Happ, Koenig, Hayes and Showalter earn All-Big Ten recognition

MADISON — Wisconsin’s season didn’t end with a Big Ten regular season title, but several players still earned recognition for their work during the conference season when the All-Big Ten teams were announced Monday.

Forward Ethan Happ was a first-team pick by the coaches and media, becoming just the second Wisconsin sophomore to earn the honor, joining Michael Finley. Happ led the Badgers in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals per game, while finishing second in points. His selection also makes it four straight years where the Badgers have at least one All-Big Ten first-team player.

Senior Bronson Koenig was named to the second-team by the coaches after leading Wisconsin at 14.2 points per game during the season, including 17 in his final home game on Sunday against Minnesota. Koenig was a third-team pick by the media.

In his final season, Nigel Hayes earned third-team honors from both the coaches and the media after scoring 13.5 points and grabbing 6.2 rebounds per game.

Happ and senior Zak Showalter were named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team, the second time for Happ and the first for Showalter. Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring defense at 61.4 points per game.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, with Michigan State’s Malcom Bridges earning Freshman of the Year honors and Minnesota’s Richard Pitino picking up the Coach of the Year award.

The full list of award winners can be found here.

Wisconsin falls at Michigan State

Nigel Hayes scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but No. 16 Wisconsin fell for a second straight game, this time 84-74 at Michigan State on Sunday.

The Badgers got out to a solid start, leading 10-4, but the Spartans would score 15 of the next 19 points to take a lead they would not relinquish. Center Nick Ward scored a team-high 22 points for Michigan State, while forward Miles Bridges added 17 and guard Matt McQuaid came off the bench to contribute 15.

Wisconsin’s issues were aplenty, including going just 13 of 25 from the foul line, making a brutal 14 of 31 layups and allowing 80-plus points in back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since 1993. It all led to the Badgers fourth loss in their last five games.

Hayes’ afternoon, which also included four assists and solid defense on Bridgers, overshadowed by a 4 of 12 effort from the foul line.

Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter played well offensively, scoring 15 points, including three 3-pointers, while Bronson Koenig went for 17 points (1 of 9 on 3-pointers).

The Badgers leading scorer coming in, sophomore Ethan Happ, had just eight points but did grab 11 boards.

The loss leaves Wisconsin (22-7, 11-5) one-game back of Purdue and one-game up on Maryland, Michigan State and Minnesota in the Big Ten standings. The Badgers will finish out the conference season with a pair of home games — Thursday against Iowa and Sunday against Minnesota.

Wisconsin snaps a two-game losing streak with a 71-60 win over Maryland

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.

Notes:

— 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.

Happ, Wisconsin’s defense push the No. 10 Badgers past Indiana

MADISON | Wisconsin got 20 points from Ethan Happ and held Indiana to its second-lowest point total of the year in a 65-60 win on Sunday at the Kohl Center.

“I’m not going to claim it’s our most intelligent display of basketball at times,” coach Greg Gard said, “but we were able to do enough good things at the right times.”

The Badgers built a 12-point lead in the first half, but a 14-2 run by the Hoosiers tied things up with 2:33 left. Wisconsin scored just five points in the final 8:22 of the period, and led 27-24 at the break.

The Badgers managed to build a 9-point lead in the first 5:20 of the second half, but another scoring drought allowed a banged-up Indiana squad to stay within single digits the rest of the way, getting within two on a Robert Johnson jumper midway through the period.

Wisconsin seemingly put Indiana away thanks to a 3-pointer from Zak Showalter with 1:37 left to make it 58-50, but the Hoosiers weren’t done. They got a pair of free throws from Josh Newkirk with 28 seconds left to get within three points, before the Badgers hit 5 of 6 free throws to close the game out, earning their 19th straight win at the Kohl Center.

It was another struggle on the offensive end for Wisconsin, who shot 40 percent from the field and just 4 of 17 from beyond the arc. The lone consistent option was Happ, who made 8 of his 10 shots, including a late steal and dunk that gave him his fourth 20-plus point game of the year.

“I don’t think it’s anything we can do except keep shooting,” Happ said of the struggles. “We’ve got shooters and sometimes they just slump a little bit.

“We’ll eventually start making them.”

The Badgers overcame those struggles because of their work on the other end. For the fourth straight game, Wisconsin held its opponent under 1.0 points per possession, a metric the program has lived by since former coach Bo Ryan took over in 2001, with anything under 1.0 being acceptable. Indiana came in a .938.

