NEW YORK – The first game away from the Kohl Center against the first legitimate opponent on its schedule did not go well for the University of Wisconsin.
Mired in a long shooting slump that lasted throughout the first half, the Badgers never could dig themselves out from their self-imposed hole in a 71-61 defeat to Georgetown at Madison Square Garden Friday afternoon.
Junior forward Nigel Hayes did his part, scoring a game-high 22 points, but Wisconsin (2-2), which will await the loser of tonight’s Duke-VCU game in the consolation bracket, didn’t get much help from anyone else.
Junior forward Vitto Brown was the only other player to make more than four shots but it took him 13 attempts to get there. He finished with nine points before fouling out in the final minute. Ethan Happ finished with 12 points but junior guard Bronson Koenig struggled mightily, finished with nine points (five in the final 45 seconds) on 2-for-12 shooting, including 1-for-6 from 3.
Four players scored in double figures for Georgetown (1-2), who avenged a loss to UW in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam tournament last season. Isaac Copeland led the quartet with 14 points.
Georgetown led throughout the entire first half because Wisconsin couldn’t make a shot. The Badgers started 2-for-14, including missing their first nine shots to start the game. UW didn’t get on the board until Hayes delivered a put-back dunk after 6 minutes, 29 seconds had elapsed.
UW finished the first half 9-for-30 from the floor, including 1-for-10 from 3-point range, and only strung points on consecutive possessions twice.
“That’s a tough hill to overcome,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. “What we needed to was hit some of those early open looks that we had. I thought it would have helped us tremendously.”
It was so frustrating that Hayes could be seen mouthing ‘get me the ball’ in the direction of Bronson Koenig after getting fouled following a low-post bucket.
Wisconsin seemingly found a rhythm coming out of the locker room, scoring nine points on its first five possessions and going 4-for-4 from the floor, but the Badgers couldn’t get closer than two in the second half because the Hoyas would immediately answer with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
Eventually Wisconsin went cold again, shooting 11-for-33 in the second half (31.7 percent for the game).
“It was definitely tough once we got into reach and they would hit a three,” said Happ. “At the same time, that three shouldn’t have indicated how we played after that. We put down our guard a little bit after they would hit a three. We have just got to keep consistent throughout the game.”
The Badgers’ bench were outscored, 31-2, as UW’s three freshmen forwards – Alex Illikainen, Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas – were a combined 1-for-5.
“It is what it is,” said Ryan. ‘We break it down, try to get better in certain areas and keep it pretty simple … To be in sync takes time.”