Wisconsin Badgers

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 27:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives against JD Wallace #12 of the Prairie View A&M Panthers in the second half at the Kohl Center on November 27, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Film Session: Nigel Hayes’ performance against Syracuse could change Wisconsin’s season

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No. 17 Wisconsin, for perhaps the first time all season, finally looked like the team that was a preseason favorite to win the Big Ten regular season title on Tuesday night.

The Badgers shredded the Orange, winning 77-60, an offensive performance that only gets more impressive when you consider that there were just 64 possessions in the game.

Looking at the box score, the change seems obvious, right? Wisconsin got Ethan Happ, who we have long said is Wisconsin’s best player, more involved – he finished with 24 points and 13 boards and led the team in field goals and free throws attempted – while Bronson Koenig, who entered the game shooting 24.6 percent from three, finally found the range from distance, going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc and scoring a season-high 20 points in what was by far his most efficient game of the season.

What simply looking at the box score won’t tell you, however, is that the real difference in this game, and what could end up being the launching point for a Wisconsin Big Ten title run this season, is the way that Greg Gard used Nigel Hayes.

Or, perhaps more importantly, the way that Hayes decided to play.

For the first six games of the season, Hayes played like he was a floor-spacer.

On Tuesday night, he was the guy that you space the floor around.


Nigel Hayes was entrenched in the high-post against the Syracuse zone, and he put on an absolute clinic is how to breakdown a 2-3 zone.

His high-low passing was incredible. He used his eyes and ball-fakes to move the defense and create open threes for his teammates on the perimeter. He was a puppetmaster, and a young Syracuse team didn’t stand a chance against it.

This is important to note because this is not what Wisconsin’s zone offense has always looked like this season.

Take, for example, this possession against Georgetown from the Maui Invitational. Does this look anything like the zone offense from Tuesday night?:

Wisconsin would go on to win this game, but it wasn’t because the Badgers thoroughly dominated from the tip. Oklahoma State and, arguably, Arkansas State landed more impressive wins over that same Hoya team, and neither of them were expected to do all that much this season.

In fact, it’s been possessions like that that have bogged down the Badgers this year. As talented as Koenig is, he’s a scorer at heart, not a facilitator. Through the first three weeks of the season, he’s been where the Wisconsin offense has gone to die. He entered Tuesday night’s game 14-for-57 from three not because he’s a bad three-point shooter, but because so many of his threes have been contested jumpers off the dribble:

As Koenig proved on Tuesday night, he’s dangerous when he can take catch-and-shoot rhythm threes – all six of the threes he made were no-dribble jumpers – but without another proven playmaker on the floor, he hasn’t gotten all that many opportunities to do so.

Hayes, on the other hand, has not proven to be a good standstill shooter. I went through and watch all of the jumpers that he has taken this season, and he’s had quite a few good, clean, often wide-open looks from three. He just missed them. Maybe he’s not quite as good of a shooter as he thinks he is. Maybe he’s lost his confidence in his jumper. Maybe this is just a fluky thing that happens in a random subset of 31 three-pointers.

But whatever the issue is, it wasn’t getting answered by Hayes plopping himself behind the three-point line and bombing away. The criticism of him heading into the year was that he shot 36 percent from the floor and 29.3 percent from three as a junior, that he needed to settle less for jumpers, which is something that he was still doing early this year; through the first six games of the year, Hayes was shooting 29.0 percent from three while taking 1.5 more threes per game than he did as a junior.

In addition to missing wide-open, catch-and-shoot threes, Hayes was also missing deep, contested jumpers like these:

Here’s the thing: Hayes is probably the best playmaker on Wisconsin when he wants to be. He led the team in assists last season. We all saw how good of a passer he can be last night when he wants to be. He’s also capable of scoring in the post and beating bigger defenders to the rim. He’s the kind of versatile forward that overpowers smaller defenders and beats bigger defenders off the dribble. He was named the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, and when he plays like he has the last two games, he looks the part.

And it’s no coincidence that when Hayes is playing this way, Wisconsin looks like the best team in the Big Ten.

Hayes has 17, No. 16 Wisconsin rolls over Prairie View A&M

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20: Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers handles the ball in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) Nigel Hayes was 5 of 5 from the field on Sunday. Notably, none of those shots came from outside.

Hayes, who has struggled with his 3-point shot this season, was dominant inside as he scored a season-high 17 points to lead No. 16 Wisconsin to a 95-50 win over Prairie View A&M.

Asked about his concentration on working inside, Hayes insisted he just wanted to work on layups.

“A lot of criticism comes from people who don’t know basketball well,” he said when asked about his shot selection this season. “If you look at my shots, they’re very good shots.”

Hayes has hit just 29 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, and the Badgers (5-2) haven’t been much better, knocking down 31 percent of their shots from behind the arc coming into Sunday.

But with Prairie View A&M (2-5) starting only one player listed as taller than 6-foot-4, the Badgers didn’t need much of an outside game.

