It was an impressive display of shooting for the Wisconsin offense in the first half going 16-for-33 from the field. The 16 makes were the highest made shots in the first half this year and the 48.5 percent shooting was the best mark in the first half since the win against VCU (51.9 percent). Not to mention that the 48 points Wisconsin scored was the most in the first half this year and the fifth time the Badgers scored at least 40 points in a half.
But the impressive shooting certainly didn’t carry over to the finish line. While the Badgers shot 11-for-22 in the second half, Wisconsin – when leading by 20 points - went six minutes without a field goal. The Badgers only went 0-for-4 during that stretch because UW was too busy coughing up the basketball. UW finished with 26 turnovers, the most since Wisconsin registered a 64-60 win at Fresno State in December 1997.
In the scoring drought, Wisconsin committing nine turnovers, including one on eight straight possessions. In that time span Green Bay scored 11 of its 28 points off of UW turnovers to cut the lead to six points.
Bronson Koenig had one of his worst games of his career, finishing 2-for-8 shooting, registering one assist and committing a career-high eight turnovers. It seemed like Koenig was lost at points on what he was supposed to do with the ball, as there were times when he threw it out of bounds or simply had it stolen after over dribbling. Koenig wasn’t alone in struggling with ball security against Green Bay’s pressure defense, as Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter each finished with four turnovers.
Wisconsin had four players finish in double figures: Nigel Hayes had 24 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the field, Ethan Happ was second with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field, Brown finished with 15 points and Jordan Hill scored his first 10 points of the season, eight of which came in the first half. Overall Wisconsin shot 27-for-55 (49.1 percent) from the field.
Wisconsin’s defense allowed Green Bay to come back from a 30-point deficit and cut the lead down to three. Part of that was due to the high number of turnovers, which led to easy points, but there were instances when Wisconsin allowed the Phoenix to pass the ball effectively and settle for the open shot. Green Bay finished the game 27-for-71 (38 percent) from the field after only making nine field goals in the first half.
The Badgers also allowed Green Bay to generate more second-chance opportunities in the second half, grabbing nine of the team’s 16 offensive rebounds. After clearly being the more active team in the first half, Wisconsin was out hustled for loose balls in spurts that could have generated extra possessions. Despite the second chance opportunities, Green Bay could only convert it into 10 points.
Wisconsin’s backcourt was going to have to find a way to slow leading scorer Carrington Love and held him to 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting in the first half. Things changed in the second half when things started to go in Love’s favor, as he scored 18 of his game-high 28 points on 7-for-13 from the field. Love was part of the reason why Green Bay fought its way back against Wisconsin.
Jordan Fouse was the only other player for Green Bay to reach double digits with 17 points, as Fouse scored by either creating space on the perimeter (3-for-5 from three) or getting to the free throw line (4-for-4).
Like Wisconsin, Green Bay struggled to take care of the basketball with 15 turnovers (12 in the first half); seven of those 12 turnovers coming off of Wisconsin’s steals. Despite playing with foul trouble throughout the game and fouling out after 22 minutes, Showalter registered three of Wisconsin’s seven steals in the first half. Wisconsin converting the Phoenix miscues into 19 points.
Wisconsin did well at times of protecting the paint and used its size advantage to register six blocks, including three from Brown. Green Bay’s best opportunity to score at the rim came in transition off a UW turnover. Green Bay finished with 30 points in the paint, the seventh UW opponent to score at least 30 points down low.
A lot of credit goes to Green Bay for continuing to fight despite being down as much as 30 with 13:01 to go in the game. By consistently find ways of hitting the timely shot and using its pressures to force Wisconsin into turnovers to create extra offensive possessions, Green Bay generated fast break opportunities to finish the game with 14 points in this category.
Simply put, Green Bay was able to trap, press or double team Wisconsin to cause the miscues, as the Badgers struggled to handle the aggressive style defense. The 26 turnovers are unacceptable, and the miscues committed were inexcusable when the intended target wasn’t paying attention when the ball went by them. Even if there is some rust to shake off, UW can’t turn the ball over at the rate they have been this season.
When Wisconsin wasn’t careless with the ball, the Phoenix clamped down and created 18 steals, 12 of which came in the second half. There were some instances where Wisconsin struggled inbounding the ball or dribbled into double teams that closed down passing lanes.
Despite the turnovers, head coach Greg Gard has to be pleased with the bench scoring 20 points, the third game this year of scoring at least 20. Three players from Wisconsin’s bench scored: Hill with 10 points, eight from Khalil Iverson and two from Alex Illikainen.
Clearly the surprise came from Hill, who had played in only seven games and attempted three total shots. Hill registered career highs in points (10 on 3 of 6 shooting), assists (four) and rebounds (four). Filling in due to Showalter (three points) and Koenig (six) being in foul trouble in the first half, Hill certainly responded with good play that should only serve as a confidence boost going forward.
Wisconsin continues to be consistent on the glass, out rebounding Green Bay, 46-35, and turning 14 offensive rebounds into 12 points, a handful of which were low-post bucks immediately following a miss. UW used its frontcourt advantage to score 32 points in the paint.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. Becoming the 42nd player in school history to score 1,000 points in his career, the points couldn’t have come at a better time for Hayes and Wisconsin. With the Badgers up 74-71 with 1:35 to go in the game Hayes was able to knock down two critical free throws to give Wisconsin a five-point lead. On the ensuing offensive possession for the Badgers, he drew a foul, made the bucket and hit the free throw for the 3-point play. Hayes did a little bit of everything for Wisconsin scoring wise, finishing the game 7-for-8 from the field, 1-for-1 from 3-point range and 9-for-9 from the free throw line. Pulling down five rebounds and four assists, Hayes also responded nicely from the six turnovers he committed against Texas A&M Corpus Christi with just two turnovers against the Phoenix.