LINCOLN, Neb. – With his teammates still in a shooting fog, Nigel Hayes broke free from his own offensive prison with 20 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime, to push No.7 Wisconsin’s winning streak to eight with a 70-69 overtime victory over Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Senior Zak Showalter added 15 points to help the Badgers (21-3, 10-1 Big Ten) win their eighth straight overtime game and lead Purdue by 1.5 games with seven to go.
In an overtime session that had six lead changes and two ties, Wisconsin needed everything from a four-point play from Showalter and a 3-point bank shot from Bronson Koenig (12 points, 4-for-13) to keep afloat on a night the team shot 23-for-63 (36.5 percent) and 8-for-22 (36.4 percent) from 3-point range.
Hayes was the main means of offense for the Badgers after halftime, scoring 15 points in the second half, but saved his biggest shot on a feed from Koenig, splashing a 3-pointer with 18.4 seconds remaining.
UW did it with defense from there. Being switched out for offense down the stretch because of his free throw shooting, Ethan Happ's final bucket came with 9:40 remaining and finished with eight points and 14 rebounds, but blocked Tai Webster (team-high 19 points) on a drive to the rim, secured the rebound and called timeout with 3.3 seconds left.
After Hayes missed a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left, Happ knocked the ball out of Michael Jacobson’s hand just before time expired for the 22nd turnover by the Huskers (10-14, 4-8).
A game in which Wisconsin led or didn’t trail for the first 34-plus minutes turned into a nail biter for the Badgers’ seeing a three minutes, 18 second scoreless drought spur a 9-0 Huskers run to lead 52-49 with 4:18 remaining.
That’s when Showalter helped bring UW back. Two made free throws cut the lead to one and two possessions later, with the game tied at 53, Showalter hit a 3-pointer with one second left on the shot clock to give the Badgers a 56-53 lead with 1:58 remaining.
UW appeared poise to escape with a victory with Hayes hit a fade-away jumper 10.6 seconds left, but the Huskers got a reprieve when Jacobson hit a 3-pointer with 0.3 remaining, Nebraska’s first field goal since the 5:06 mark of the half and Jacobson’s first attempted 3-pointer since Dec. 28.
Wisconsin returns home for its lone regular season meeting against Northwestern (18-6, 7-4) Sunday evening.
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