With Prairie View A&M consistently hanging around in the first half, Wisconsin couldn’t afford an off night shooting. Having to make sure that they could at least keep a couple of possessions ahead of the Panthers, Wisconsin delivered with all five starters in double figures in scoring and six overall.
Bronson Koenig led Wisconsin with 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting, the fifth time either leading or tied for the team lead in points. Zak Showalter was second with a career-high 14 points, 11 of which came in the first half, Ethan Happ registered 12 points and Vitto Brown had 11 points. Nigel Hayes had 10 points but was the only starter to shoot below 50 percent from the field.
Wisconsin shot 29-for-56 (51.7 percent) from the field and part of the reason for the high percentage was because the Badgers found ways of getting the basketball down low. Wisconsin finished with a season-high 38 points in the paint, critical considering the Badgers shot 6-for-20 from three.
One concern that has started to pop up is that Wisconsin has started to turn the ball over at a high rate. Wisconsin committed 12 turnovers and had seven passes stolen from them. Nigel Hayes had a team-high four turnovers, but the Panthers could only register 11 points off of Wisconsin’s miscues.
Wisconsin struggled at times to contest shots and disrupt passing lanes while the Panthers ran their offense and looked for the best shot. The Panthers finished 24-for-50 (48 percent) from the field but more surprisingly the Panthers –shooting 22.6 percent from 3-point range entering the game - shot 7-for-11 (63.6 percent) from the perimeter. Wisconsin did a much better job defending the perimeter in the second half, as the Panthers shot 7-for-9 in the first half and went just 0-for-2 after halftime.
Tevin Bellinger led all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the field, while Zachary Hamilton added 12 points off the bench. Admassu Williams, who entered the game second on the team in scoring and shooting 58.5 percent, finished with six points after Wisconsin’s frontcourt players did well limiting his post touches and high percentage shots.
Like Wisconsin, the Panthers struggled to take care of the ball and committed 19 turnovers (14 in the first half). Wisconsin was able to play good aggressive defense and found ways of not consistently fouling, as the Badgers finished the game with 18 team fouls. Wisconsin registered nine steals. Showalter led the team with three steals (his second consecutive game registering at least three steals) and helped the Badgers score 29 points off PVAMU turnovers.
While Wisconsin allowed the Panthers to register 11 offensive rebounds, the Badgers limited them to only 15 second-chance points.
It seemed like Wisconsin should have been up a lot more than six points at halftime considering the Panthers committed 14 turnovers, committed 14 fouls and UW shots 13-for-16 from the free throw line. But the Panthers stayed in the game thanks to the 3-point shot and constantly competing, playing with nothing to lose.
Over the last five minutes of the first half, the Panthers went 6-for-9 from the field and held UW to 2 of 6. Despite struggling from the field, Wisconsin went 7-for-7 from the free throw line over the final five minutes.
Wisconsin avoided long scoring droughts in the second half and slowly started to build a lead thanks to the production of Happ, Koenig and Charlie Thomas, as the three combined to score 28 of the team’s 43 second-half points. Thomas has put together back-to-back solid performances and led the three in second-half scoring with 12 points, which is a new career high.
Outside of Thomas scoring effectively, he was able to hit the glass hard and finished the game second to Happ’s eight with six rebounds. He also registered a block, steal and assist. Wisconsin won the rebounding battle for a sixth straight game, edging the Panthers 29-28, and finished the game with 18 second-chance points off 12 offensive rebounds.
Khalil Iverson also played well, especially in the first half by scoring seven of his nine points. Iverson was aggressive at times getting to the free throw line three times and registering two steals. Iverson provided the spark Wisconsin’s offense needed, scoring seven straight points at one point in the first half to help build a two point lead into seven. Overall Wisconsin’s bench scored 22 points, as Alex Illikainen was the only other player to score - registering one point in five minutes of work.
Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. Koenig helped make Wisconsin’s offense go by scoring 16 points, three assists and only one turnover. He continues to find ways of creating either a good shot for himself or for one of his teammates. With another tough stretch coming up for Wisconsin, Koenig will need to continue to shoot well in order to avoid an offensive funk.