Wisconsin faces its first road test of the season against Georgetown in Madison Square Garden

Playing its first game away from the Kohl Center this season, Wisconsin takes on Georgetown in Madison Square Garden in the 2K Classic. BadgerNation takes a closer look at the matchup.

Georgetown (0-2, 0-0 Big East) vs. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time – Friday, November 20, 4 p.m. central

Arena – Madison Square Garden (19,812)

Television – ESPN2 (Dave O’Brien and Seth Greenburg)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Mike Heller and Patrick Herb)

Series – Wisconsin leads 2-1 (Wisconsin leads 2-1 in neutral sites)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 68-65, on November 27, 2014 in Paradise Island, Bahamas

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 8.7 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 14.0 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 9.7 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 19.0 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 13.0 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 4.3 ppg)

24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 4.7 ppg)

30 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 5.5 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Having started all three games, the first in his career, Brown is third on the team in scoring and leads the team with 5.7 rebounds per carry. He tallied a career-high 16 points vs. Siena and is a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line on the year. After having one double-digit scoring game prior to this season, Brown has scored in double figures in all three games.

GEORGETOWN PROBABLE STARTERS

0 L. J. Peak (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 9.5 ppg)

4 D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (6-3 Senior Guard, 14.5 ppg)

11 Isaac Copeland (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 12.0 ppg)

24 Marcus Derrickson (6-7 Freshman Forward, 8.5 ppg)

42 Bradley Hayes (7-0 Senior Center, 14.5 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

1 Tre Campbell (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 3.0 ppg)

5 Reggie Cameron (6-7 Junior Forward, 3.5 ppg)

15 Jessie Govan (6-10 Freshman Center, 7.0 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Hayes leads the Hoyas in scoring through two games, averaging 17.5 points and 10.0 rebounds. He is shooting 68.2 percent from the floor (15-of-22). 

LAST TIME OUT

MADISON – Ethan Happ has spent a lot of time watching through the first two games of Wisconsin’s basketball season. Fouls, spotty defense and a lack of rhythm have relegated him to playing the fewest minutes out of the starting lineup in the small sample size.

It’s still a work in progress but the redshirt freshman finally flashed a good helping of his potential Tuesday, as his 17 points tied a game high in a 78-64 victory over North Dakota at the Kohl Center.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Happ. “I don’t care if I score two points or if I score 17 points. It really doesn’t matter to me what I contribute as long as our team wins. I just need to give it 100 percent and stay out of foul trouble.”

All five starters scored in double figures for the Badgers (2-1), who grinded through their third game in five days.

“We’ve come a long ways as a group, but we still have a lot to learn,” said junior Zak Showalter (10 points). “Offensively we’re starting to hit some shots and guys are starting to be comfortable on the court with each other. But we’re still learning a lot of things on defense, and we’re still looking to fill those.”

Pegged by many as the team’s breakout player of the year, Happ’s defense had been the biggest culprit to his lack of major minutes through two games, picking up two fouls in the first half of each game. That wasn’t a problem early against North Dakota (1-1).

Committing only one foul in 14 first-half minutes, Happ led the team with 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting, and six rebounds, including four offensive rebounds and a put back at the buzzer.

“That’s what he has to do for us,” said Ryan. “Fifteen feet and in he’s pretty tough.”

But as has been the case in the season’s early goings, Happ picked up three fouls in the second half, limiting him to six points and 11 minutes. He still managed to finish with a team-high seven rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

In reality Happ was one of the few positive from the first half for Wisconsin as the program continues to go through growing pains. After scoring 14 points in just over five minutes, Wisconsin managed 21 points the rest of the half, including making only 5 of 22 attempts over a 12 minute stretch.

UW led by 15, however, because North Dakota turned the ball over 11 times, resulting in 16 fewer shots attempts. The Badgers scored 10 points off the miscues, including a steal by Happ that resulted in a coast-to-coast layup that he finished with a behind-the-back dribble and a one-handed dunk.

The second half was much better offensively for Wisconsin, shooting 53.6 percent. And while the Badgers never let North Dakota back into the game, UW backtracked defensively after allowing North Dakota to also shoot 53.6 percent.

Bronson Koenig matched Happ with 17 points while Vitto Brown scored 12 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Junior Nigel Hayes had another off-night shooting (11 points on 4-for-13 shooting) and is hitting just 40.6 percent of his shots through three games.

LAST MEETING

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - In their first nail biter of the season, No.2 Wisconsin played sloppy and was even out toughed for stretches but found its stride down the stretch to scratch out a 68-65 victory over Georgetown at the Imperial Arena on the Atlantis Resort.

Sam Dekker scored 17 points, Nigel Hayes’ tip-in with 20 seconds left and many more things all benefited Wisconsin (6-0) against the Hoyas (5-1), who had every reason to win in the program’s first meeting with Wisconsin since 1982. The Hoyas (5-1) shot 53.2 percent (25-for-47) from the field, limited senior Frank Kaminsky to six points on 1-for-8 shooting and forced a season-high 13 turnovers.

