It is still early in the season but it has become clear that Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes need to provide the scoring punch in order for Wisconsin to have success this season. But when only one of the two has success, there is still no clear third option for Wisconsin’s offense to turn to.
That question became a reality against Georgetown, as Koenig couldn’t get an offensive rhythm established in the game. He finished the game with nine points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field and 1-for-6 from three, his worst shooting performance since North Carolina in the Sweet 16 last season. The only time Koenig was able to find success was when he attacked the basket and got to the free throw line, finishing the game 4-for-5.
In reality, the only player who didn’t struggle was Hayes, who led Wisconsin with a season-high 22 points on 7-for-16 from the field and kept the game competitive. But when UW missed its first nine shots of the game, it was a sign that it could be a long day offensively. Wisconsin finished 20-for-63 (31.7 percent) from the field and didn’t any better from three, going 26.3 percent on 5-for-19 shooting. Ethan Happ was the only other player to reach double figures with 12 points, as Vitto Brown finished with nine on 13 shots and Zak Showalter finished the game with seven.
Wisconsin was able to get some good looks on offense but it is also hard to get into a flow on offense when they struggled taking care of the basketball. Entering the game averaging 6.7 turnovers a game, Wisconsin finished with a season-high 14 turnovers. Hayes, Showalter and Khalil Iverson all had three turnovers while Koenig had two. This marked the first game this year where Hayes turned the basketball over.
Being aggressive did allow Wisconsin to reach the bonus in each half, as Wisconsin finished the game 16-for-20 from the free throw line. In particular Hayes and Happ were the beneficiaries as Hayes went 6-for-8 and Happ was a perfect 6-for-6.
In order for Wisconsin to keep the game close, the Badgers had to shut down the low block against the Hoyas frontcourt. That wasn’t the case as Wisconsin, as Georgetown was able to settle for high percentage shots too often and use its size and physicality to overwhelm UW’s inexperience frontcourt.
When Wisconsin played aggressive down low and made life difficult for Georgetown’s bigs, the Hoyas were able to pass the all back out to the perimeter and find an open look from 3-point range. The Hoyas went 9-for-18 from 3-point range, as Isaac Copeland scored nine of his 15 points and 12 of Reggie Cameron’s 14 points came from the perimeter.
Wisconsin did force 15 turnovers but could turn it into just 11 points. The Badgers finished the game with five steals.
Part of the reason Georgetown had success in the low block was both Brown and Showalter dealt with foul trouble, eventually leading both to foul out in the final seven minutes. With Brown having to sit at times, it allowed the paint to open up for Georgetown to score 20 points down low. Wisconsin finished the game with 21 personal fouls, with Georgetown going 20-for-24 (83.3 percent) from the free throw line.
It seemed like whenever Wisconsin was able to engineer a mini run the Hoyas quickly put a stop to it with a shot of their own. Wisconsin kept the game competitive but its youth and inexperience of clearly showed at times.
Although both teams struggled to shoot from the field in the first half, it was Georgetown who saw its shooting percentage jump from 35.5 percent in the first to 55.6 percent in the second, forcing Wisconsin to play catchup after its dismal shooting first half (9-for-30).
It also didn’t help matters that Wisconsin’s bench was outscored 31-2. Of the five reserves who played, Iverson (two points) led them with 21 minutes. Thomas played a season low six minutes. Thomas played in the first half but he didn’t see the floor in the second half until Brown fouled out. Jordan Hill didn’t see the floor until Showalter fouled out, meaning Bo Ryan relied on a six man rotation for most of the game.
With Koenig struggling, Ryan has to be pleased with how Happ responded in the second half, scoring all 12 of his points. Happ did a good job of moving without the ball and found ways of getting open, resulting in easy layups for him. Happ finished the game with his first career double-double (11 rebounds) and was able to help take some pressure off of Hayes in terms of scoring.
For a fourth straight game Wisconsin out rebound its opponent, winning the battle 40-36, and did a good job of hitting the offensive glass with 18 offensive rebounds. But even with the second chances, Wisconsin’s struggling offense couldn’t make up for another chance to run a play against Georgetown, converting its second chances into 15 points.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. Outside of his first three turnovers, he was good from start to finish and helped keep the game within striking distance for Wisconsin. Hayes scored down low, went 2-for-5 from 3-point range and was able to get to the free throw line. Hayes had been struggling with his shot since the second half of the season opener but found a way to pick up the slack with his starting point guard struggling.