Wisconsin opens its Big Ten tournament title defense against 11th-seeded Nebraska Thursday night

For the first time since 2000, Wisconsin will play on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament when it takes on 11th-seeded Nebraska in the final game of the evening. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.11 Nebraska (15-17, 6-12 Big Ten) vs. No.6 Wisconsin (20-11, 12-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time – Thursday, March 10, approximately 8 p.m. central

Arena – Banker’s Life Fieldhouse (18,345)

Television – ESPN2 (Mike Tirico, Dan Dakich and Quint Kessenich)

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

Series – Wisconsin leads 12-11 (Nebraska leads 2-1 in neutral sites)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 72-61, on February 10, 2016, in Madison


3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 7.7 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 16.5 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.9 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 13.5 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 9.5 ppg)


11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 3.2 ppg)

15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 2.5 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 2.8 ppg)

24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.4 ppg)


A first-team All-Big Ten pick, Hayes leads the Badgers in scoring (16.5 ppg) and assists (3.1 apg), ranks second in rebounds (5.8 rpg) and paces the Big Ten in FTAs, going 175-for-235 (.745) from the line.


0 Tai Webster (6-4 Junior Guard, 9.9 ppg)

3 Andrew White III (6-7 Junior Guard, 16.5 ppg)

12 Michael Jacobson (6-8 Freshman Forward, 4.8 ppg)

31 Shavon Shields (6-7 Senior Forward, 16.6 ppg)

32 Benny Parker (5-9 Senior Guard, 4.7 ppg)


5 Glynn Watson Jr. (6-0 Freshman Guard, 8.3 ppg)

10 Jack McVeigh (6-8 Freshman Forward, 5.0 ppg)

24 Jake Hammond (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 2.3 ppg)

30 Ed Morrow (6-7 Freshman Forward, 4.1 ppg)


With 20 points in Nebraska’s 89-72 tournament-opening win over Rutgers, Shields is averaging 22 points in his last four games. He also added a season-high 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – An early eight-point lead melted under Purdue’s red-hot shooting, as the Boilermakers shot 62.2 percent in a 91-80 victory over Wisconsin at Mackey Arena Sunday night to end the Big Ten regular season.

The Big Ten’s top scoring defense at 63.5 points per game, Wisconsin saw Purdue past that total with more than 10 left, as the hosts go on a roll and didn’t relent.

“It seemed like everyone was hitting shots today,” said Koenig. “When their making all those good shots, it’s hard to beat anyone.”

Shooting above 60 percent in each half, Purdue (24-7, 12-6) put four players in double figures, got 15 of sophomore P.J. Thompson’s career-high 22 points in the first half and 23 in the second half from freshman Caleb Swanigan, who went 14-for-17 from the line after halftime to push him to a career-high 27 points.

The Badgers – who are 4-38 since Mackey Arena opened in Dec. 1967 – were only able to hang in the game because Hayes scored a conference career-high 30 points. During a five minute stretch late in the second points, Hayes scored all 13 of Wisconsin points.

“We’d have to had a perfect game offensively in order to match that,” said Hayes. “Some of their guys shot exceptionally well … Just tip our hats off to them.”

Happ scored 14 points, Showalter had 13 and Koenig finished with 8 points on 3-for-12 shooting (2-for-9 from 3-point range).

Wisconsin came out making 13 of its first 19 shots, going 5-for-10 from 3-point range and pounding the ball into the low post with Happ to build a 31-24 lead 13 minutes into the game.

But for a Wisconsin team that held 10 opponents in the regular season to season-low point totals, Purdue’s transition offense – and sophomore P.J. Thompson – quickly caught the Badgers. Thompson was a 5-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, helping orchestrate a 10-0 run that wiped out UW’s seven-point lead in less than two minutes, and the Boilers scored on nine of its final 13 possessions, resulting in 24 points.

Averaging 1.5 points per possession in a 45-39 halftime lead, Purdue shot 63 percent in the first half – a season-worst in a half for UW – and went 8-for-12 from 3-point range against a defense allowing only 5.8 3-point makes per game in conference play.

When the final horn sounded, Purdue scored 28 points in the paint, 25 on 33 free-throw attempts and 30 from the 3-point line on 19 attempts.

In a span of the first three minutes of the second half, Purdue’s 7-0 run put the Badgers in a 13-point hole, and the hits just kept coming with the Boilers making seven of their first eight shots.

Each time Wisconsin started to make a run, the Boilermakers punched right back. UW’s 7-1 run cut the deficit to 66-57 with 7:55 left was answered by Purdue’s 3-pointers on the next two possessions.

When the Badgers started pressing and Hayes was able to get to the free throw line, cutting the lead to seven with 4:46 to go, Purdue answered with steady offense, few turnovers and going 11-for-12 from the free throw line down the stretch. UW never got back within two possessions.


