MADISON — No. 11 Wisconsin turned a six-point halftime deficit into a much needed double-digit win on Sunday, snapping a two-game losing streak by beating No. 23 Maryland 71-60 at the Kohl Center.
“I thought guys, especially in the second half, answered the bell, so to speak,” coach Greg Gard said of his team’s effort.
After managing to hit just 28 percent of their shots in the first half, the Badgers saw Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ shoot a combined 9 of 15 after the break on their way to making 51.5 percent from the field in the second half. Add in the fact they turned the ball over just once in the final 20 minutes and limited Maryland to just eight made field goals, and it was clear why they were successful.
“That was more like (who) this team is,” Gard said.
Hayes, two days after saying he needed to be more assertive and step his game up, did just that, scoring a game-high 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds — his second double-double in Big Ten play. Nine of his points came at the free throw line, an indication of his aggressiveness.
“We’re not the best outside shooting team, currently,” said Hayes, who was 0 of 2 from 3-point range on a team that made just 2 of their 12 shots from deep. “I tried to do my best to get to the rim, try to draw some fouls.”
Happ scored 20 points and added seven rebounds despite dealing with foul trouble in the second half.
But the biggest lift may have come in the form of Bronson Koenig. Wisconsin prepared like they wouldn’t have the senior guard for a second straight game due to a calf injury, but he ended up coming off the bench and played 31 minutes.
His first make, a 3-pointer, tied the game at 36 with 16:29 left. The next time down the court he hit a jumper to give the Badgers a 38-36 lead. He made two more shots later in the game and finished with nine points, all in the second half.
“It was great for him to get back in the flow of things,” senior Zak Showalter said of Koenig. “He’s had five days off so he was a little bit slow but it was good to see him come in and contribute.”
Koenig wasn’t the only one off the bench to help. Redshirt freshman Brevin Pritzl, who didn’t play a minute in the loss to Michigan on Thursday, gave the Badgers seven points and seven rebounds, including five on the offensive end, which led to six second-chance points for Wisconsin.
Maryland was paced by Melo Trimble’s 27 points, but the junior guard didn’t play in the final 4:32, with coach Mark Turgeon saying he was tired, pointing to five missed free throws during the game.
The win leaves Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) in a tie with Purdue atop the Big Ten with four games to play.
The Badgers next to contests are on the road, with a trip to Ohio State on Thursday and a visit to Michigan State on Sunday.
— Former Wisconsin running back James White was honored during the game for his performance in Super Bowl LI. He caught a Super Bowl-record 14 passes and scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime to help the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons and win their second title in three years.
— Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was in attendance, sitting behind the Wisconsin bench. He was recognized during the game as well as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
— Former Wisconsin forward Duje Dukan, currently playing with the Chicago Bulls’ D-League team, was also at the game.