Nigel Hayes continued his solid offensive play of late Friday night against Coastal Carolina.
The sophomore from Toledo, Ohio scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half as No. 1 seed Wisconsin beat No. 16 Coastal Carolina 86-72 in a second round NCAA Tournament matchup at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
In the last three games – two in the Big Ten Tournament – and Friday night against Coastal Carolina, Hayes has scored 55 points. That’s an 18.3 average over those three games.
His teammates have noticed, too. Josh Gasser said Hayes has really been playing well of late.
“He’s a stud,’’ Gasser said. “He has gotten better and better it seems like every day almost which is hard to believe. You can kind of see it in his eyes sometimes when he’s going to have a good game. I know I can before the game starts.’’
Hayes said his recent strong play has started with confidence.
“Coach has been saying all year that I need to go out there with more confidence and that’s what I’ve been trying to do,’’ Hayes said. “Also I’ve got great teammates that put me in good situations. They are always telling me that I’m great and that I need to go out there and get my shots and play with confidence and that when I do there’s no one that can stop me.’’
Hayes said that early in the game Friday you knew that Coastal Carolina was going to have to play a game of pick your poison. He said it was obvious they were keying on Frank Kaminsky and when that happens it means good things for the other Badgers on the floor.
“It was just us being unselfish with each other,’’ Hayes said. “When a team tries to double team Frank, I guess all hell breaks loose for their defense. You can skip it to Josh for a three, Bronson (Koenig) for a three, Sam (Dekker) is cutting, I’m cutting, it just becomes too much for a defense.’’
Gasser said with Hayes it’s all about his versatility.
“He can take you inside, he can take you outside and what makes him special is he doesn’t care about anything but winning,’’ Gasser said. “He makes winning plays and that’s why he has been doing so well.’’
A good example of that was in the second half when Hayes took just three shots but did other things to help his team win. He had two nice assists late where he hit teammates cutting for layups.
“I’ve always taken pride in my assists,’’ Hayes said. “That started at a young age when I played on a team where I was head and shoulders above the best player but I always passed the ball to my teammates.
“I just love sharing the ball.’’