Wisconsin and Syracuse square off in tonight's Big Ten-ACC Challenge

Life doesn't get easier for the University of Wisconsin. After struggling to score against a top 10 team on the road, the Badgers face No.14 Syracuse and will try to solve the Orange 2-3 zone in the Carrier Dome. BadgerNation analyzes the matchup.

Wisconsin (4-3, 0-0 Big Ten) vs. No.14 Syracuse (6-0, 0-0 ACC)

Date/Time – Wednesday, December 2, 6:15 p.m. central

Arena – Carrier Dome (35,446)

Television – ESPN2 Dave Pasch, Jim Calhoun & Andy Katz)

Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Syracuse leads 2-1 (Syracuse leads 1-0 in Syracuse, N.Y.)

Last Meeting – Syracuse won, 64-63, on March 22, 2012, in Boston


3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 8.6 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 14.9 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 10.0 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 16.1 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 10.1 ppg)


15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 4.9 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 5.0 ppg)

24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.0 ppg)


Wisconsin freshman guard Brevin Pritzl has appeared in only one game, playing four minutes and not attempting a shot in the victory over Siena Nov.15. Having been slowed by a broken left foot, which he had surgery on in August, Pritzl spent time working with UW’s top group during Monday’s practice and could be the perimeter threat UW needs to bust Syracuse’s zone.


0 Michael Gbinije (6-7 Senior Forward, 19.7 ppg)

10 Trevor Cooney (6-4 Senior Guard, 15.0 ppg)

21 Tyler Roberson (6-8 Junior Forward, 8.7 ppg)

23 Malachi Richardson (6-6 Freshman Guard, 13.8 ppg)

32 DaJuan Coleman (6-9 Senior Center, 2.7 ppg)


14 Kaleb Joseph (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 1.3 ppg)

20 Tyler Lydon (6-8 Freshman Forward, 11.5 ppg)


Lydon was named ACC Rookie of the Week following Syracuse's Battle 4 Atlantis title. In the three wins at the tournament, Lydon averaged 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds. Lydon had a career-high 18 points in the victory against Charlotte. He recorded his first career double-double in the semifinal against UConn with 16 points and 12 rebounds. In the tournament, he was 15-for-25 from the field (.600), shot 70.0 percent from three-point range and was 10-of-13 from the foul line (.769).


NORMAN, OK – In the first true road game of the season, No.7 Oklahoma pummeled an inexperienced Wisconsin squad from the beginning and cruising to a 65-48 victory.

Junior Nigel Hayes scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds for Wisconsin (4-3) but went 5-for-17 from the floor. Missed shots were the theme of the day for the Badgers, which shot 22.6 percent and saw junior Bronson Koenig go 3-for-18 (3-for-14 from 3-point range) and Vitto Brown go 3-for-15.

Toss in fellow starters Zak Showalter (1-for-6) and Ethan Happ (2-for-7) and UW’s starting five shot 22.2 percent, with only Khalil Iverson (2-for-3) shooting over 30 percent.

“We had an off-night shooting the ball,” said assistant head coach Lamont Paris, the understatement of the year. “There are no two ways to slice it. We just didn’t shoot the ball well.”

The 48 points were the fewest for Wisconsin since Dec.7, 2013. The only difference was the Badgers won that night, a 48-38 road win at Virginia, with their defense, while this one was over quickly because of the lack of stops.

Senior Ryan Spangler scored 20 points and added 14 rebounds for the Sooners (4-0). UW has struggled with its low post defense since the beginning of the season and were again exploited by the Sooners, who scored 14 points in the low post (outscoring UW 34-10 for the game) and dominated the glass early with three offensive rebounds on their first three possessions.

Wisconsin kept Hield in check (12 points, 5-for-16) but rarely closed out on Spangler, who went 5-for-6 with 12 points in the first half. He made only two 3-pointers on five attempts through the first three games but hit a pair of wide-open looks during Oklahoma’s 15-0 run following UW’s early lead.

To make matters worse, UW looked lost offensively, spending more time standing and watching than attacking. UW shot 17.6 percent (6-for-34) in the first half, attempting 17 3-pointers and making only two 2-point buckets.

UW was so passive in its offense that the Badgers didn’t draw an Oklahoma foul until the 6:10 mark.

That changed in the second half, as UW started attacking the rim and limiting the 3-point shots. UW started the second half going 4-for7 from 2-point range, helping in part to cut the lead to nine with 16:01 remaining.

But Koenig committed turnovers on consecutive possessions shortly thereafter that led to four Oklahoma points. UW never threatened again.


BOSTON - Nineteen seconds left, Wisconsin with the ball, down one and with a chance to win the game. Jordan Taylor ran through such a scenario in his head before the game. In fact, he said had thought about it thousands of times before in his life.

