After playing one of its worst halves on offense of the year against Rutgers, Wisconsin was able to bounce back and put together an impressive showing against Nebraska, as five players were able to reach double digits.
Nebraska kept the game within a couple of points through the first 17-plus minutes, but Wisconsin closed the first half on a 9-0 run to put the Badgers up 10 at halftime. Frank Kaminsky was instrumental down the stretch, as he was able to score seven of Wisconsin’s final 15 points to close the first half, along with two defensive rebounds, one block and an assist.
After missing the Rutgers game due to a concussion, Kaminsky looked impressive throughout his return to the starting lineup. He led Wisconsin with 22 points on 7-for-11 shooting in 30 minutes on the floor. It was Kaminsky’s second straight game scoring at least 20 points and his fifth overall this season.
Nigel Hayes was second to Kaminsky in scoring with 13 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Sam Dekker and Bronson Koenig each finished with 11 points. Koenig scored eight of his 11 points in the first half. Duje Dukan scored 10 points off the bench and all coming in the second half. Overall Wisconsin shot 21-for-43 (48.8 percent) from the field.
Wisconsin did a good job of being able to balance its scoring on offense by scoring in all three phases. They were able to shoot 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) from three, including 5-for-8 in the second half which helped open up a 22-point lead. The Badgers were also aggressive and attacked the hoop causing Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway to draw the foul. Hayes led all Badgers with six free throw attempts making four of them. Overall Wisconsin went 17-for-23 from the charity stripe, with 19 of the 23 free throw attempts coming in the second half.
Wisconsin continues to take care of the basketball at a high rate as Nebraska was only able to force six turnovers in the game. Despite Koenig playing a career-high 37 minutes, he only had one turnover. Nebraska was able to cash in Wisconsin’s six turnovers into seven points.
Petteway put on a show in the first half by scoring 20 of his game-high 27 points. Josh Gasser drew the assignment of Petteway but Dekker or Kaminsky switched on him at times to try to slow the junior down. No matter who was on him, Petteway proved to be a difficult matchup, as he was able to get off screens to create space and hit some shots with a hand in his face.
Things changed in the second half, as the shots Petteway made in the first half from the perimeter stopped falling. Petteway has struggled from three this year (34.3 percent from beyond the arc), but connected on 4 of 9 attempts and shot 11-for-20 in his 37 minutes.
Fortunately for Wisconsin, no other Huskers were able to reach double figures. Shields, Nebraska’s second leading scorer on the season, finished the game with eight points, which snapped a streak of nine straight games in double figures. What hurt Shields was picking up two early fouls within the first couple minutes of the game, but he still managed to have six of Nebraska’s nine assists against Wisconsin. Overall Nebraska shot 21-for-50 (42 percent) from the field.
Like Wisconsin, Nebraska didn’t turn the basketball over much, only committing five turnovers that led to just four UW points. The Badgers also mustered only one steal but did a good job of staying out of foul trouble, as Nebraska went 8-for-14 (57.1 percent) from the free throw line.
For the most part, the Badgers defense did a good job of making sure Petteway and Shields couldn’t consistently drive to the basket and tried to contest any shots that they could, as Wisconsin finished the game with four blocks. With Wisconsin staying disciplined, it made sure Nebraska wouldn’t be able to crawl back into the game by making free throws.
Koenig had a good showing in his second straight start and his first as the full time replacement for Traevon Jackson while he deals with his foot injury. Koenig played the entire first half and he didn’t get his first break until the 11:08 mark in the second half. Koenig wasn’t on the bench long, as he sat for only sat for 37 seconds of game time before coming back in for Zak Showalter. Koenig demonstrated good control of the offense and was aggressive on both sides of the floor for Wisconsin.
As spectacular as Petteway was, he didn’t receive the same kind of support Kaminsky did from start to finish, as the other players for Nebraska either struggled to make a shot or were in foul trouble. With Wisconsin consistently having a hand in his face, it was bound to happen that Petteway wasn’t going to be able to carry Nebraska from the start, as the Badgers did a better job defensively on him in the final 20 minutes.
Wisconsin managed to get back on the right track of the rebounding battle with a plus three margin (27-to-24). The Badgers were able to consistently do a good job of boxing out Nebraska to prevent second-chance opportunities. Nebraska did have a little more success in the second half – grabbing five of its eight offensive rebounds – but only managed to score three second-chance points against Wisconsin’s interior size. Hayes led Wisconsin with seven rebounds and Dekker was second with six.
With Wisconsin having success from the perimeter it didn’t call for the Badgers to generate a ton of production in the paint. UW scored 10 of its 12 points inside in the first half. Although Kaminsky was able to do damage around the basket at times, he was able to help get the Wisconsin offense going with three’s as he finished the game 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and Koenig finished the game 3-for-4 from three.
The bench for Wisconsin overall was good as Dukan was the only player to score, but Showalter and Vitto Brown had their bright moments in the game. Showalter was able to defend Petteway tough at times and he was able to record the only steal of the game. Brown was responsible for one of the four blocked shots and he was able to draw a charge against Petteway in the second half.
Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky was the engine for Wisconsin. While he received plenty of help from his teammates when it came to scoring, Kaminsky sparked Wisconsin’s run in the first half that helped them take control the game. In addition to his 22 points, the senior finished with five rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
The epitome of Kaminsky’s value to the Badgers was shown in the second half. After blocking Leslie Smith jumper and get the defensive rebound, Kaminsky wasn’t able to pass the ball to one of the guards, so he ran the fastbreak himself and found an open Dekker, who was able to finish off the impressive play with a dunk. Besides running the point guard position on that play he also was able to find a couple of openings and was able to drive to the rim. At times Kaminsky was able to draw the foul and get to the free throw line, as he finished the game perfect going 4-for-4.