Badgers dig out of deep hole but can’t hang on

What figures to be one of the more challenging work weeks for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team began Monday night at the XFINITY Center.

UW didn’t exactly enter the building brimming with confidence after losing three of the previous four games in which they self destructed.

Make it four of five after a heartbreaking 64-60 setback against No. 19 Maryland, which needed some major heroics from junior guard Anthony Cowan to extend its winning streak to six games.

Cowan scored 19 of his game-high 21 points after halftime. After the Badgers dug deep to erase a 21-point deficit in the second half and briefly took the lead, Cowan hit a 3-pointer with 44.9 seconds left to put Maryland back up for good.

Nate Reuvers scored all of his career-high 18 points in the second half and also finished with a career-best seven rebounds. But the sophomore was in the dumps after the game because he missed two wide open looks from 3-point range down the stretch.

The late misses will get magnified, but the reason the Badgers (11-6, 3-3) lost was because of a horrible first half. It was truly a tale of two halves for UW on the offensive end: They averaged a pathetic 0.5 points per possession in the first half and an amazing 1.45 per possession in the second half.

“It’s tough because we know how good we can be,” Reuvers said. “We’ve just got to put it together for 40 minutes. We should have won that game, even with all the mistakes we made in the first half.”

The Badgers missed their first 10 attempts from 3-point range before getting hot in the second half. UW then made seven of the next 11, with Reuvers hitting four times during that stretch, but ended the hot-and-cold night by missing their final three.

“The execution was as good as its been in a while,” UW head coach Greg Gard said of how well the offense flowed in the second half. “I thought we really moved the ball, we shared it, and got it to the right people. Obviously, it helps when you make shots, but shots usually go in from good execution. It’s not by accident.”

As pretty as UW’s looked after halftime, it was just as ugly in the first half.

Eleven days after only scoring 14 points in the first half of a home loss to Minnesota, the Badgers managed only 15 first half points against the Terripans.

UW shot 26.9 percent from the field in the first half, missed all eight of their 3-point attempts, went 1-of-4 from the free throw line and committed seven turnovers in 30 possessions. The Badgers got off to a decent start offensively but scored five points over their final 22 possessions of the first half, including 10 consecutive empty possessions at one point.

One thing that helped the Badgers get going in the second half was they only turned the ball over once. The disparity in the game was Wisconsin was whistled for 23 fouls while Maryland was whistled for 12, which led to the Terps having 29 free throw attempts to just six for the Badgers.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Badgers, who host No. 2 Michigan at the Kohl Center on Saturday. The Wolverines will bring their 17-0 record to the Kohl Center.

“There’s not a moral victory attitude, I know that,” Gard said. “It’s quiet (in the locker room). They know they had a chance. It’s been a perfect example of how not to, and how to. When we get completely to the how-to side for 40 minutes, then we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good team. Until then, we’ll continue to learn some hard lessons.”

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