“Thank goodness there’s two sides of basketball, and we’re able to make up some things on defense,” Nigel Hayes said. “This is a high scoring Indiana team, so to hold them to 60 points is a really good deal for us. It’s the only reason why we won.”

Hayes finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, with nearly half his points coming at the free throw line. A problem area for the Badgers much of the season, Hayes was 7 of 8 and the team went 23 of 31 from the line.

The win was the seventh in a row for the Badgers, who are now 20-3 on the year and 9-1 in the Big Ten. With the win, and Maryland’s loss on Saturday, Wisconsin now leads the conference by one game on the Terrapins and two games on Purdue.

The Badgers travel to Nebraska this Thursday.

Bronson Koenig catches fire late, helps No. 17 Wisconsin past Michigan 68-64

MADISON — Senior Bronson Koenig scored 16 points, including 13 in the second half, as No. 17 Wisconsin took care of Michigan 68-64 on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

Trailing 49-43 after back-to-back 3-pointers by the Wolverines, the Badgers went on a 15-0 run started by a put-back lay-up by senior Zak Showalter, sustained by a personal 10-0 run by Koenig, and finished by a 3-pointer from senior Nigel Hayes to give Wisconsin a 57-49 lead — its biggest of the game.

Michigan didn’t go away, though, and got within two points in the final seconds before a pair of Koenig free throws sealed the deal.

Koenig finished 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, tying former Badgers guard Kirk Penney for the third-most 3-pointers (217) in a career at Wisconsin.

The run led by Koenig was the second one the Badgers needed. Ai Zak Irvin jumper with 12:11 left in the game gave the Wolverines an 8-point lead, their biggest of the night. At that point, Wisconsin was 1 of 8 from the field after halftime, and the offense was stagnant. But a free throw from freshman D’Mitrik Trice, followed by a 3-pointer off his second missed free throw, jump-started the Badgers to score 38 points over the rest of the game on the way to their 17th straight win at home.

Wisconsin shot 37.9 percent in the first half, but were much better in the second, hitting 54.2 percent of their shots, including 12 of their final 16 attempts.

Hayes and senior Vitto Brown each had 13 points, while sophomore Ethan Happ added 11.

Irvin led the way for Michigan with 20 points.

Among the bigger stories of the game were the fouls. Three Michigan players ended up fouling out, and Wisconsin spent the final 14:26 of the game in the bonus. The Badgers didn’t exactly take advantage, going just 14 of 24 from the line, including 4 of 10 for Hayes.

The win moved the Badgers (15-3, 4-1) into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with Maryland. Wisconsin will travel to Minnesota on Saturday.

Wisconsin takes care of Rutgers 72-52 in its Big Ten opener

MADISON — Wisconsin got 20 points from senior Nigel Hayes to take care of Rutgers 72-52 in the Big Ten opener for both teams Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

Player of the game: Zak Showalter

The senior guard brought it on both ends of the court on Tuesday, scoring 18 points and also helping to hold Rutgers to a season-low 30.0 percent shooting from the field. His point total was his best of the season, and his defensive energy — drawing a charge and racking up four steals — helped Wisconsin through a sloppy game from both sides early.

“I think it just shows how good we are as a whole,” Hayes said of Showalter’s performance. “Not just looking at it, ‘Oh, they have Nigel or they have Ethan or they have Bronson.’”

The good: Nigel Hayes

Hayes had his way much of the night, getting inside the Rutgers defense and making them pay at the free throw line. The senior was 5 of 9 from the field, but got half his points from the stripe, going 10 of 10, and hitting the 20-point mark for a third time in his last six games.

“In order to get to the free throw line 10 times, you have to absorb a lot of contact and attack the rim,” coach Greg Gard said. “Which is something I’ve seen the last four week or six weeks (from him) and how much more efficient offensively his game has become. A lot of that has been the proximity he’s played from the rim.”

The not so good:
Defensive rebounding

When a team misses as many shots — 43 — as Rutgers did, there are bound to be more opportunities for second-chance points. But Wisconsin played a big factor in allowing the Scarlet Knights to grab so many offensive rebounds. In total, they had 18, which were the most Wisconsin had given up in a game this season.

Gard said afterwards that they were expecting Rutgers to crash the glass, with it being something they’ve shown much of the year.

