It was a three-man show on offense for Wisconsin, as the trio of Nigel Hayes (24 points), Zak Showalter (16) and Ethan Happ (14) combined to score 54 of Wisconsin’s 73 points. All three shot above 50 percent with Happ and Showalter shooting 63.6 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Overall Wisconsin shot 27-for-58 (46.6 percent) from the field and 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) from three.
With Wisconsin only making one of four 3-point attempts in the second half, the Badgers wisely decided to make sure they were able to consistently create post touches. It’s a plan that worked effectively considering the Badgers finished the game with 34 points down low and 22 in the second half.
Not surprising Happ was one of the reasons for the low-post success, as the Phoenix struggled to find a way to slow the sophomore down on his way to a ninth straight game in double figures. With Wisconsin shooting 55.5 percent from the field in the second half, there weren’t many opportunities for Happ to come down with an offensive rebound. Tied with Showalter for the team lead with two, Happ finished the game with 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
Despite the Phoenix supplying pressure, Wisconsin effectively took care of the ball with only nine turnovers. While UW made some turnovers that were easily avoidable, the Phoenix only managed 10 points off of Wisconsin’s miscues. There were three players for Wisconsin who tied for the team lead with two turnovers. One was D'Mitrik Trice, who had six of the 11 bench points. Trice finished 2-for-5 from the field.
One of the keys for Wisconsin’s defense against Green Bay was to find a way to slow Trevor Anderson, who entered the game averaging 12.1 points a contest. Thanks to Wisconsin’s defense, the Badgers held him to a season-low three points on 1-for-6 shooting. Showalter was one of the primary defenders guarding him and did a terrific job of making sure the freshman couldn’t get comfortable or develop a rhythm.
In particular Showalter was able to play aggressive defense to register six of Wisconsin’s 13 steals. It was Showalter’s fifth straight game with a steal and his third straight game where he had at least two steals. The 13 steals were a season-high for Wisconsin and the aggressive defense forced a total of 19 turnovers. Wisconsin did a great job by turning them into 22 points.
What stood out about the defense was the Badgers were able to consistently play clean without fouling. Even with Wisconsin consistently attacking and fighting for loose balls, the Badgers avoided the easy fouls and drew only 15 whistles. That prevented Green Bay from generating points with the clock stopped, going only 7-for-12 from the free throw line.
Overall Wisconsin held Green Bay to 40.4 percent (23-for-57) from the field and 6-for-19 (31.6 percent) from three. Kerem Kanter registered 18 points but Khalil Small (12) and Charles Cooper (10) were a combined 8-for-22 shooting from the field.
And while Wisconsin did give up 11 offensive rebounds, the Badgers held the Phoenix to four points and won the rebounding battle 35-34.
The trio of Hayes, Happ and Showalter played an efficient game for Wisconsin, which was needed considering the rest of the roster struggled from the field. Particularly Bronson Koenig, who registered six points on 1-for-9 shooting. The senior couldn’t establish the same kind of rhythm he has done in past games but still managed four assists and no turnovers.
The patience Wisconsin established on offense allowed them to go deeper in the shot clock and deliver the smart pass, finishing with 18 assists on 27 made field goals.
The Phoenix found ways to stay within striking distance in the first and second half, but there were two moments where Wisconsin was able to go on a substantial run. The first one was after a made layup by Small to cut Wisconsin’s lead to nine points with 7:12 to go in the first half. After that made field goal, the Phoenix didn’t register another field goal until 1:45 to go in the first half to cut UW’s lead to 12 points.
The second instance was in the second half with Wisconsin up 45-36 with 12:37 to go in the game, Wisconsin held the Phoenix without a field goal for five minutes, 25 seconds. By the time Small ended the scoring drought, Wisconsin was up 22 points and in control of the game. During Wisconsin’s 16-1 run, five different players for Wisconsin scored either by getting to the free throw line or generating a layup.
Having success in the paint also meant Wisconsin was able to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. Although Wisconsin drew 19 fouls, the Badgers’ struggles at the free throw line continued with the team going 14-for-21, including 11-for-17 (64.7 percent) over the last 20 minutes. Hayes led Wisconsin with 13 free throw attempts but only could knock down seven.
Game MVP: Zak Showalter. Showalter played an effective game on both sides of the floor. In particular Showalter’s work on defense stood out with his ability to slow Green Bay’s offense, particularly Anderson, and register six steals. Not to mention over Wisconsin’s scoring run in the second half, he registered two of steals and added four points. With Wisconsin struggling so mightily from three, Showalter was one of two Badgers to knock a three down and went 4-for-6 from distance. Showalter also finished the game with five rebounds, one block, one assist and a turnover.