MADISON — Wisconsin blew an 11-point second-half lead and fell 73-64 to Nebraska on Monday night at the Kohl Center.
Player of the Game: James Palmer Jr.
Palmer scored a game-high 28 points, including 10 in a 5-minute, 10-second stretch where Nebraska went from down 11 points to up two. Wisconsin contained him from beyond the arc (1 of 8), but he was near perfect at the free throw (11 of 12)
“Palmer, I thought, did what he wanted at certain points,” coach Greg Gard said. “Specifically when they needed it. Either they were drawing a foul from us or he was able to get to the rim. I know at one point in time he went right to the rim without any resistance.”
The good: Ethan Happ’s first half
Wisconsin’s big man scored 18 points in the first half and was extremely aggressive in doing so. Nebraska brought double teams on a regular basis and he largely ate them up in the first 20 minutes, dishing out three assists, including on a pair of 3-pointers. He added four rebounds and three blocks to close out what was a very good all around half.
The not so good: That last 10 minutes
The Badgers led 55-44 with 9:59 left following a ferocious dunk from Khalil Iverson, but the Cornhuskers would outscore them 30-8 the rest of the way in what turned into Wisconsin’s first home loss since Dec. 9.
What changed? Well, Nebraska coach Tim Miles said they spread things out and tried to get his guys to play off of each other as their normal sets weren’t working. It resulted in a lot of drives to the basket and the Badgers didn’t hold up.
On the other end, due to foul trouble, the Huskers went to a 1-3-1 zone that clearly disrupted Wisconsin offensively. Happ’s last field goal came at the 14:22 mark and the only Badgers player to score from the field in the final 9:59 was Iverson.
“Defensively, I thought we kind of left off the gas a little bit,” Happ said. “We played pretty well defensively for 30-ish minutes. As I said, we’ve just got to execute all 40.
“Offensively, once they went zone, it [created] some trouble for us. It’s not like we haven’t seen zone before.
“We just got to be better.”
Stat of the game: 16 of 31 from the free throw line
Few things are more irritating for fans than missed free throws, and Wisconsin had plenty of them on Monday. Ranked 189th in the country coming into the game at 70.8 percent, the Badgers made just 51.6 percent against the Huskers. That included a rough 8 of 19 effort from Happ.
What they said:
“From my standpoint, understanding that the ball will go in at times, and there’s times it’s not going to, but defensively, for us to be so good and then to have that impact us, have our offense — or lack thereof — impact how we were tuned in defensively, was disappointing.”
Coach Greg Gard on the final 10 minutes of the game
In Case You Missed It:
— Happ and senior Aaron Moesch each hit the first 3-pointers of their careers.
— Moesch played 17 minutes, tied for the second-most he’s seen this year. It was mainly in place of redshirt freshman Aleem Ford. Gard said he felt Moesch was a better matchup defensively against the Huskers.
— Wisconsin led for 31 minutes and 36 seconds of Monday’s game. It’s the longest the Badgers have led in a game this year that they didn’t win.
— Guard Brad Davison scored just five points, the fourth time in the last five games that the freshman has been held in the single digits. P
— Several members of Wisconsin’s Orange Bowl winning football team were introduced during a timeout. It included quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who earned the loudest ovation.
Wisconsin (10-13, 3-7) hosts Northwestern (13-10, 4-6) on Thursday night in Madison.