No.17 Wisconsin and No.22 Syracuse face off in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge for the second straight season

No.17 Wisconsin looks to make it back-to-back wins over No.22 Syracuse in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Here's a breakdown of tonight's game.

No.22 Syracuse (4-1, 0-0 ACC) vs. No.17 Wisconsin (5-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time – Tuesday, November 29, 6:30 p.m. central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)

Television – ESPN (Dave Pasch and Fran Fraschilla)

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

Series – Series tied 2-2 (First meeting in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 66-58 in overtime, on December 2, 2015, in Madison

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 6.7 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 11.6 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 11.9 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 14.4 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 7.4 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 5.6 ppg)

11 Jordan Hill (6-4 Junior Guard, 1.6 ppg)

15 Charles Thomas (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 3.4 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 5.3 ppg)

25 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 2.4 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Brown is shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range, hitting 11-of-24 from downtown. During the 3-game Maui Invitational, Brown went 7-for-10 from outside the arc.

SYRACUSE PROBABLE STARTERS

1 Frank Howard (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 9.2 ppg)

3 Andrew White (6-7 Senior Forward, 15.8 ppg)

20 Tyler Lydon (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 11.4 ppg)

21 Tyler Roberson (6-8 Senior Forward, 10.0 ppg)

32 DaJuan Coleman (6-9 Senior Center, 5.0 ppg)

Off the Bench

4 John Gillon (6-0 Senior Guard, 10.0 ppg)

12 Taurean Thompson (6-10 Freshman Forward, 8.2 ppg)

13 Paschal Chukwu (7-2 Sophomore Center, 1.6 ppg)

25 Tyus Battle (6-6 Freshman Guard, 5.8 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Through five games in November, White – who faced Wisconsin twice at Nebraska last season – is averaging 15.8 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal and 0.3 blocks per game in 29 minutes.

LAST TIME OUT

MADISON – Six players reached double figures and Ethan Happ delivered his third double-double of the season as No.16 Wisconsin cruised to a 95-50 victory over Prairie View A&M.

Rebounding from its 15-point loss to No.4 North Carolina Wednesday, Wisconsin (5-2) shot 55.9 percent and 75 percent (24-for-32) from 2-point range.

It was a concerted effort to attack the rim and Nigel Hayes (17 points), Ethan Happ (12) and Khaliil Iverson (10) all benefited on the interior, while Bronson Koenig (11), Zak Showalter (11) and D’Mitrik Trice (10) benefited on the kick outs.

“They were very efficient taking advantage of what we wanted to do,” head coach Greg Gard said.

Wisconsin is a perfect 12-0 against the Southwestern Athletic Conference and have beaten Prairie View A&M four times since 2010 by an average margin of 36 points. That included an 18-point victory last November in which the Badgers didn’t pull away until the second half.

Not so much this time.

Wisconsin led by 20 points in the first half and steadily built its lead by pounding the paint and the glass, two areas that have been sporadic at points through the early nonconference schedule.

But going against a starting lineup with no players over 6-9, Wisconsin hammered the ball in the low post to the tune of 42 points in the paint, 44 rebounds (15 offensive) and 19 second-chance points.

Nobody took more advantage of that than Hayes. Criticized on social media for his penchant of relying on perimeter jumpers instead of driving into the low post, Hayes went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field Sunday with all his attempts coming from the lane. He also drew fouls, making a season-high seven free throws on eight attempts.

Part of the reason Gard scheduled this game two days before Wisconsin’s home contest against No.18 Syracuse in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was to get his team’s legs back. The team flew home from Hawaii on Thursday and have been slowly getting back into a normal routine.

Gard also said the team had consulted with sleep specialists to try to boost recovery time quicker. A blowout certainly helped, as 10 players saw time off the bench and nobody played more than Vitto Brown's 23 minutes.

SERIES NOTES

Tonight marks the third meeting between the two schools since the 2012 N.C.A.A. tournament, a 64-64 victory by the Orange in the Sweet 16 in Boston.

The Badgers are 41-42 all-time against current members of the ACC and have won 10 of their last 16 games against ACC foes.

Wisconsin has played in each of the previous 17 Big Ten/ACC Challenges, owning an 8-9 record all-time, but winning five of its last eight Challenge games. UW is 4-3 at home during the Challenge and 5-3 in the state of Wisconsin (played in Milwaukee in 2000). The Badgers are 4-4 against Challenge opponents who are ranked in the AP Top-25.

Among Big Ten teams, only Purdue (9) and Minnesota (9) have more Big Ten/ACC Challenge wins than Wisconsin.

LAST MEETING

SYRACUSE, NY – It took three weeks, but the Wisconsin finally has a win it can brag about in the month of March. And has fate would have it, it came three days after its biggest clunker of the season.

In an ugly offensive game for both teams, Wisconsin freshman Ethan Happ stood out, scoring a team-high 18 points and 15 rebounds in the 66-58 overtime victory over No.14 Syracuse in front of 22,360 at the Carrier Dome.

Three days after its worst shooting performance in nine years in a road loss at No.7 Oklahoma, Wisconsin shot 41.7 percent from the field and put four starters in double figures.

“People are going to start having contests, like, OK, how are they going to play tonight?” said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. “If we aren’t the biggest mystery in the country right now, I don’t know who is as far as trying to find some consistency, but we’re going to keep working.”

