Well, it wasn’t pretty, but the Badgers found a way to hang on against a scrappy UW-Green Bay squad in Greg Gard’s first game as interim head coach. Green Bay was only 6-5 on the season coming into the game, and they haven’t beat the Badgers since 2009. But the Phoenix wanted to prove themselves on the Badgers home court, and they fought hard to keep up with Wisconsin’s offense.

The Badgers got off to a hot start in the first half and built a nice lead, heading into the break up 48-27 despite consistent full-court pressure from the Phoenix. It was the Badgers highest first half scoring output of the season, which was the result of contributions around the board. They also managed to hold Green Bay’s high energy attack to only 27 in the first half.

It seemed like Coach Gard would be able to cruise to his first victory, but things took a different turn in the first half. Green Bay got hot behind the stellar play of guard Carrington Love, who led all scorers with 28 points. Wisconsin technically finished the game shooting 49% from the field, but they went cold down the stretch and, similar to other games this year, let a lesser opponent back into the game. Green Bay exploded for 52 in the second half and continued to find holes in this young Badger team’s defense.

The Badgers suffered an off night from their backcourt duo of Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter. Koenig only managed six points on 2-8 shooting, and he turned the ball over a disgusting eight times, one of which came on a crucial possession with under a minute left. Showalter fouled out and was largely outplayed by Jordan Hill, who was a surprising bright spot off the bench in easily his best game of the season. Hill had 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 22 minutes and hit a couple of huge free throws down the stretch.

Wisconsin was led by Vitto Brown, Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, all of whom scored in double figures, led by Hayes with 24 points on a very efficient shooting night. When Nigel plays like he did tonight, he is truly when of the best players in the nation, and his versatility is hard to match. It has often seemed like he has been trying to do to much throughout the season, but when he plays within himself like he did tonight, he’s hard to stop. He had a huge three point play that extended Wisconsin’s lead to six, Happ hit a big free throw, and Brown had a great stop followed up by a rebound that helped seal the game.

The Badgers may have hung on to the win, but they showed weaknesses along the way. Overall, this team still has so much to work on, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Coach Gard will have his hands full with this young team, but he seems like he’s up for the challenge. They need to stay focused and engaged in the second half and move their feet better defensively. We’ll see if Gard is up to the challenge.

Other Notes

  • Wisconsin led by 30 with 13 minutes left in the game.
  • The Badgers continued their strong rebounding success behind strong performances from Happ and Brown, outrebounding Green Bay 46-35.
  • The Badgers had an inexcusable 26 times on the game, their most on the season. Their season high was previously 20 against Syracuse.
  • Jordan Hill hadn’t scored in 27 minutes this season before going off for 10 tonight

 Sources:

uwbadgers.com

photo courtesy of foxsports.com

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