“There were a lot of balls bouncing because of the type of shots they take,” Gard said of Rutgers. “They’re coming off at all angles and all speeds off the rim. That’s part of their DNA. They shoot it and go get it. That’s how they’ve tried to build themselves.”

Stats of the game: 21 of 28

That was Wisconsin’s numbers from the free throw line on Tuesday. It’s the second-most attempts they’ve had this year, and coming into the game the Badgers were shooting just 68.1 percent as a team. And while hitting at a 75 percent clip, like they did against Rutgers, isn’t the high-water mark, it’s a great step towards getting there.

Quote of the game:

“Frickin excited. Now when I go home and see my mom, she’ll greet me with open arms and love instead of scorn and disgust because I made my free throws. That’s wonderful.”

Hayes’ joking response to him making all 10 of his free throws. Coming into the game, he was shooting 60.8 percent from the line.

Video of the game:

Odds and ends:

— Former Badgers Trevon Hughes and Greg Stiemsma were among several alumni at the game.

— Wisconsin freshman D’Mitrik Trice made his Big Ten debut, scoring 4 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.

— Rutgers fourth-leading scorer Corey Sanders left the game late in the second half with an apparent ankle injury. He was 1 of 11 from the field before the injury.

— With the students on winter break, there were quite a few empty seats in the student section, but the Kohl Center was surprisingly full for an early tip-off against a Rutgers team expected to finish towards the bottom of the Big Ten.

—  Hayes and junior Jordan Hill continue to stand a step back from the rest of the team during the national anthem as their form of protest towards the treatment of African Americans in the United States.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (12-2, 1-0) is off until Jan. 3, when they travel to take on No. 16 Indiana in Bloomington.

Hayes, defense lead the way for Wisconsin in a 73-59 win against UW-Green Bay

MADISON | Nigel Hayes scored 24 point, and Zak Showalter added 16 as No. 14 Wisconsin took care of UW-Green Bay 73-59 on Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin used a 20-7 run midway through the second half to open up a 24-point lead before coasting down the stretch for the win.

The game was marked by a strong defensive effort from the Badgers, who held Green Bay’s two leading scorers — Charles Cooper (4 of 11) and Trevor Anderson (1 of 6) — to just 13 points, with a lot of credit going to Showalter, who had a career-high six steals on the night.

“We’ve been working at getting in gaps ad nauseam in practice for pretty much the last three months,” Showalter said. “It’s something coach (Greg) Gard has really stressed. I’ve tried to work on that and just be able to get my hands on the ball as much as possible. Some nights you’re able to do it, and some nights you get called for ticky tack fouls. Tonight I was able to do it.”

Offensively, it was another strong outing for Ethan Happ. The sophomore scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out a career-high 6 assists, including a pair on fast break opportunities. He also, for the first time in his career, hit a jump shot from outside the paint.

Happ’s teammates joked that it was the loudest the Kohl Center had ever been when the show went down, but he’s hoping it’s not a one-time occurrence.

“I want to get it to the point where (the crowd doesn’t) have to do that every time I make shot,” Happ said. “Hopefully down the road it’s jut a normal clap.”

Wisconsin got the win despite an off night from guard Bronson Koenig, who went 1 of 9 from the field and didn’t hit a 3-pointer in a game for just the third time in the last two seasons.

The win pushed the Badgers to 10-2 on the year. They’ve got a 9-day break for final exams before taking on Florida A&M on Dec. 23 in the final game before Big Ten play starts.

Bronson Koenig scores 17 as Wisconsin takes out in-state rival Marquette 93-84

Nigel Hayes couldn’t care less about the Wisconsin-Marquette rivalry. The senior has repeatedly said throughout his time in Madison that it’s just another game on the schedule, and his tune didn’t change on Saturday in the wake of the Badgers 93-84 win against the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee.

“This rivalry doesn’t mean much to me. I’m from Ohio, so I don’t really care,” Hayes said. “I just look at it as another game that we have the ability to go out and win against a good team.”

But perhaps remembering what was said by Marquette’s Henry Ellenson a year ago — that the Golden Eagles proved who the best team in the state was with their 57-55 win in Madison — Hayes finished by saying what many Wisconsin fans were probably thinking.

“We had a little bump last year in the road,” said Hayes, who finished his career 3-1 against Marquette. “(But) big brother always rises back to the top where he’s supposed to be.”