They outscored the Panthers 42-18 in the paint and outrebounded them 44-26.

While Wisconsin couldn’t find its shooting touch from outside, it more than made up for that with an efficient offensive performance elsewhere. The Badgers hit 24 of their 32 two-point attempts and were 20 of 27 from the free-throw line.

Hayes, who was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line, was one of six Wisconsin players to score in double figures. Ethan Happ had 12 points and 13 rebounds, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter each scored 11 points, and D’Mitrik Trice and Khalil Iverson had 10 apiece.

“This is an example of how efficient he can be and how efficient we can be when we don’t settle for jump shots at times, don’t settle for early threes and really attack the paint,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said of Hayes.

Prairie View A&M coach Byron Smith said the Panthers were hampered without starters Shay’rone Jett, who he said has an academic issue, and Admassu Williams, who has a knee injury. Both are listed at 6-8 and would have given the Panthers more of an inside presence.

Zachary Hamilton led Prairie View A&M with 15 points.

“They were just too good,” Smith said of Wisconsin’s ability to neutralize the Panther’s 2-3 zone. “You just try to mix it up to do some different things and show them down a little bit.”

BIG PICTURE

Prairie View A&M: The Panthers lost their previous three games against the Badgers by an average of 33 points. Trailing 19-16 after the first 7 minutes, 30 seconds constitutes progress.

Wisconsin: No offense, Panthers, but this was just a tuneup for Wisconsin in between the Maui Invitational and No. 18 Syracuse.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

This isn’t the kind of win that impresses voters. Wisconsin is still looking for a signature win, but the season is young.

1,000-POINT CLUB

Hayes and Koenig, both seniors, were honored before the game for scoring more than 1,000 points in their careers. Koenig crossed that mark with 21 points against Tennessee on Monday. Hayes, who has now scored 1,418 points in his Wisconsin career, is one of only four Badgers to score more than 1,000 points, grab more than 500 rebounds and dish out more than 200 assists. He has 595 rebounds and 237 assists for his career. Wisconsin didn’t hand out balls to commemorate scoring accomplishments under former coach Bo Ryan.

UP NEXT

Prairie View A&M: Sunday’s game was the first of seven for the Panthers on the road. That swing continues Saturday at Houston.

Wisconsin: The Badgers host No. 18 Syracuse on Tuesday, their third game of the season against a ranked opponent.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Woman who had an affair with Bo Ryan sues Wisconsin officials

Bo Ryan
AP Photo/Paul Beaty
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A woman who was involved in an affair with former Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has filed a lawsuit against top university officials, according to the Wisconsin State-Journal.

The woman, Robin Van Ert, 42, named Chancellor Rebecca Blank, athletic director Barry Alvarez and six other UW-Madison officials in the lawsuit. The crux of the lawsuit stems from what she called a “sham” investigation into her accusations that Ryan used inappropriately used university funds during their affair, which spanned from 2009-2014.

Van Ert also claims that the university violated her privacy rights by publicly revealing her identity when they released an email in 2015 in which she detailed her affair.

“As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ actions, Van Ert has suffered severe emotional and physical distress and illness, loss of privacy, harm to her reputation, loss of business and has incurred substantial damages and legal fees,” the complaint states, according to the WSJ.

Ryan originally announced that he would be retiring from Wisconsin at the end of the 2015-16 season, but he abruptly announced his retirement after a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on a Tuesday night last December.

No. 4 North Carolina rolls No. 16 Wisconsin for Maui title

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 23: The North Carolina team celebrates when a time out is called in the first half of the championship game of the Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 23, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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No. 4 North Carolina finished off their demolition of the Maui Invitational field with a 71-56 win over No. 16 Wisconsin, a win that never truly felt like it was in doubt.

The Tar Heels jumped out to an 8-0 lead as they held the Badgers scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game. They stretched a 37-29 halftime lead to 20 points early in the second half. They went 27 minutes before they let the Badgers, who entered the night as one of the top five teams in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, get to the offensive glass.

Joel Berry II led the way with 22 points for the Tar Heels, a day after he put 24 points on Jawun Evans and Oklahoma State. Kennedy Meeks added 15 points and a career-high 16 boards and Isaiah Hicks added 14 points.

UNC’s work on the defensive glass was impressive, as was their work on Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. The two Badger stars finished 4-for-24 from the floor and 1-for-12 from three.

The Tar Heels have been as impressive as any team in college basketball this season. The only time they were really tested came against Hawai’i in what was a true road game in UNC’s first game in a time zone six hours away from their campus. They’re 7-0 on the season, they haven’t won a game by less than 15 points and Berry is playing like he’s one of, if not the best point guard in the country.

The start couldn’t be more promising.

The question now is whether or not they’ve actually beaten a team that’s any good. Wisconsin has not availed themselves all that well this season, losing by 12 to Creighton and 15 to the Tar Heels while struggling to put away Tennessee and Georgetown. Wisconsin looks great on paper, but that hasn’t exactly translated onto the floor yet.

