kohl Center. Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
There was no better example of Wahl’s growth than Thursday night at the Kohl Center, as he made up for a rare cold night for Davis. The junior did it at all three levels, as he finally got a pair of threes to go down, got to the rim, created as a high-low passer, and had the highlight of the night:
Steal + slam for Tyler Wahl‼️
No. 13 Wisconsin leads No. 16 Ohio State on ESPN 2. pic.twitter.com/V1Zuq99FeP
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 14, 2022
Wisconsin needs secondary and tertiary scoring every night, but especially when Davis struggles from the field. They’ve been getting it and then some from Wahl.
Jan 13, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Greg Gard watches his team in the game with the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Kohl Center. Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Wisconsin has been at their best in the biggest moments. Whether it be a trio of close wins to take the Maui Invitational crown, late heroics at Purdue, holding on at Maryland, or a scintillating comeback win over Indiana, the Badgers always seem to have a late answer.
It isn’t by accident that Wisconsin has been so good in late-game scenarios. The Badgers are shooting 76% from the free-throw line as a team, good for 38th overall in the nation. Their trips to the foul line have been largely successful in late-game situations, even when they needed a purposeful miss from Davison to close out Maryland.
The Badgers have also had a closer that can make up for a ton of offensive issues. Davis has been masterful late, such as when he closed out Purdue on the road with a number of difficult buckets.
Tremendous performance from Johnny Davis in a big win against #3 Purdue & Jaden Ivey.
13-24 FG (2-5 3FG, 12-15 FT) pic.twitter.com/tuvzISycKV
— Keandre (Hoop Intellect) (@HoopIntelllect) January 4, 2022
The Johnny Davis show
Jan 6, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Johnny Davis (1) acknowledges an assist after completing a three-point basket during the game with the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first half at the Kohl Center. Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
We’ve run out of adjectives to describe the greatness of Johnny Davis this season. The National Player of the Year candidate has carried Wisconsin to multiple wins throughout this streak, including a career-high 37-point barrage at Purdue in an upset victory.
What arguably makes Wisconsin’s 78-68 win over Ohio State the most impressive of the six-game streak, is that Davis went just 4-18 from the field. The supporting cast has shown they can get it done, but Wisconsin will go as far as the sophomore star can take them.