Happ led four starters in double figures for the Badgers (5-3), whose victory helped the Big Ten with the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, 8-6. The Big Ten hasn’t lost since 2008.

But more important than conference pride was Wisconsin redeeming itself on both ends of the court.

The Badgers held the Orange – coming off impressive shooting performances in the Bahamas - in-check all game. Syracuse (6-1) shot 35.7 percent from the field, 29.2 percent from the 3-point line and missed out on plenty of opportunities at the free-throw line, where they shot 55 percent (11-for-20).

But on those missed opportunities, the Badgers took advantage.

Wisconsin played its typical slow-style offense and controlled most of the second half. The burn offense, if you will, visibly frustrated Syracuse.

Leading from the midway point of the first half until Syracuse made a 14-3 run, spurred by 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions, to lead 41-35 with 11:10 remaining, Wisconsin pounded the low post to score its next 10 points inside.

Outscoring Syracuse, 30-14, in the paint for the game, Happ was UW’s biggest weapon, scoring all eight of his buckets from the paint. He also showed a touch of determination, scoring eight of his points after being whistled for his fourth traveling call at 10:41.

Hayes scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had six assists in 44 minutes. He was critical in overtime, registering a 3-point play in the low post that give Wisconsin the lead for good at 58-55.

UW outscored the Orange, 13-5, in the extra session, while holding the Orange to 1-for-9 shooting.

WISCONSIN NOTES

Since Greg Gard joined the UW staff in 2001 under Bo Ryan, the Badgers are 37-15 (.712) against the AP Top-25 at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers' senior class has been a part of 93 wins already in their UW career, averaging 29.3 wins per season. The winningest class graduated in 2015 with a total of 115 victories.

On average, Wisconsin is holding opponents to just 75.1 percent of their scoring average. Badgers opponents are averaging 79.4 ppg overall this season, but just 59.6 when facing Wisconsin.

The Badgers are committing an average of 15.3 fouls per game, eighth-fewest in the NCAA.

SYRACUSE NOTES

Syracuse was picked fifth in the ACC preseason poll behind Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville.

The Orange are shooting 63.9 percent (62 of 97) from the free throw line in the last five minutes this season.

The Orange are averaging 79.0 points per game while shooting 49.3 percent from the field. Defensively Syracuse is only giving up 54.8 points per game (third nationally) on 31.9 percent shooting. The 24.2 scoring margin is eighth in the country.

Syracuse is 0-1 against power five opponents, losing by 14 to South Carolina in Brooklyn on Saturday.

PREDICTION

After a brief cool-down period following Wisconsin’s loss to North Carolina in the Maui Invitational, a disappointed – yet upbeat – Vitto Brown did not hesitate to say the Badgers were leaving for home a better team than the one that arrived.

“We were able to go against a very athletic team in Tennessee, a team that goes hard and aggressive in Georgetown, and a team like (UNC), who was a little bit of both,” Brown said. “I think we'll definitely have a lot to learn from this when we go back and watch the film.

“And this is no better test.  It's the best test we could have gotten this early in the season.  So I think that seeing how (the Tar Heels) attack the rim so hard, I think we'll definitely probably do a lot of defensive drills in practice and definitely be ready for the next team who does it.”

With no disrespect to Prairie View A&M, Syracuse will be the litmus test to see how much the Badgers have grown.

Syracuse has six players averaging between 8.2 and 15.8 points per game and has length the Badgers haven’t seen to this point this season. A decent reference point is last year’s Maryland team, but that sells this Syracuse squad short.

Above all else, the Orange masterfully run their 2-3 zone, making it tough to learn and master with only one practice in between.

“We’ve seen a lot of zone this year but not with this type of length,” said assistant coach Howard Moore, who has the scouting report on Syracuse. “Not with this type of athleticism, so I think the biggest thing is you got to be patient. You’ve got to move that zone. If you’re stagnate and you dribble a lot and not go anywhere, it plays right into this type of defense. You’ve got to get it moved to different sides, shift the zone back and forth and punch it from the wings, the high post area and attack it from the inside out. It’s hard to do with that length and size in there.”

Ball fakes, shot fakes and attacking the low post are all things that are Wisconsin’s friend tonight. The Badgers will have to content with Lydon – who Moore said has improved a lot since last year’s Wisconsin matchup – on both ends of the floor and adding White from Nebraska and Gillon from Colorado State have helped the Cuse deal with a veteran void on their roster. There’s also the matter of dealing with Howard, who has gone from having a minimal role last year as a freshman to leading the team in assists (6.4) and field goal percentage (58.6 percent).

Throw in a couple talented freshmen in Battle and Thompson along with a 7-2 Chukwu blocking at least two shots per game and it’s evident to see the problems this match-up creates.

“They’ve got a lot of challenges they present,” Moore said. “We’ve got to play smart, move the ball and play together.”

This game will say a lot about where Wisconsin is as a team this year. Syracuse is not quite the elite opponent North Carolina is or Creighton is getting close to being, but the Orange are good and can do some damage in league play.

If UW’s young team could beat a talented Syracuse team on the road last year, there’s no reason to think a more veteran Badgers team can’t beat the Orange again in Madison. It won’t be easy, but Wisconsin wins by seven.

Worgull's Record: 5-2

Points off Prediction: 85 (12.1 per game)

 

 


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