Ten takeaways from Wisconsin’s heartbreaking loss to Kansas

Wisconsin gave No. 3 Kansas everything they could handle and then a whole lot more, but in the end the fight fell 0.2 seconds short as the Jayhawks escaped with a 69-68 win.

Wisconsin fell to 4-1, but even in a loss it felt like one of the most impressive Badger basketball performances in recent memory. Trailing by 15 in the second half, the Badgers could have packed their bags but instead they went on a number of runs, the final one culminating in a three-point lead with under 20 seconds left in regulation.

Kansas made just enough key plays to escape, as Bobby Pettiford Jr. put in an acrobatic layup with 0.2 seconds left to break Wisconsin hearts.

There were a number of impressive takeaways for Wisconsin in an impressive loss. Here is what Badger fans can take from an incredible fight in The Bahamas:

This team is not finishing 9th in the Big Ten

Nov 23, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers forward Carter Gilmore (14) and Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) and Wisconsin Badgers forward Steven Crowl (22) celebrate after the game against the Dayton Flyers at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Where was Wisconsin picked in the Big Ten preseason poll? Way down in ninth place. This team defense, the play of Tyler Wahl, the emergence of freshman sharpshooter Connor Essegian? Wisconsin is not finishing ninth in the Big Ten.

Max Klesmit helped shut down five-star freshman Gradey Dick

Nov 23, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers guard Max Klesmit (11) reacts during the second half against the Dayton Flyers at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more underrated pieces of Wisconsin outscoring Kansas 43-30 in the second half was Wofford transfer Max Klesmit’s defensive work off-ball. He navigated screens in a Jrue Holiday-esque fashion (alright, I’ll settle down) while holding five-star Gradey Dick to just 0-2 from the field and zero second-half points.

Wisconsin was phenomenal out of timeouts

Nov 24, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers players react after the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The one area where Wisconsin found consistent success offensively? Out of timeouts. The Badgers ended up generating a number of paint touches for Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl out of their after-timeout sets. If you could nitpick anything about this second half, it may be not using a timeout on the final play of regulation.

Connor Essegian…yes

Nov 23, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers guard Connor Essegian (3) shoots during the second half against the Dayton Flyers at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

He’s an angry cutter, an intelligent spacer, a marksman from distance, and has been fighting as best he can on the defensive end. Essegian has been a revelation for a Wisconsin team searching for offensive answers. The freshman finished with 17 points off the bench on 6-12 shooting while knocking down a trio of threes.

When the Badgers had paint touches, good things happened

Nov 24, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers forward Steven Crowl (22) and Kansas Jayhawks forward Zach Clemence (21) go for the ball during the first half at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Part of it was a matchup thing, and part of it was the brilliance of Wahl, but when the ball did find the paint for post touches within the swing offense, Wisconsin found success. Kansas was undersized, and Wisconsin was able to play through Wahl in the post all morning long.

Second chances defined the loss

Nov 24, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson (10) reacts after the win against the Wisconsin Badgers in overtime at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The difference on Thursday morning? Wisconsin was out-rebounded by 15 and the Jayhawks used second-chance points at the end of regulation and for the dagger to get a win.

No rebounds, no rings.

Tyler Wahl was his maestro

Nov 23, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers forward Carter Gilmore (14) and Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) and Wisconsin Badgers forward Steven Crowl (22) celebrate after the game against the Dayton Flyers at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The most impressive part of Tyler Wahl’s team-high 23 points? The versatility and timeliness of when the points came. Whether it was as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll to give Wisconsin the lead late in regulation, an offensive rebound, or a classic ten-dribble slow-developing post-up that we just have to rename “Tyler Wahling” the Badger senior was at his absolute best.

Greg Gard pressed the right buttons on sets and substitutions

Nov 23, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Greg Gard reacts during the first half against the Dayton Flyers at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After questions about why Essegian didn’t close the game on Wednesday, Gard stuck with his freshman guard late on Thursday morning. Gard was brilliant out of timeouts, generating good luck for Wisconsin on multiple occasions.

Chucky Hepburn will find himself, but he needs to simplify

Nov 24, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers guard Chucky Hepburn (23) dribbles as Kansas Jayhawks guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (3) defends during the first half at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When diagnosing why Hepburn has gotten off to a slow start, it comes down to trying to do too much. Without Johnny Davis, the sophomore likely felt the offensive pressure to start the year and he has been trying to make home run plays when singles are all that are needed.

The defense team will carry Wisconsin to the NCAA Tournament

Nov 24, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Wisconsin Badgers players react after the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This defense is simply too good to be kept out of the NCAA Tournament. Expect some ugly, Dayton-like wins for Wisconsin along the way but also expect the Badgers to be in the field when the dust settles.

Story originally appeared on Badgers Wire

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