Game Day Grades: Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. - The start of conference play was no problem for No.4 Wisconsin, which shot 55.2 percent from the floor, put four players in double figures and got a career night from Nigel Hayes in a 76-49 dismantling of Northwestern. BadgerNation hands out the grades.

Offense: A

Wisconsin put on an offensive clinic against Northwestern, scoring at will in jumping out to a 40-14 halftime lead. The Badgers couldn't do anything wrong in the first half by shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Wisconsin was able to find success on the perimeter and especially in the paint, where the Badgers scored 20 points down low in the first half and 44 for the game.

The Badgers continued their offensive domination into the second half and finishing the game shooting 32-for-58 (55.2 percent) from the field.

As usual the Badgers received balance scoring amongst their starters with Sam Dekker leading that group with 15 points. Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson each scored 10 points, but it was Nigel Hayes in his Big Ten debut who stole the show by leading UW with a career-high 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting off the bench.

Wisconsin didn't let an overmatched Northwestern get back into the game based on only committing four turnovers, leading to just six Wildcats points. Like Saturday's game with Wisconsin jumping out to a huge lead, it would have been understandable if the Badgers started to become careless with the basketball. They continued to make smart decisions with the basketball without hurting themselves.

Defense: A

Wisconsin put together its best performance on the season to date at the defensive end holding Northwestern to a season-low 14 first-half points. The Badgers length, size and experience down low made Northwestern uncomfortable, which forced the Wildcats to become a jump-shooting team. The Wildcats finished the game 19-for-55 (34.5 percent) from the field.

It was key that the Badgers didn't let Drew Crawford get going. He entered the game leading Northwestern in scoring with 16.4 points a game, but junior Josh Gasser shut him down to the tune of only two first-half points and 10 overall.

Wisconsin did a solid job of contesting passes and forcing Northwestern into seven turnovers, six coming off steals. Hayes and Brust each had two steals in the game. With Wisconsin being able to force the Wildcats into turnovers, the Badgers were able to convert them into 15 points.

Despite holding Crawford to one of his worst performances of the year, Wisconsin, at times, allowed Alex Olah to get some easy points around the hoop, leading Northwestern with a career-high 23 points.

Overall: A

Wisconsin put together an impressive performance to start off Big Ten play against a Northwestern team currently in a rebuilding mode.

Even though Wisconsin had a great first half, it did take them awhile to get going on offense. Wisconsin was able to knock down its first shot but then went on a 4 minutes, 9 second scoring drought before going on its decisive run.

The Badgers clearly made an emphasis during the game to get the basketball down low to get some easy baskets, scoring 44 points in the paint. Frank Kaminsky and Hayes combined for 28 of those points.

Although Jackson played a solid game - finishing with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting - he did commit an early turnover, which led to him being benched. Jackson tried to drive the basketball into a double team but lost his balance and turned the basketball over into Crawford's hands. After Jackson fumbled the basketball away, out of frustration, Jackson fouled Crawford and was yanked in favor of Brust.

The Badgers were clearly the dominant team on the glass in collecting 38 rebounds to the Wildcat's 27. The Badgers and Wildcats both finished with nine offensive rebounds but the Badgers had the edge in second-chance points (13-11).

Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. Hayes was simply everywhere on the court tonight by doing a little bit of everything for Wisconsin off the bench. Not only did he finish with a career-high 19 points but also had a career-high six rebounds. Hayes clearly was ready to play, coming out aggressive from the get go. Even though Hayes finished the game with two steals, he can be assisted with helping force two other steals during the game. Performances like this make Wisconsin all that more dangerous.


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