For the second consecutive season, the Wisconsin Badgers got a big, resume-boosting win against Syracuse in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. However, unlike last time, the result of this game was never in question. Wisconsin got off to a lead early, and never surrendered it, winning 77-60.
The Badgers were led by Ethan Happ’s 24 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists. Bronson Koenig contributed 20 points of his own, finally breaking out of his three-point shooting slump. Nigel Hayes also had his best performance of the season, posting nine points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds.
On the other side, Syracuse was not able to get much going on offense against a very stout Wisconsin defense. They only shot 38% from the feild, and their leading scorer, Nebraska transfer Andrew White III, was only 5-15 shooting.
- Despite only scoring nine points, Nigel Hayes had one of his best performances in a long, long time. The offense ran through him today, and he abused the Syracuse zone with his passing from the high post. He also did a great job crashing the offensive glass. This is what Nigel Hayes can be when he plays inside instead of settling for perimeter shots. Hopefully, we’ll see him play more like this against man-to-man as well.
- It was cool to see Greg Gard put Nigel Hayes back in the game to try to get one more point for a triple-double. Unfortunately, Hayes missed the free throw. However, that shouldn’t take anything away from how good he was today. After all, not everyone can be Josh Gasser.
- Bronson Koenig shot 39% from three-point range last year, and over 40% the year before. So it was quite obvious his 25% shooting from deep wasn’t going to last. He picked a good day to break out of his slump, hitting six of nine threes against the vaunted Syracuse zone.
- The Badgers put on a clinic against the zone today. If you are a coach and want to teach your team how to beat a zone defense, just show this game. The Badgers moved the ball to perfection. They got the ball to Hayes on the high post, and when the defense collapsed on him, he dumped it to an open Happ down low. Pure, textbook zone offense.
- We already knew the Wisconsin Basketball program was in good hands with Greg Gard, but games like this reinforce that belief. Wisconsin was horrible against the zone when they played Creighton earlier this season. Today, the game plan and execution was terrific. Gard is really good at adjusting from one game to the next, and today was a great example.
- Wisconsin’s frontcourt depth was thought to be one of the strengths of the team coming in to the season, but it has been very underwhelming so far. Khalil Iverson is a really good player, but his inability to shoot keeps him on the bench against zone defenses. Meanwhile, Charlie Thomas and Alex Illikainen have not been good at all this season. Neither provides much on offense, and both constantly make silly mistakes on defense. The drop-off from the frontcourt starters to the frontcourt substitutes is huge.