Wisconsin continues to be on fire from 3-point range, finishing 12-for-26 (46.2 percent) and hitting double-digit 3-pointers for the third straight game, a feat it hasn’t accomplished since the 2012 N.C.A.A. tournament.
In particular, Wisconsin’s clutch shooting throughout the second half kept Maryland at bay, as the Badgers hit 6 of 12 in the final 20 minutes and got perimeter buckets from Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter. All four of those players were responsible for UW’s 3-point makes, while Brown and Hayes combined to shoot 7-for-11 (3-for-5 in the second half).
Wisconsin needed to continue shooting well because there wasn’t a lot of other scoring options open throughout the game. UW struggled to consistently get points in the paint, finishing with 16 points in the lane and going 11-for-30 inside the arc. The Badgers made up for it by consistently winning loose balls and generating second-chance opportunities. For the second time in three games, Wisconsin registered double-digit offensive rebounds (13), which led to 20 points. Brown’s energy and hustle led him to lead the team with five offensive rebounds and Ethan Happ, despite dealing with foul trouble, finished second on the team with four.
With Maryland playing a much more aggressive defense in the second half, they forced Wisconsin into seven of the Badgers’ 11 turnovers and disrupted the rhythm Wisconsin played with in the first half, where they shot 43.3 percent from the field. Thanks to its success from the perimeter and hustle opportunities, Wisconsin still shot 23-for-56 (41.1 percent).
For the second straight game, Brown set a career high in scoring, finishing with 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting in 34 minutes. Koenig was second with 16 points (his fourth straight game in double figures), Hayes had 14 points and Showalter finished with 11 points.
Considering the way Wisconsin has been playing over the last three games, it wasn’t surprising to see the Badgers go into halftime with a lead. What was surprising was they handed Maryland its largest deficit this season at 15 points.
But as good of a shooting team as Maryland is, Wisconsin was fully expecting the Terps to mount a comeback and cut into the lead. As expected, Maryland trimmed the lead down to single digits within six minutes of the second half and got it as close as six points near the midway mark.
But just like the offense did throughout the game, Wisconsin’s defense was able to consistently find ways of forcing Maryland to struggle and go stretches without a made field goal. The critical defensive stretch came starting at the 9:14 mark with Wisconsin leading 48-41. The Badgers held Maryland without a field goal for the next 3:42, going 0-for-5 from the field, 0-for-3 from three and a turnover. Maryland went just 2-for-4 from the free throw line on that stretch as constantly made driving lanes disappear and contested shots.
Overall Maryland shot 20-for-50 (40 percent) from the field and 44.8 percent in the second half. Sophomore Melo Trimble finished with 10 points but went only 1-for-14 from the floor. Wisconsin was able to play aggressive defense on him and consistently put a hand in his face when he settled for jump shots. He padded his point total by going 8-for-10 from the free throw line.
Although Trimble struggled, Wisconsin had trouble slowing down Rasheed Sulaimon, who had 17 points (4-for-7 on threes) by hitting UW hard by constantly getting down the floor in transition. Jake Layman and Diamond Stone each finished the game with 10 points on a combined 9-for-13 shooting from the field.
Maryland registered 31 points in the paint, but Wisconsin held Maryland to only four second-chance points (all in the second half) on nine offensive rebounds.
It was a critical victory for Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings and its postseason hopes, a reason why the Badgers clearly were the hungrier team by consistently winning the loose balls and playing with an energy that Maryland had trouble matching in the first half.
What makes the victory more impressive is that the Badgers were able to get the win with both Showalter and Happ out for a large portion of the second half in foul trouble. Happ picked up a quick two fouls in the first minute of the second half to give him four in the game and Showalter picked up his third and fourth foul in the first 87 seconds. But when Greg Gard inserted the two back in the game with 10:35 to go, the offense started to pick up for Wisconsin.
The Badgers seemingly had an answer for every run Maryland threw at them, as the timely perimeter shots helped propel Wisconsin to the finish line. After a made three by Koenig with 8:11 to go in the game put Wisconsin up by 11, the closest Maryland got again was by eight points, thanks to UW going 6-for-12 from the field, holding Maryland to 5-for-12 and forcing three turnovers down the stretch.
Happ didn’t deliver a scoring impact for a second straight game but his presence in the paint helped keep offensive possessions alive and limited extra Maryland possessions. Happ finished with 10 rebounds, his eighth double digit rebounding game, and Wisconsin outrebounded Maryland 40-30. Happ also finished with four steals, which tied a season high, as two of his swipes came in the last two minutes to help seal the win.
The three turnovers Wisconsin created in the second half didn’t compare to the nine they forced in the first, part of the reason why Maryland’s offense was a disaster. There was one point in the first half where Wisconsin’s defense held Maryland without a field goal for 10:51, a 0-for-7 stretch that also included seven turnovers (including one on four straight possessions) to allow Wisconsin to start building its first-half lead.
UW scored 16 points off the turnovers and got four points from its bench, including two from Maryland-native Charlie Thomas. It was Thomas’ first points since the Penn State game Jan.21 and he also had three rebounds in 12 minutes.
Game MVP: Vitto Brown. On the best stretch of basketball in his career, Brown is starting to jump further up opponent’s scouting report. With Happ dealing with foul trouble, Brown was able to consistently find and knock down open spots when his team needed him the most. He and Koenig each scored 12 points in the second half, and over the last 3:13 of the game, Brown registered an offensive rebound that led to a Showalter layup, two free throws to ice the game and capped the night with a thunderous dunk with 37 seconds to go.