No Big Ten team has come into Creighton’s home court and escaped with a victory since 1978, and that streak stood Tuesday night as the No. 9 Badgers fell 79-67.
Creighton came out the gates and hit Wisconsin in the mouth before the reeling Badgers could find their feet. Less than two minutes from tipoff, the Badgers found themselves in an 8-0 hole after Creighton nailed back-to-back 3-pointers.
Wisconsin senior point guard Bronson Koenig finally answered with a 3-pointer to put the Badgers on the board and slow down the Creighton tempo that had ignited a deafening Bluejay crowd.
UW managed to tie the game at 11 behind a quick rally from Badger senior forward Nigel Hayes. Hayes hit his first three attempts from the floor, including back-to-back threes of his own to put the Badgers right back into the thick of it.
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The Bluejays would go pound-for-pound with Wisconsin through the 10-minute mark in the first half, keeping things close at 20-20. Creighton had a chance to get the crowd on their feet on a breakaway opportunity for a slam dunk, but an indecisive Marcus Foster couldn’t finish at the rim with a wide open look.
Badger freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice gave Wisconsin a spark immediately off the bench when he cashed a 3-pointer to give his team the three-point edge with around eight minutes before the half.
Hayes would follow suit on the next possession with another basket from behind the arc, which would count as the Badgers’ eighth 3-pointer of the first half. For those who are familiar with Wisconsin basketball’s traditional style of play, living by the deep ball is almost taboo for the Badgers.
With five minutes left before the first half, Wisconsin had taken 17 total attempts with 13 of those being threes. While UW had made a remarkably high eight of these 13 attempts, that kind of offensive imbalance simply isn’t sustainable, and the Badgers would learn this the hard way.
Creighton rallied from its biggest deficit of the game — eight points — to pass the Badgers 33-30 at halftime thanks to a momentous dunk by junior guard Foster on a failed defensive assignment by Hayes beneath the rim.
Since their red-hot start with 8-13 from downtown, the Badgers closed the first half with 12 consecutive misses from three. The shooting drought rendered Wisconsin scoreless through the final four minutes and 42 seconds of first half. Meanwhile, Creighton built a 13-2 run over the last seven minutes before the whistle.
The second half was much of the same for both teams as Wisconsin and Creighton traded blows until nine minutes remaining. The one exception: Hayes’ offensive boost for the Badgers was contained, with his first bucket coming almost halfway through the second half.
Wisconsin sophomore forward Ethan Happ was M.I.A. for the Badgers down low, largely in part to being called for two travels on offense in the second half and three on the night.
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The turning point in the game happened with seven minutes remaining, when Creighton snagged three consecutive offensive rebounds before kicking it out to the corner for an uncontested three ball. Only seconds later, Creighton’s Thomas picked Koenig’s pocket before converting on an and-one basket on the other end.
On the next possession, it was Thomas again who all but sealed the Badgers’ fate after burying a contested three ball to give the Bluejays an 11-point advantage with five minutes and some change on the clock.
The Badgers gave it their best shot to respond, but the deficit proved too much as Wisconsin’s deep ball simply wasn’t falling in the final two minutes. The Badgers finished 11 for 39 total from three-point range, with their leading scorer (Koenig) going 3 for 13 from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin looks to rebound at home Thursday night against Chicago State University at 7 p.m. in the Kohl Center.