But when the dream opportunity became reality, the Badgers’ senior leader couldn’t hit a contested 3-point shot, and sophomore John Gasser’s last-second shot couldn’t find the bottom of the bucket either, resulting in the Badgers heading home after  another disheartening Sweet 16 loss – this one a 64-63 setback to No.1 seed Syracuse.

It’s puzzling how the Badgers (26-10) didn’t find a better look on its last possession. Throughout the game it appeared as if Taylor and his teammates weren’t intimidated by the heralded 2-3 zone of Syracuse. The Badgers even looked as if they were slowly figuring it out.

In one stretch Wisconsin hit six straight 3-pointers, all clean looks at the basket following quick ball movement, that helped the Badgers erase a 10-point deficit in the first half to lead by as many as three with 7:05 remaining. But in the end, it all went wrong.

First, there was the Badgers’ leading scorer, Jared Berggren, who along with Taylor poured in 17 points.  The big man was a perfect 3-for-3 from the 3-point line and when he played, the offense seemed to come alive. But in the end he was a split second too late on a substitution at the scorer’s table.

“It’s tough to not be in there at the end of the game,” Berggren said with his head hanging in disappointment. “You want to make a chance to make a play.”

Coach Bo Ryan downplayed the missed substitution.

“If they’d have gone up three, Jared is the better 3-point shooter,” said Ryan. “It was OK. It was a one-point game, and who’s scrappier than Mike Bruesewitz and who got their hand on the ball in the end? It worked out OK. We were fine with it.”

Then there was the one timeout remaining for Wisconsin that remained when time expired on the Badgers’ season.

“I never leave an in-bounder without a timeout,” said Ryan.

Taylor said he thought his dream shot was good, but the front rim denied the senior a chance to continue what has become a memorable career in Madison. Instead, Wisconsin heads home for the second straight year with thoughts of what could have been in a Sweet 16 matchup.

“We played well enough to have this one on our side,” Ryan said. “It just didn’t work out that way.”


Wisconsin’s only win over Syracuse came in 1927, a 31-24 victory in Cleveland.

UW has played a total of 4 games in the Carrier Dome. The Badgers participated in the 1999 NABC Classic in Syracuse, beating Missouri, 66-55, before falling to the Orange, 68-49. Wisconsin also played in the Carrier Dome during the 2005 NCAA Tournament, topping NC State, 65-56, in the Sweet 16 before falling to North Carolina, 88-82, in the Elite Eight.


Wisconsin has played in each of the previous 16 Big Ten/ACC Challenges, owning a 7-9 record all-time, but winning 4 of its last 7 Challenge games.

UW is 2-6 on the road during the Challenge, winning 2 of its last 3 such games, winning at Virginia Tech in 2008 and at Virginia in 2012.

Among Big Ten teams, only Purdue (8) and Minnesota (8) have more Big Ten/ACC Challenge wins than Wisconsin.

UW has grabbed 40 more offensive boards than its opponents (109-69). The Badgers lead the Big Ten and rank 19th in the NCAA with 15.6 offensive rebounds per game. The Badgers are rebounding 41.0 percent of their misses (109 offensive boards on 266 opportunities).

UW is 62-60 vs. ranked teams under Bo Ryan, winning 20 of the last 29 vs. top-25 foes.


This will be the third ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the Orange since making the move to the ACC. It marks the second time the Orange has hosted the challenge. In December 2013, Syracuse beat Indiana 69-52. Last season Syracuse lost at Michigan, 66-63.

During his tenure as head coach, Jim Boeheim has faced five runners-up in the season following their championship appearance. His record against these teams is 2-3. The last time the Orange played the runner-up was in the 2008-09 season when it beat Memphis, 72-65, after the Tigers lost to Kansas in the 2008 national final.

Gbinije was named MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. In three games, he averaged 21.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Gbinije converted 12-of-20 3-point shots. Trevor Cooney, who averaged 17.0 points per game in the event, earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

Syracuse earned one first-place votes and was picked ninth in the ACC Preseason Poll. North Carolina earned the top spot.


Syracuse is probably the last team this Wisconsin team would want to face in the Big Ten-ACC challenge. The Orange zone dares teams to shoot from the perimeter and only the most aggressive low-post teams generate production in the paint. Wisconsin is neither of those at this point in the season, especially when the Badgers are rushing shots, not sharing the ball and not moving within their offense.

Moreover, UW’s defensive struggles were glaring in the first half against Oklahoma with the inability to contest open shooters or defend the paint. After what Syracuse did in the Bahamas, the Badgers are going to be in for a long night.

Wisconsin won’t shoot the ball as bad as they did Sunday – let’s all hope for that – but the Badgers’ youthful roster won’t be able to solve the complex Syracuse zone. Wisconsin falls to .500 after the Orange win by 15.

Worgull's Record: 5-2

Points off Prediction: 91 (14.5 per game) 

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