Men’s basketball: Badgers down Wolverines in regular season home finale

first_imgWith 19 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game against Michigan, Jordan Smith, the lone senior on the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s roster, stepped to the free throw line. With the entire Kohl Center crowd on their feet, Smith knocked down both foul shots with ease.The free throws themselves didn’t mean anything. The Badgers had the game well in hand and had an 11-point lead before the fifth-year senior guard stepped to the charity stripe.Rather, Smith’s foul shots served as the most fitting conclusion to Wisconsin’s 68-57 win over Michigan Sunday, as the team put together a near-perfect second half performance en route to taking down the Wolverines.Midway through the second half, however, it didn’t appear UW head coach Greg Gard would be able to go too deep into his bench.With 13:13 remaining in the second period, Michigan forward Ricky Doyle threw down an alley-oop dunk that not only gave the Wolverines a 40-39 lead, but energy and momentum from the thunderous slam.But then, something seemed to click for Wisconsin.A bucket from junior forward Nigel Hayes in the post and a drive to the bucket from redshirt junior guard Zak Showalter over the next minute quickly brought UW’s lead back up to three points. And from there, the Badgers continued to roll.“It just speaks to our resiliency and our maturity,” junior guard Bronson Koenig said. “We know we are going to go to the other end, make a play and counter that.”An Ethan Happ layup just a minute later brought the team’s lead to five, and Michigan would never get any closer than that.As a team, the Badgers shot 56 percent from the field in the second half, compared to the 42 percent they shot in the first. This was due in large part to UW attacking the inside more, scoring 20 of their 26 points in the paint in the final 20 minutes.“In the first half, [Michigan was] really aggressive on the double team, especially on Happ to make it hard for him to make any plays,” Gard said. “I thought in the second half we did a better job of finishing around the rim, specifically [Hayes].”Hayes took to the paint to do most of his work offensively, finishing with 16 points while hitting just one three-pointer and taking it to Michigan’s Zak Irvin on the block, backing him down past the block.But while the key to Wisconsin’s second half spurt was their will and drive to attack inside, both juniors Koenig and Vitto Brown kept the Wolverine defense honest by combining to shoot seven-of-12 from behind the arc.Koenig, who scored a team-high 19 points Sunday and set the Wisconsin school record for most consecutive games with a three-pointer made, credits the team’s spacing for the continuing success of not only his own perimeter shooting, but of the entire team.“I think earlier in the year, the only shot I could get were ones I could create myself,” Koenig said. “I think with the implementation of the swing offense, it spreads the floor and gives guys places to be. Our space has improved 100 percent.”Brown’s four threes were a single game career-high for the junior, and he finished with 14 points, while Happ was the only other Wisconsin player to score in double figures, finishing with 12.Now, while the team’s time at the Kohl Center this season is over, the Badgers still have two road games — at Minnesota and Purdue — that will seal their fate in the conference standings.Sunday’s win over Michigan puts them in a four-way tie for second place, and they currently hold the tiebreaker over each of the other three teams. But Gard and his team, who have now won 10 of their last 11 games, know they still have a long way to go.“The only thing that ends tonight is the ability to play on our home court,” Gard said. “We have a lot of basketball hopefully in front of us and a lot of areas that we can improve up and grow from.”Stats courtesy of UW-Athleticslast_img read more

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