Wisconsin has struggled to go on runs this year. In particular they have struggled to put together a string of baskets when the opposing team is also struggling shooting the ball. It was looking like it would happen again against Temple, as Wisconsin started out 4-for-13 and Temple 3-for-10 over the first nine minutes of the first half.
But things started to change for Wisconsin’s offense when Quenton DeCosey picked up his second foul at the 11:03 mark in the first half. That allowed Wisconsin to open up the game up on a 19-2 run to give Wisconsin its largest lead of the first half at 30-12.
Wisconsin was able to build its lead in a variety of ways but the biggest contribution came from freshmen Charlie Thomas and Alex Illikainen to help put some distance between UW and the Owls, as the two combined to score 12 of the team’s 19 points on 4-for-4 shooting and 3-for-4 from the free throw line.
Overall Wisconsin shot 12-for-28 (42.9 percent) from the field in the first half and finished the game 27-for-59 (45.8 percent). Nigel Hayes led Wisconsin in scoring for the fourth time this season with 18 points on 6-for-16 from the field. He also added 12 rebounds, giving him his third straight double-double. Wisconsin improved to 5-2 when Hayes records a double-double.
Bronson Koenig was second with 17 points and rebounded nicely from his poor shooting performance against Syracuse by shooting 7-for-14. Zak Showalter was third with 11 points as the combination of Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown registered for 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the field.
Wisconsin struggled mightily with turnovers against Syracuse, turning the basketball over 20 times, but responded well with only seven miscues against Temple. While three were off steals, there were a couple of turnovers that could have been avoided, but the Owls turned Wisconsin’s miscues into only nine points.
Hayes did a tremendous job guarding DeCosey, as the Owls leading scorer to three points on one made field goal at the 17:07 mark in the first half. Wisconsin’s defense never allowed DeCosey to gain any comfort on offense or allow him to create separation for him to get a clean shot off in his 18 minutes. Hayes deserves credit for helping keep him in check, as his size was able to limit what DeCosey wanted to do. It also didn’t help that DeCosey picked up two fouls, also preventing him from getting in an offensive rhythm.
But with Temple having three other players who average double figures, you figured it would be only a matter of time before Temple found a rhythm on offense. Thanks to UW’s improving defense, it wasn’t the case. In addition to Wisconsin holding Temple to a six minute scoring drought in the first half, the Badgers didn’t allow Temple to make field goals on consecutive possessions over the first 15 minutes of the game.
Temple did cut a UW 18-point deficit to five early in the second half, but Wisconsin’s defense silenced the hot streak by limiting the Owls to only eight more field goals on 26 attempts the remainder of the game.
Temple shot 22-for-58 (37.9 percent) from the field, the second straight opponent the Badgers held under 40 percent. Without DeCosey in the lineup, Jaylen Bond tried to provide the scoring punch and finished with a team-high 12 points by finding some success in the paint. Levan Shawn Alston Jr. and Trey Lowe finished the game with 11 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.
The Owls came into the game averaging only 8.3 turnovers per game, third-best in the nation, so opportunities were going to be limited. And while UW only managed to force seven turnovers, the Badgers registered five steals, the fourth time this season they have finished with at least five steals in a game. Showalter led the way with two steals and Koenig registered his first steal of the season.
After Bo Ryan called a timeout in the second half following Temple cutting the lead to five, Wisconsin was able to quickly rebuild its lead and control the game. It was good to see Wisconsin respond and shoot 15-for-31 (48.9 percent) from the field in the second half, effectively preventing Temple from getting back into the game.
Wisconsin got contributions across the board from its starters but in particular the bench was able to step up and play much better than they did against Syracuse. The three freshmen combined to play 46 minutes, compared to the 16 against Syracuse, with Thomas leading the way with nine points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field. Illikainen tied his career high with six points, and Khalil Iverson finished with one, appearing to sustain an injury that kept him out of the second half. Thomas and Iverson were also able to rebound effectively finishing the game six and four rebounds, respectively.
The Badgers were able to find ways of getting the ball down low by finishing the game with 30 points in the paint. Most importantly, when Wisconsin wasn’t able to get the ball in the paint, they found a way to consistently move the ball and find the best shot. Wisconsin was able to find success from 3-point range, finishing the game 6-for-11 (54.5 percent). It was UW’s best shooting percentage from three since the VCU game.
Wisconsin continues to do well to limit opponent’s second-chance opportunities, holding Temple to six offensive rebounds and 29 total rebounds in the game. Wisconsin finished with 38 rebounds, 10 on the offensive glass. Hayes collected six offensive rebounds in the game. With Wisconsin consistently grabbing rebounds, it helped make sure Temple’s offense never really have a chance of finding a rhythm on offense.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. Hayes continues to struggle shooting the ball (his 16 shot attempts were the second highest on the year), but the junior forgoing any 3-point attempts for the first time this season worked out well for Hayes, as he was effective down low on the block by drawing fouls and going 6-for-7 from the free throw line. As Hayes continues to work on his shot, he continues to excel in other things besides scoring, finishing with three assists to one turnover.