But that’s picking nits right now.

Because it’s safe to say that, at this point, the Tar Heels look like they will be Duke’s biggest challenger in the ACC.

And that is always a good thing for college hoops.

No. 16 Badgers pummel Georgetown on the glass for Maui win

Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ (22) shoots as Georgetown center Jessie Govan (15) defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Maui Invitational Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Wisconsin bullied its way to another win in Hawaii.

The 16th-ranked Badgers pulled down 20 offensive rebounds, got 20 points from Bronson Koenig and 19 from Ethan Happ as they defeated Georgetown, 73-57, in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational on Tuesday evening.

Wisconsin held just a three-point advantage at halftime, but continued to pull away from the Hoyas slowly but surely throughout the second half.

The Hoyas looked to be in position to claim a second-straight win over a ranked opponent after they bested Oregon on Monday, but surrendering 19 second-chance points to the Badgers was their undoing.

While Wisconsin finished the day with a comfortable win, there are a few interesting things to explore with coach Greg Gard’s team.

The Badgers’ uncharacteristic issues with turnovers continued yet again against the Hoyas. They finished with 13 giveaways, which rated a 19.7 turnover percentage. In the first half, when the Badgers allowed Georgetown to stay close, they were at an unsightly 24.2 percent.

For seven-straight years, they ranked in the top-five nationally in turnover percentage (including No. 1 twice) until they free-fell out of the top-100 last year amid the Bo Ryan-Gard transition with a rate of 17.1 percent. This year, it’s fallen to 22.5 percent, which ranked 289th on Tuesday night.

That’s an issue for Wisconsin given every one of their possession takes on added importance compared to other programs given their snail’s pace. Their offense runs on precision and not only are turnovers a wasted possession, they’re an indicator of sloppy play, something they’ll struggle to survive.

The other component is that when the Badgers shoot, something good typically happens. Not only is their effective field goal percentage 54.5, they are an elite offensive rebounding team, grabbing 44 percent of their misses, which ranks eighth nationally.

That’s how the Badgers were able to wear down Georgetown throughout night as they absolutely dominated the glass and erased their turnover issue and so-so shooting.

Essentially, Wisconsin doesn’t necessarily have to make shots to be good offensively, they just need to take shots.

Wisconsin’s issues obviously are offset by what the Badgers do well, and they’ll be fine with guys like Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Happ, plus their supporting cast, on the roster whether or not the turnover numbers come down or remain static.

But it’ll be interesting to see as the Badgers’ season unfolds which stats are here to stay and which will move closer to norms. If Wisconsin can clean up its turnover problems while maintaining its high-level offensive rebounding, its offense is going to be a problem for the rest of the Big Ten – and perhaps much of the country.

No. 23 Creighton asserts itself in win over No. 9 Wisconsin

OMAHA, NE - NOVEMBER 15: Khyri Thomas #2, Justin Patton #23 of the Creighton Bluejays and Bronson Koenig #24 of the Wisconsin Badgers dive for a loose all during their game at the CenturyLink Center on November 15, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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If starting the season in the top-25 wasn’t enough, Creighton announced its national relevance with a huge win Tuesday.

The 23rd-ranked Bluejays defeated No. 9 Wisconsin, 79-67, in impressive fashion at CenturyLink Center as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Creighton (2-0) forced 16 turnovers from the Badgers (101), who made just 11 of 39 3-point shot attempts on the night.

Wisconsin’s potential flaws were on display in Omaha as both Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were at times inefficient scorers while Ethan Happ was marginalized offensively. Hayes was 6 of 13 from the floor, with all but four of his shots coming from 3-point range while Koenig was 8 of 19 from the floor and 3 of 13 from 3-point range. Happ, who even with the plaudits Hayes and Koenig have earned may be the team’s best player, only attempted five shots, making three, and grabbing 10 rebounds. He was part of Wisconsin’s turnover troubles, committing four on the night.

The Badgers’ jumpshooting will probably fade in and out at times, but committing 16 turnovers given their pace is almost always going to be a killer, especially when Hayes and Koenig aren’t at their best.

Still, time will likely bear out that losing to Creighton in their gym is no great sin.

This looked like a Bluejays team primed to jockey with Villanova and Xavier atop the Big East and make their return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence.

Creighton got the job done against the Badgers with balance with  four players finishing in double figures. The backcourt tandem of Maurice Watson, Jr. and Marcus Foster lived up to their billing as one of the country’s best. Watson had 17 points, 10 assists, four steals and three rebounds while Foster had 15 points. Khyri Thomas came through with 18 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Five-star freshman Justin Patton made 5 of 6 shots for 10 points and had six rebounds.

It’s the type of win that asserts the Bluejays as a team to be noticed in a post-Doug McDermott era. The backcourt will get the headlines, but if the supporting cast like Thomas, Patton, Isaiah Zierden and Zach Hanson can provide the help they did against the Badgers, Creighton is going to be a problem for the rest of the Big East, especially at home in front of 17,000.