The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team rolled to a 77-60 win over Syracuse Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.
The UW offense demonstrated little issue with the famous Syracuse 3-2 zone that has been a staple of the program for decades. Senior forward Nigel Hayes’ presence at the free throw line facilitated the rest of the offense, as he set a career high in assists with 10. Ethan Happ was the offensive firepower for the Badgers, though. The redshirt sophomore forward’s 24-point, 13-rebound performance led Wisconsin in both categories.
Senior guard Bronson Koenig was 6-for-9 from 3-point land on the way to 20 points in 27 minutes. With him on the floor, the Badgers were +31 in the scoring margin.
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Wisconsin Player of the Game: Ethan Happ
Syracuse’s defense had no answer for Happ’s performance, filled with impressive post moves and one-handed slam dunks. It was Happ’s second consecutive double-double. Of his 13 rebounds, six came on the offensive glass. As a team, the Badgers had 18 second-chance points, compared to Syracuse’s eight.
From the field, Happ shot 10 of 12. Happ has established himself as a bit of a Syracuse killer. Last season, Happ had 18 points during Wisconsin’s overtime victory.
Syracuse Player of the Game: Andrew White III
White made four out of nine 3-pointers on his way to leading the Orange with 14 points. He also tied for the team-high with five rebounds.
Hayes guarded White in the second half and did not allow him to be comfortable. It wasn’t the most efficient night for the graduate transfer from Nebraska, as he went 5-for-15 from the field. Regardless, his shooting kept Syracuse in the game at halftime.
Unsung Hero: Nigel Hayes
Hayes was one point away from becoming the second player in UW history with a triple-double. Josh Gasser accomplished the feat Jan. 23, 2011 at Northwestern.
He had his chance to etch his name into the record books when he stepped to the foul line in the final minute, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and expressed his despair on the court.
Nonetheless, Hayes was masterful Tuesday night. He distributed from the foul line all night to shooters on the wings, which resulted in a career-high 10 assists. He also had 11 rebounds, with five of those being offensive rebounds. Fourteen of UW’s 40 rebounds came of off its own missed shots.
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Turning Point: 15-2 run to start the second half
Wisconsin led big in the first half, but the Orange’s charge before halftime cut the Badgers to 43-39 at the break.
Koenig had two 3-pointers, Happ had six points including a monster jam and Vitto Brown added a three pointer to make it 58-41 not even six minutes into the second half. From there, UW didn’t look back.
When You Knew It Was Over:
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim humorously explains his zone defense: “You come to one of my clinics and I’ll try to explain it to you. Takes about two hours … It’s not that easy to explain. It’s not an easy defense to explain. If it was, it wouldn’t be a very good defense. I guess it wasn’t very good tonight. Who knows.”
Greg Gard on his pregame message: “I gave them some story in the pregame about going fishing: don’t take the bait, meaning too many threes too early would be taking it hook, line and sinker. Don’t take it hook, line and sinker … As goofy as the story was, at least it stuck.”
Nigel Hayes on his missed free throw: “I was close to a triple-double. Something fishy happened when I go the last rebound and everybody screamed really loud. So I’m like, ‘Why is everyone screaming?’ Then when I came out, the guys were all running up to me like, ‘You need one point,’ so when I got back in, I was like, ‘I don’t really want this free throw.’ I just didn’t want that pressure right there. As you saw, I missed that free throw. It was just too much. If I just stayed in and not have known that was this close to a triple-double, I would’ve made the two free throws. But the fact that I knew it, it was the hardest free throw of my life. I’m extremely distraught right now. I’m almost close to tears. I think Josh (Gasser) is happy though, because he’s still the lone triple-doubler, if that’s a phrase I can use. But you know, I will always just take the win. Stats are fine and dandy, but to know that it was literally one free throw away really hurt. That’s pretty much just all I can take. I’m just down in the dumps. Just sad. But, I’ve got good teammates … really I’m just sad. I’m just really hurt. I was really that close. I know that my sister is going to text me. She’s going to give it to me, I know she is. She’s not going to let me live this one down.”