MADISON – A sluggish night was rescued by the perimeter jump shot, as the Badgers scored 33 points from behind the arc to distance itself from Nebraska in the second half in a 72-61 victory at the Kohl Center to extend their winning streak to six.

Going 11-for-18 from the perimeter against the Huskers, including 7-for-12 in the second half, the biggest weapon for the Badgers was junior Vitto Brown, who continues his sudden resurgence with a career-high 18 points that included a career-high three 3-pointers. A 28.2 percent 3-point shooter entering the night, Brown had made only three 3-pointers the entire Big Ten season, but hit two big ones in the first half when UW’s stagnate offense needed a boost.

He also dabbled around the rim, taking a feed from forward Alex Illikainen for a one-handed right hand slam to put the Badgers up 53-40 with 9:32 to go. It was the largest lead in the game to that point and finally injected some life into what had been a stagnate building.

Hayes led all scorers with 20, Bronson Koenig had 11 and Zak Showalter finished with 10.

Brown and Hayes carried the offense through a sloppy first half in which shooting was sluggish against Nebraska’s 2-3 zone, ball control was spotty and defense was inconsistent. The two juniors split Wisconsin’s first 16 points, combined for 22 of UW’s 30 first-half points and didn’t get help from another source until Jordan Hill’s 3-pointer with 6:55 remaining.

The entire offense came alive after halftime. Following a layup by Glynn Watson Jr. (team-high 16 points) to cut the lead to 30-28, Wisconsin hit four 3-pointers on the next five possessions to push the lead to 10. Over the final 16-plus minutes, UW’s lead never dipped below six and stayed in double figures for the final 11:32.


The Badgers also have won 7 of the 8 meetings since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011.

Over the last three meetings against Nebraska, the Badgers have gone a combined 58-for-82 at the free throw line while the Huskers were just 24-for-36.

Nebraska has scored more than 55 points against Wisconsin just twice since joining the Big Ten - a 77-68 Huskers win in 2014 and the Badgers’ 72-61 win earlier this year. In fact, the Huskers have averaged a mere 53.4 ppg against the Badgers in that span (eight meetings).


The Badgers have the most road/neutral wins and second-best win pct. away from home of any major conference team over the last three years. UW is 44-14 (.759) away from the Kohl Center in that span (7-6 this season).

Since 2013-14, Wisconsin is an impressive 36-6 (.857) in the months of February and March, far and away the best mark in the Big Ten (MSU is second at 30-12). The Badgers had won 15 consecutive games played in the month of March prior to last weekend’s loss at No. 15 Purdue.

Hayes is 175-for-235 (.745) from the free throw line this season, leading the Big Ten in free throw attempts. His 235 FTAs rank 17th in the NCAA (fifth among major conference players).

Dating back to February of 2011, UW is 137-5 (.965) when leading or tied with 5:00 left, including a mark of 20-1 this season. UW lost to Milwaukee when leading 58-55 at the 5:00 mark.


With its seven three pointers over Rutgers, Nebraska now has 207 for the season, ranking sixth all-time in school history.

Shavon Shields (20), Tai Webster (18), Andrew White III (16) and Michael Jacobson (14) all scored at least 14 points against the Scarlet Knights, just the second time this season Nebraska has had four players do so. Ed Morrow Jr. (10) joined them in double figures, marking just the third time this season the Huskers had five players with at least 10 points.

Michael Jacobson’s 14 points were a career high, besting his 13 on February 6, also against Rutgers.

Five of Nebraska’s 17 offensive rebounds came on one 30-second possession six minutes into the first half, with Jake Hammond pulling down three.


Due to a scary fall in a home win over Rutgers, Shields was left behind when Nebraska made the trip to Madison a month ago today. The Badgers were fortunate.

Returning to the lineup February 25 after a four game absence, Shields is averaging 22 points since the four games he returned, including an impressive 32 points on 11-for-19 shooting against Purdue. Earning second-team honors from the coaches and third-team in media voting, the senior is Nebraska’s second-leading scorer (16.4) and rebounder (4.7). After Wisconsin focused extra attention on White III in Madison, holding him to 5-for-11 and only 10 points, the Badgers won't have that same luxury.

Where Nebraska got Rutgers in trouble was turnovers – the Cornhuskers scored 27 points off of 17 Rutgers miscues. Wisconsin is much stingier with its ball security, but that will be critical for the Badgers to be aware of tonight.

As I wrote on the site today, Wisconsin has been successful in a lot of tough environments this season. Even though a good chunk of this roster will be experiencing major minutes in their first postseason game, or their first postseason game period, the Badgers should have the maturity to handle the situation.

Wisconsin moves on to the quarterfinals with a 15-point victory. 

Worgull's Record: 23-8

Points off Prediction: 269 (8.7 per game)

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