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Badgers Basketball: BadgerNation grades Wisconsin's 84-74 win over Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament

BadgerNation analyzes the game and hands out the grades from eighth-seed Wisconsin's 84-74 victory over ninth-seed Virginia Tech Thursday.

Offense: A

A back-and-forth game finally went Wisconsin way because Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes were able to make a critical bucket to keep a Virginia Tech run at bay. Koenig scored a career-high 28 points, Hayes added 16 and the duo were responsible for 31 of Wisconsin’s 50 second-half points on a combined 8-for-16 shooting from the field. 

Hayes was quiet in the first half offensively but he scored 14 points in the second half in large part by drawing contact and getting to the free throw line. The senior went 8-for-9 from the line and created a couple of and-one opportunities for himself in the second half.

Wisconsin also received scoring contributions from Khalil Iverson (11 points) and Ethan Happ (10). After missing the last two games due to deaths in his family, Iverson’s 11 points was his first game in double figures since Feb.16 at Michigan. In particular the majority of Iverson’s points came via the free throw line as he was consistently looking to attack the lane. His aggressiveness paid off by attempting a team-high 10 free throws and making seven. Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown rounded out the starters scoring with six and five points, respectively, as Wisconsin finished the game shooting 26-for-60 (43.3 percent) from the field and 13-for-31 (41.9 percent) from three. 

The 13 threes tied a season-high and it was the fourth time over the last five games Wisconsin made at least 10 threes. Koenig was simply phenomenal from the perimeter with his ability to create the space to receive a pass and separation he needed in order to knock down his shots. Wisconsin shot 7-for-13 from three over the last 20 minutes, but Koenig was responsible for a majority of that production by going 5-for-9. 

Even if Wisconsin couldn’t knock down shots, they consistently found a way to track down misses with 17 offensive rebounds. Wisconsin took advantage of its size inside by converting 18 second-chance points. Hayes, Happ, and Iverson were responsible for 13 of Wisconsin’s 17 offensive rebounds. 

Defense: B-

Wisconsin’s offense was able to make the winning plays down the stretch, but at the same time Wisconsin needed to string a couple of defensive possessions together in order to build a lead. UW’s defense was spotty throughout the game, allowing too much dribble penetration, points at the rim and fouls that led to points at the free throw line, but the Badgers mustered some stops late. 

After Tech senior Zach LeDay cut Wisconsin’s lead to one with 5:38 to go, making the Hokies 12-for-18 from the field, Wisconsin held the Hokies without a field goal on their eight attempts for the remainder of the game. The final six points for Virginia Tech came from the free throw line. 

LeDay was able to keep Virginia Tech within striking distance by scoring 17 of his 23 points in the second half. The Badgers didn’t have an answer for him when he got the basketball down low, as he was able to draw the foul or create a 3-point play opportunity for himself. LeDay finished 7-for-10 from the free throw line. 

LeDay was one of four players to reach double figures. Ty Outlaw was second with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, Justin Robins was third with 11 points (nine coming from the line) and Seth Allen finished with 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting. Overall Virginia Tech finished the game 23-for-49 (46.9 percent) from the field. 

Virginia Tech entered the game making at least 10 3-pointers in six of its last eight games but the Badgers held them to 7-for-17 (41.2 percent) from three. Wisconsin was able to do a good job of making sure the Hokies weren’t going to consistently generate open looks from the perimeter, able to rotate and switch screens to prevent any uncontested looks. Although Wisconsin being able to take one aspect away from Virginia Tech’s offense, the Hokies had success in the paint with 32 points down low. 

Despite the constant penetration in the lane, the Badgers limited Virginia Tech to six offensive rebounds and 10 second-chance points, as Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 37-25. 

Overall: B+

After the way Wisconsin shot the ball in the second half against Michigan, it was good to see the offense bounce back to keep its season alive. Wisconsin was able to build its lead to as much as seven points but could never create enough breathing room with the Hokies consistently making a run to cut the lead to one possession. Credit the combination of Koenig and Hayes, who were able to prevent Wisconsin from going home by scoring 10 of Wisconsin’s last 15 points (five points each).

Able to work the ball around on offense consistently found the best shot, as the Badgers finished with 19 assists on 26 made field goals. The Hokies couldn’t disrupt Wisconsin’s rhythm on offense, and the Badgers did well of only creating eight turnovers that turned into eight Virginia Tech points. Wisconsin’s starting frontcourt was responsible for six of the Badgers’ eight miscues. 

The play of Iverson in the first half was strong and helped Wisconsin take a 34-30 lead into halftime. From the minute he stepped onto the floor, Iverson was aggressive hunting for his shot and generating contact to get to the free throw line. Iverson’s play gave Wisconsin a spark, as three of his team-leading five rebounds in the first half allowed Wisconsin to keep possessions alive. Iverson finished the game with seven rebounds and three assists. 

Iverson’s last assist came with 2:08 to go in the game by feeding Hayes in the paint, resulting in a 3-point play opportunity to put Wisconsin up 77-73. The assist by Iverson proved to be what Wisconsin needed in order to create the necessary separation.   

Game MVPs: Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes.

Both seniors played really good games. Koenig’s ability to knock down the perimeter shot helped open up the paint for Hayes and the rest of Wisconsin’s frontcourt, as the Badgers finished with 26 points in the paint. The 28 points by Koenig marked a new career high and it was his ninth game of reaching 20 points this season. Koenig also did a good job of setting up his teammates, as he finished the game with three assists to one turnover. 

Hayes was able to do a little bit of everything for Wisconsin and while he went 4-for-10 from the floor, he got half of his 16 points by going 8-for-9 from the free throw line. His made free throws were important, but Hayes was able to come down with some important rebounds to help pull out the win. Over the last 5:38 of the game, Hayes was responsible for five (two offensive, three defensive) of Wisconsin’s 11 rebounds to make sure the Hokies didn’t take the lead back. Overall Hayes finished the game with 10 rebounds, giving him his third straight double-double.  

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