Entering the night, Nebraska was allowing 76.6 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting from the field and 45.5 percent from three. It appeared Nebraska was a good opponent for Wisconsin to help get its offense back on track, but the end result was the Huskers holding the Badgers below its defensive season averages over Big Ten play.
Nebraska’s active defense held Wisconsin’s offense to 70 points (58 in regulation) on 36.5 percent (23-for-63) from the field and 36.4 percent (8-for-22) from three. The poor shooting displayed by Wisconsin was a combination of how active Nebraska was defensively disrupting Wisconsin’s offensive rhythm and the Badgers continuing to shoot poorly.
Three players for Wisconsin reached double figures with Nigel Hayes leading the way with 20 points, his fifth 20-point game this season and his third in Big Ten play. Zak Showalter was second with 15 points, his first game in double figures since the road win at Indiana. In fact Hayes and Showalter were the only players for Wisconsin to shoot the ball effectively, as Hayes finished 6-for-9 and Showalter went 4-for-8.
The eight points by Happ broke a six game streak of him reaching double figures but the sophomore still was able to be active on the glass with 14 rebounds (six offensive rebounds). Happ was able to consistently get his hands on missed shots or tip them back out to one of his teammates. Brown was second to Happ with three offensive rebounds. Wisconsin collected 15 offensive rebounds, which they turned into 13 points.
Leading the conference in steals per Big Ten game, Nebraska registered eight steals and forced 13 turnovers. Even though Wisconsin struggled to take care of the ball, the Badgers allowed the Huskers to only generate 10 points off the mistakes
Wisconsin was able to survive its offensive struggles by making things difficult on the Huskers’ offense, which finished shooting 40 percent (24-for-60) from the field (4-for-6 in overtime). The Badgers utilized a combination of Hayes, Brown, Showalter and bench players to defend Tai Webster to mostly good results, as he led Nebraska with 19 points but went 6-for-18 from the field. In particular Wisconsin’s defense did a good job of doing its best to take Webster out of his offensive rhythm in the second half and overtime session, as he shot 4-for-13 for 13 points over that stretch.
What helped Wisconsin disrupt Nebraska’s rhythm was the fact that Wisconsin forced 22 turnovers, doing a good job of being active in the low block and cutting off passing lanes to generate nine steals. Of the 10 Badgers who played, seven registered at least one steal. Showalter and Brown tied for the team lead with two steals as Wisconsin was able to cash the Huskers’ mistakes into 15 points.
Although Wisconsin was able to create turnovers, the Badgers did struggle to keep Nebraska off the offensive glass. Nebraska entered the game as one of the more effective offensive rebounding teams over conference play and it was on full display against Wisconsin’s veteran lineup.
Able to effectively box out and find ways to generate a second chance, Nebraska secured 20 offensive rebounds against Wisconsin, a season-high against the Badgers, and won the rebounding battle 50-37. Even so, the Badger defense were able to hold the Huskers to only seven second chance points and limit high quality looks inside. UW allowed only 24 points in the paint and forced perimeter shots, as the Huskers finished 6-for-14 (42.9 percent) from three.
Wisconsin continues to struggle with its shot but the Badgers still find ways to win. After shooting 31.1 percent (9-for-29) from the field in the first half, the Badgers were able to establish a little more offensive rhythm in the second and upped their shooting percentage to 40.7 percent (11-for-27) from the field.
In particular Wisconsin continues to find a way to hit the big shot when they need to. Showalter made big 3-pointers in the second half and in overtime to twice give Wisconsin a lead, not to mention Hayes’ turnaround jumper in the second half to put Wisconsin up three with 14 seconds to go.
Despite Wisconsin playing with a lead for most of the game, the Badgers never found a way to go on one final run to put Nebraska away for good. The Huskers made the Badgers pay for allowing them to hang around with a late three by Michael Jacobson, who had only made three of his 3-point attempts until his shot sent the game into overtime.
Even with Nebraska playing in front for most of overtime, Wisconsin never wavered and found a way to grind out its eighth straight victory. Hitting the shots they needed to down the stretch, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 0-for-3 from the field in overtime, Koenig led the way with five overtime points.
Although Happ did not score in overtime, he came up with two big defensive plays over Nebraska’s final two offensive possessions. After Hayes’ 3-pointer put Wisconsin up 70-69, Happ was able to block a shot from a driving Webster and have the presence of mind to grab the loose ball to call a timeout before falling out of bounds.
The second smart defensive play occurred after Hayes missed his two free throw attempts, as Happ made sure he didn’t allow Nebraska to get one final shot off by poking the ball away from Jacobson to help seal the game for Wisconsin.
D'Mitrik Trice didn’t score but forced a critical jump ball – a Nebraska turnover – with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. Instead of giving Nebraska a chance to take a one-point lead, the Badgers extended the lead to three with 14 seconds left, critical considering Jacobson’s 3-pointer.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. With Wisconsin searching for offensive consistency, the Badgers’ experienced senior supplied it. After only scoring two points in seven first-half minutes because of foul trouble, Hayes came out aggressive looking for his shot and was responsible for scoring 15 of Wisconsin’s 33 points in the second half. Taking what Nebraska gave him, Hayes went 5-for-7 from the field and found his way to the free throw line, going 5-for-7 in the second half. With Nebraska doing a good job of taking Happ away in the paint with double teams, Hayes was able to pick up the slack to help Wisconsin finish the game with 26 points in the paint. Although Hayes had a productive game in the paint, he hit his biggest shot of the game in overtime to finally put Wisconsin up for good. That was Hayes’ lone attempt from three and it certainly was a timely one.