MADISON – Water eventually returned to its level for the University of Wisconsin.
When it appeared another cold-shooting afternoon was in store, the 11th-ranked Badgers broke the spell with a big second half to run away from Maryland in a 71-60 victory at the Kohl Center.
Nigel Hayes scored 21 points with 10 rebounds and Ethan Happ added 20 for Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten), which broke a two-game losing streak to tie Purdue at the top of the conference standings with four games to go.
Wisconsin shot 28 percent in the first half and averaged .750 points per possession, but the Badgers executed a 13-2 run shortly after halftime that helped them regain some offensive balance. Bronson Koenig – coming off the bench for the first time since his sophomore year – hit a pair of long-range jumpers to stretch the defense, allowing Happ to go to work inside with three low-post baskets.
The Badgers shot 51.5 percent in the second half – their best shooting finishing half since shooting 55.6 percent Jan.24 - while averaging 1.42 points per possession.
Melo Trimble led all scorers with 27 points and his ability to draw fouls ended up causing the Badgers to put five different players over the course of the half, starting with lock-down defender Zak Showalter to Khalil Iverson all the way down to UW’s reserve guards
The result was Trimble going 1-for-4 from the floor with four turnovers in the first 17 minutes to hitting his last three shots – two from 3-point range – to help the Terps (22-5, 10-4) close the first half on a 6-0 run.
Trailing 53-44 with 8:43 remaining, Trimble scored straight points for the Terrapins on three possessions but the 82.8 percent free throw shooter missed the front end of the bonus. UW cashed them in and then some, as the Badgers’ 8-0 run put them up 12 with 4:41 remaining.
After not playing Thursday, redshirt freshman Brevin Pritzl delivered spark with his hustle. He turned an offensive rebound off a missed free throw into two points and out hustled Trimble for an errant pass in the first half, tracking it down in time to throw it off the junior guard before he flew into the cheer squad. He finished with seven points, a new career-high.
Making his second career start, true freshman D'Mitrik Trice responded from a 2-for-15 performance with seven points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Wisconsin hits the road for its final two conference games of the season, starting at Ohio State Thursday night.
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