Wisconsin has found itself in dogfights before, winning four of its last six games by single digits. That trend continued on Thursday night, as defense won the day again for Wisconsin in a 70-69 overtime win over Nebraska.
It sure wasn’t pretty on offense, as the Badgers shot just 37 percent from the field and just 8 of 22 from beyond the arc.
Nigel Hayes got Wisconsin over the finish line though, pouring in 20 points on 6 of 9 shooting and 7 of 11 from the free throw line. He also hit the game-winning shot, knocking down a triple from the top of the key with the shot clock running out and just under 20 seconds remaining in overtime.
Hayes got some help after that, as Ethan Happ made his big case for Defensive Player of the Year with a block on the ensuing Nebraska possession. He also grabbed the loose ball and was able to call a time out.
The sophomore then made sure Wisconsin would come away with its seventh-straight victory. Happ ended the game with just eight points on 3 of 9 shooting, but was effective elsewhere with a game-high 14 rebounds, one block and steal.
Despite the craziness of the end of this game, it was certainly ugly for much of the night on both ends of the court.
The two teams combined for 47 total personal fouls, shot a combined 38.2 percent from the field and combined for 35 turnovers (22 from Nebraska). So, perhaps it was only fitting that this game went right down to the wire.
It also went down to the wire because of Wisconsin’s inability to take advantage of great defensive play early on in this one. Scoring droughts were the story of the first half for UW.
At first it was a 4:12 scoring drought. But, turnovers by Nebraska kept game in Wisconsin’s favor. Despite the extended scoring drought, the score never got closer than 14-11 with 10:28 to play in the first half.
That was followed by the Badgers mustering only 11 points in the final 10 minutes of the half. It didn’t help that UW suffered a second extended scoring drought, as it took nearly three minutes to get from 21 to 23 points.
In that time, Nebraska made another big run at the Badgers, pulling within three points again at 21-18 with 5:02 to play in the half. Khalil Iverson ended the Badgers scoring drought with a beautiful spin move and a lay-in to go up 23-18.
But, no one outside of Vitto Brown seemed to be able really get anything going offensively in the first half.
Brown led all Badgers with all seven of his points in the first half. The rest of the starters combined for just 14 points, while UW shot just 9 of 29 from the field as a team in the first half.
The good news is that Nebraska couldn’t get it going either, shooting just 10 of 29 from the field and turning the ball over 11 times. Nebraska also couldn’t do much with 10 offensive rebounds, turning them in to just three second-chance points in the first half.
Given the close nature of bad play from both teams it wasn’t surprising to see UW leading just 25-24 at intermission.
Things looked like they would change early on in the second half, with the Badgers opening the period 5 of 10 from the field. However that wasn’t going to stay and UW’s offense continued to struggle to find consistency.
Hayes was about the only on the Badgers could count on, as he poured in 15 of his 17 points in regulation in the second half. None of those points were bigger than the jumper he hit with under 15 seconds remaining to put UW up 58-55…that is until overtime.
However, Michael Jacobson hit a three with just .3 seconds left in the game to send it in to overtime. That was made possible by Wisconsin choosing not to foul up three.
It was only fitting that the two would just slug it out in overtime, and that it would be Hayes that would figure in the final score.
He would hit a three-pointer with just under 20 seconds left to put Wisconsin up 70-69..and the rest is history.
The Badgers return home for a tricky weekend affair with Northwestern, who was red-hot before dropping the last two games against Purdue and Illinois. Tip is scheduled for 5:30p.m. on Sunday on BTN.