And that’s exactly where the Badgers were following an intense and hard-fought game that saw them erase a 5-point halftime deficit, lead by as many as 18 and then close things out at the free throw line.

“You see how consistent we can be. When we are consistent, we’re pretty effective,” coach Greg Gard said. “But you also see the times where we’re not (and) how much more we have to grow and how much better we can get.”

Playing without sophomore Ethan Happ for much of the first half due to two quick fouls, the Badgers were able to keep things close despite four 3-pointers by Katin Reinhardt off the bench. But when Happ returned after the break, that’s when things started to swing in Wisconsin’s favor, and it showed on the scoreboard.

The Badgers outscored Marquette 35-12 in the first 13:16 of the second half to take a 70-52 lead, and the Golden Eagles never got closer than eight the rest of the game.

Guard Bronson Koenig had 17 points and six assists to lead a Wisconsin offense that put up its most points ever in the 123 meetings between the two schools, hitting on 58.2 percent of their shots for the game, including going 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Badgers, who won their fifth straight game. Hayes ended up with 17 points, Vitto Brown had 15, Zak Showalter added 11 and Happ also had a 11 in just the second half. Wisconsin also got a big lift off the bench from Khalil Iverson, who scored a career-high 16 points on 5 of 6 shooting, and was a terror on defense, blocking a pair of shots.

Marquette was led by guard Markus Howard, who had 22 points, while Reinhardt scored 16.

With the win, Gard improved to 24-10 as Wisconsin’s coach, including a 9-2 record this season.

The Badgers will face UW-Green Bay on Wednesday at the Kohl Center.

A year later, the Badgers know who they are as they face Marquette

MADISON | A year ago at this time, the Wisconsin basketball team was struggling. Like, really struggling. Having to replace five members from back-to-back Final Four teams will do that. Add in the uncertainty around coach Bo Ryan’s status, and the losses to Western Illinois, Georgetown and UW-Milwaukee begin to make sense. By the time they met Marquette in Madison on Dec. 12, the Badgers had already suffered as many losses (4) as they had the entire season before.

“We were pretty disorganized,” senior Bronson Koenig said of what the team was like at this time last year. “We didn’t really have an identity at that time. It was early. We held the ball a lot. We did a lot of one-on-one. We didn’t move the ball.”

And that resulted in a 57-55 loss to the Golden Eagles at the Kohl Center. Afterwards, Marquette’s freshman star Henry Ellenson said they came to town looking to show everyone that they were the best team in the state, and that’s what they did. It was hard to argue with him at the time. With the Badgers running an offense designed for talent they didn’t have, lacking leadership in the locker room and guys getting frustrated by a lack of playing time, things were bad.

“We thought we were getting it back on track,” guard Zak Showalter said of a win at Syracuse that preceded the back-to-back losses to Milwaukee and Marquette. “(But) we were still clearly struggling. Still took a while to get the ship righted.”

Three days after the Marquette game, and following a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Ryan stepped down as coach, making his long-time assistant Greg Gard the interim coach. Gard implemented several strategies to turn things around, most notably going back to the “Swing” offense that Ryan had made famous, expanding the rotation and pushing for the experienced players to become leaders in the locker room and on the floor.

There were signs of progress but things didn’t hit rock bottom until a loss at Northwestern dropped them to 1-4 in Big Ten play. A frustrated Nigel Hayes lit into the team, which allowed everyone to get whatever they were thinking off their chest. It was a turning point in a season that would see Wisconsin win 11 of their next 12 games and make the NCAA tournament for an 18th straight season.

Now, just two days shy of a year since the last time the Badgers and Golden Eagles faced off, they meet again, this time in Milwaukee. And while many of the names are the same on Wisconsin’s roster, the team is much different. The 17th ranked Badgers know who they are and have an identity that mirrors some of the better teams that Ryan had in his 15 years as coach. They aren’t a finished product, but they’ve shown in the last four games — where they won by an average of 29 points — that they understand how they have to play to be successful.

Certainly, Marquette (7-2) will provide a stiff challenge. The game always seems to be close and this Golden Eagles team has plenty of weapons offensively. But it’s also an opportunity for Wisconsin to show how far they’ve come and make a statement.

“You want to have that pride of being the best team in the state,” Showalter said. “I think last year, obviously, we slipped (on) a couple in-state games, and we don’t want that to happen this year.”