Wisconsin’s offense was able to jump out on Milwaukee and build a 10-point lead on 6-for-10 shooting within the first five minutes of the game. But as we’ve seen before, Wisconsin suffered through too many offensive funks and saw a one-time 15-point lead dwindle in the loss to the Panthers.
The first drought came in the first half with Wisconsin up 12, going eight minutes, 25 seconds without a field goal and shooting 0-for-9 from the field. The Panthers chipped away at the lead but Wisconsin still led up by double digits for the most part by going 8-for-9 from the free throw line.
The scoring drought that ultimately did Wisconsin in was in the second half going 8:49 without a field goal. At that time Wisconsin led 48-36, but by the time Nigel Hayes broke that streak with a dunk, the Panthers only trailed by three with six minutes to go. That stretch summed the second half up well as Wisconsin went 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) from the field. This marks the fourth time this season Wisconsin has made fewer than nine shots in one half (all losses).
Wisconsin’s poor shooting in the second half was a complete reversal from the first half. UW shot 41.9 percent and Nigel Hayes (15 points), Bronson Koenig (11), and Ethan Happ (eight) combined to shoot 10-for-22 shooting from the field. Overall Wisconsin shot 20-for-55 (36.4 percent). Hayes led all scorers with a career-high 32 points in playing all 40 minutes but everyone else struggled; Koenig had 16 points, Happ was third with 10 points and Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter combined for five.
Wisconsin only turned the ball over 10 times and didn’t make its first mistake until the 5:11 mark. Brown committed a critical turnover with 57 seconds remaining off an offensive foul. Overall Milwaukee finished with eight points off of Wisconsin’s turnovers but it was losing out on those extra possessions that really hurt the Badgers.
The Panthers shot 42.3 percent in the second half, compared to the 29.6 percent in the first half, and were inconsistent from 3-point range. Milwaukee shot 29.6 percent on 8-for-27 shooting, but Wisconsin did allow Austin Arians (six points) to hit a critical three with 4:03 left in the game to pull Milwaukee within two, which sparked a 13-7 Panthers run.
The Arains’ three was big for Milwaukee, but Jordan Johnson and Matt Tiby were able to help the Panthers take the lead against Wisconsin.
Wisconsin didn’t have an answer for Johnson, who was able to penetrate in the lane, finish at the rim and create space for his shot. He led the team in scoring with 22 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field. Johnson came into the game as one of the best passers in the country (8.3 assists a game) and finished with four, but still opened opportunities for Tiby in the paint. Tiby was second on the team with 15 points and collected 11 rebounds. He was also able to stretch the floor - going 2-for-3 from three - and found ways of getting to the free throw line - finishing the game 7-for-8.
Overall Milwaukee shot 19-for-53 (35.8 percent) from the field.
Wisconsin registered four blocks in the game, including Happ tying his career high with three, but Happ and Brown dealing with foul trouble opened up scoring opportunities for Milwaukee, which finished with 22 points in the paint.
UW did limit Milwaukee to five offensive rebounds, six second-chance points and scored 10 points off eight Panthers turnovers.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a veteran Milwaukee team found a way to take advantage of Wisconsin’s struggles, especially with the Badgers’ inability to shoot the ball in the second half or match the Panthers' energy coming out of the locker room.
Even though Milwaukee scored the first seven points of the second half to cut the deficit to four, Wisconsin went on an 8-0 run that appeared to restore order. Credit to the Panthers, who never went away, kept grinding out possessions and out muscling a team who couldn’t find a way to respond.
Wisconsin had its chance to put the game away following that 8-0 run, but going close to nine minutes without a field goal made things challenging. During that stretch Wisconsin went 0-for-6 from the field and only managed to keep the lead by drawing fouls and getting into the bonus at the 12:58 mark of the second half.
Wisconsin was able to get to the free throw line in the second half, going 12-for-19 and finishing the game 23-for-32 (71.9 percent), but the Badger missed chances during critical stretches. For example, Hayes missed critical free throws that would have tied the game with 24 seconds left. During UW’s long second-half scoring drought, UW went 6-for-11 from the line, including missing the front end of a bonus Simply put, Wisconsin needs to take advantage when they get to the line to help them build on its lead or stay in the game.
Happ was able to register his fourth double-double this season (he nearly did it by halftime), but disappeared in the second half on offense. While he collected six rebounds, he only attempted one shot and didn’t play with the same aggressive style as he did early in the game. Afterward he admitted he deferred to Hayes and Koenig to shoot during crunch time.
Overall Wisconsin won the rebounding battle, 45-29, and wnd turned 12 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.
Most disappointing was the fact that UW got nothing from its bench, especially after both Alex Illikaninen and Charlie Thomas played so well against Temple. Thomas finished with four points in eight minutes, Khalil Iverson had three rebounds in 10 rebounds and Illikainen didn't even play. Bo Ryan only used his bench for five minutes in the second half, which handcuffs the roster.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. It was looking like Happ was going to get this honor but he disappeared in the second half. Hayes did his best to help Wisconsin keep its lead and try to salvage a win when trailing late, drawing fouls on three out of four possessions in the final 1:43. Hayes – a 73 percent free throw shooter - attempted a career-high 19 free throws (making 12). Playing every minute, Hayes also scored 26 points in the paint, was second on the team with eight rebounds and only committed two turnovers.