You reap what you sow.
The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team pounded the basketball inside against an overmatched Prairie View A&M team and reaped the benefits of doing so, as the Badgers defeated the Panthers 95-50 Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center.
Senior forward Nigel Hayes served as the catalyst in the Badgers’ offensive post endeavors. By halftime, Hayes had 13 points, on 4-for-4 shooting. He did not attempt a 3-pointer and got to the free throw line six times in the first half.
From tip-off, it was clear Hayes was on a mission to be effective down low. He was coming off a somewhat disappointing performance in the Maui Invitational, where he shot just 32 percent and made just one of his seven 3-point attempts against North Carolina in the tournament’s championship game. Hayes was active on the offensive glass early, establishing a home in the paint for the duration of the afternoon. He hauled in two offensive rebounds in the game’s first four minutes, including a one-handed put back dunk.
Hayes finished with 17 points, converting all of five of his field goal attempts, and went 7-for-8 from the free throw line after entering Sunday’s game shooting just 62 percent from there.
“I just wanted to shoot layups,” Hayes said after the game.
As a team, UW shot 60 percent from the field during the game’s first 20 minutes, including 15-for-19 from shots inside the 3-point arc. Senior guard Bronson Koenig was perfect from two-point range (5-for-5) during the first half, when he scored all 11 of his points. The Badgers outscored the Panthers 24-6 in the paint to build a halftime lead of 47-27, using a 12-0 run and a five-minute scoreless streak from Prairie View to do so.
UW head coach Greg Gard said his team displayed smart decision-making on when to throw the ball down low and that Hayes’ performance signaled his potential.
“That’s who he can be when he locks into that type of mode,” Gard said.
The 95 points scored was the highest total for the Badgers in this young season and marked the first time UW reached the 90-point benchmark in a game since Nov. 15, 2015, a win against Siena.
Redshirt sophomore forward Ethan Happ contributed a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Fifth-year senior guard Zak Showalter turned up his outside shooting in the second half, finishing 3-of-5 from three on the afternoon and scoring 11 points.
“It’s a lot easier after making one, obviously,” Showalter said. “I just wanted to see the ball go through the rim and get my confidence back up a little bit.
“We got a lot better shots, some easy ones around the rim, finished with contact. When we can do that, I think that’s when we’re playing our best basketball.”
Sophomore guard Kahlil Iverson and freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice each added 10 points.
The Panthers shot 37 percent from the field on the game, compared to UW’s 56 percent, and managed a season low in points scored. Junior Zachary Hamilton led the team with 15 points.
Wisconsin turned the ball over 11 times. UW has now suffered double-digit turnovers in the first seven games of the season.