It caused the Badgers to trail by as many as nine points in the second half, seven more than they had trailed by at any point in their first four games, when Wisconsin unleashed a 22-6 run without much help from its two senior guards.

With Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson on the bench with four fouls a piece down the second-half stretch, sophomore Bronson Koenig made sure UW’s offense didn’t skip a beat. Playing a season-high 27 minutes, Koenig scored a season-high 14 points and finished with a game-high four assists, as the Badgers surrounded the sophomore with four players all 6-9 or higher (Dekker, Duje Dukan, Nigel Hayes and Kaminsky).

The lineup was so successful that both senior guards told Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan to keep rolling with the lineup because of how well it was clicking on both ends of the floor. The Hoyas scored only 10 points in the final 9:35.

After Koenig erred in fouling Paul White on a 3-point attempt, and then seeing the former Wisconsin recruiting target hit all the free throws to cut the score to 66-65 with 50 seconds left, Hayes tipped in a Jackson miss at the rim with his left hand as he was falling to the floor.

It was Hayes’ only bucket of the second half, but the biggest of his 15 points.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera – the Big East preseason player of the year – lived up to the hype after a game-high 29 points. He was 5 for 5 from 3-point range until the game’s final shot with Jackson and Kaminsky aggressively defending, making up for their combined 1-for-10 shooting day on the floor.

SERIES NOTES

Wisconsin has a 94-83 record against teams currently in the Big East conference. Of those 177 games, 121 of those games have come against Marquette and 31 have been against Butler.

Wisconsin and Georgetown have played games in Milwaukee, Los Angeles and the Bahamas.

Wisconsin and Georgetown could meet again next season in a nonconference tournament, as both are part of the 2016 Maui Invitational field.

WISCONSIN NOTES

Wisconsin is known for its incredible home record, but has actually been just as good away from home lately. UW is 37-8 (.822) away from home over the last two seasons (21-3 last season), owning the most road/neutral wins and the best win percentage away from home among major conference teams.

In Bo Ryan’s first 14 seasons at UW, the Badgers have played in a non-conference November tournament 10 times, owning a combined record of 19-7 (.731). Wisconsin has won the 2005 Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the 2011 Chicago Invitational title in 2012, the Cancun Challenge in 2013 and the Battle 4 Atlantis last season.

Dating back to February of 2011, UW is 119-4 (.967) when leading or tied with 5:00 left, including a mark of 34-1 last season.

UW has also won 138 of its last 140 games when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponents, including a mark of 27-0 last season.

GEORGETOWN NOTES

Playing at Madison Square Garden is a home away from home for the Hoyas, who have appeared there more than 100 times. GU has an all-time record of 61-49 in the World's Most Famous Arena, including a 21-15 record under Head Coach John Thompson III.

The Hoyas have lost consecutive games to open the 2015-16 season, the first time since 1998-99, when the team has started a season 0-2. GU opened the season with an 82-80 double overtime loss at Radford at Verizon Center last Saturday.

In the loss to Maryland Tuesday, Georgetown shot 48.2 percent from the floor (27-of-56), hit 42.1 percent of its three-pointers (8-of-19) and was 75.0 percent from the free throw line (9-of-12). The Hoyas held a 36-28 advantage on the boards, handed out 13 assists and committed 12 turnovers.

Georgetown was picked second in the preseason Big East poll for a second straight season.  The Hoyas, who picked up 70 points in the poll, tied Butler for second place last year with a 12-6 league record.  They finished 22-11 overall and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. 

PREDICTION

Despite the opening season loss a week ago, there have been some positive trends that have developed through the first three games of Wisconsin’s nonconference schedule. The Badgers have outrebounded each opponent, own a plus-9.4 margin and have registered 23 more offensive boards than the competition.

UW is also getting to the free throw line with great efficiency (25.7 attempts per game) and taking care of the ball, as its 6.7 turnovers are fourth in the nation. They will be fortunate to equal any of those numbers against the Hoyas.

Georgetown was one of the more physical games on Wisconsin’s schedule last season, pushing the Badgers throughout the game with their strength and physicality in the low post. Wisconsin doesn’t have anyone on its roster that can adequately stop Hayes or Govan, and Smith-Rivera is an outstanding guard who has the ability to attack the rim. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last two, those two areas have been big weaknesses for Wisconsin.

This will be an important weekend for UW to measure itself against the kind of competition they will face in Big Ten play. Georgetown is certainly beatable but the Hoyas’ performance against Maryland Tuesday make me believe they’ll be too much for UW to handle this evening.

The pick is the Hoyas by 10.

Worgull's Record: 2-1

Points off Prediction: 58 (23.0 per game) 


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