MADISON, WI - FEBRUARY 19:  Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers works against Michal Cekovsky #15 of the Maryland Terrapins during the first half of a game at the Kohl Center on February 19, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

No. 11 Wisconsin takes down No. 23 Maryland

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Wisconsin snapped a two-game losing streak with a 71-60 Big Ten home win over No. 23 Maryland on Sunday. With senior guard Bronson Koenig returning to the rotation after missing the Michigan loss with injury, the No. 11 Badgers looked more like themselves for the first time in the last few games.

Here are some takeaways from this one.

1. This was an ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly game (just the way Wisconsin wanted)

Sorry to make you read the word “ugly” four times but I felt it was completely necessary to hammer home the point that this basketball game was not a pleasant viewing experience (and this has nothing to do with pace or style of play).

Wisconsin only shot 41 percent from the field, 16 percent from three-point range and 54 percent from the free-throw line and still won by double digits because they were the older and more physical team. While the Terps were able to hang in the game until the final five minutes or so because of junior guard Melo Trimble’s scoring punch, a younger Maryland team was physically dominated by Wisconsin for most of the game.

The Badgers owned the glass (44 to 27), got to the free-throw line 37 times and did a nice job of getting Maryland’s bigs into foul trouble.

Even though Wisconsin couldn’t generate a lot of consistent offense, they had enough from guys like Nigel Hayes (19 points) and Ethan Happ (20 points) to feel comfortable once they built a bit of a cushion. Wisconsin winning ugly isn’t any sort of new phenomenon, but it does bode well for the Badgers that they handled Maryland this easily despite such a poor shooting game.

2. Maryland needs even more help for Melo to be elite

Maryland has been able to stay in the top 25 this season because junior Melo Trimble has had a lot of help from a talented freshman class. Anthony Cowan has given the Terps another attacking guard, Kevin Huerter is one of the Big Ten’s better all-around freshmen and Justin Jackson has given Maryland a nice dose of athleticism.

Those three freshmen had a game to forget in Madison on Sunday. While Trimble went for 27 points, those three freshmen went a combined 3-for-15 from the field as they just didn’t show up to play during a very important game for conference implications.

Freshmen are going to have off games but this was the biggest game of Maryland’s season and they didn’t look ready to play.

Looking to fire up his team in the second half, head coach Mark Turgeon even went on the floor during a Wisconsin possession and basically forced the officials to whistle him for a technical foul. Even after trying to rally his team with that tech, the Terps didn’t fair much better.

It is also concerning that center Michael Cekovsky went down with an ankle injury in the second half. Cekovsky grabbed his ankle and left the game — looking noticeably frustrated on the bench — and that could be something to watch for Maryland in these final few weeks. Although Cekovsky is only a reserve big man, his 10-point showing on Sunday was one of his best games since returning from injury as he was just starting to look more comfortable.

Losing Cekovsky could hurt, but thankfully for Maryland, the remaining schedule isn’t too daunting. Three of four games come at home and the only road game comes at Rutgers. Even with Sunday’s lackluster effort, Maryland can stay in the Big Ten race if they continue to win.

Wisconsin shows no rust in breezing by Florida A&M

at the Kohl Center on December 14, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin.
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) Score 11 points. Grab eight rebounds. Help sing the national anthem.

Vitto Brown did a little bit of everything Friday night as No. 14 Wisconsin breezed by Florida A&M 90-37.

Brown, who performed the “Star Spangled Banner” with his family’s singing group “Shades of Brown” before the game, was averaging less than four rebounds a game coming in.

“I was just tired of being 6-8 and in good shape and not getting any rebounds,” Brown said. “I wanted to make my mark on the game.”

The game came after an eight-day layoff for the Badgers (11-2) as they finished final exams. But they showed few signs of rust.

They led Florida A&M (2-11) by 10 points 5 minutes into the game, pushed the lead to 20 with less than 4 minutes to go in the half and had it up to 38 midway through the second half before coach Greg Gard pulled all of his starters.

Reserve D’Mitrik Trice scored 14 points, while Bronson Koenig, who added eight points, played 22 minutes, the most of any starter.

Gard noted such lopsided games can often get sloppy, but the Badgers never lost focus. Even though Gard went deep into his bench with 15 players seeing time, Wisconsin’s shooting percentage actually went up in the second half. The Badgers finished 34 of 65, including 12 of 27 from beyond the 3-point line.

“That’s a testament to them that they stayed disciplined and focused on the things that make us good,” Gard said.

Florida A&M, playing on consecutive nights, struggled on offense, shooting just 26 percent.

Elijah Mays and Brendon Myles led Florida A&M with nine points each. The Panthers were without leading scorer Desmond Williams, who is averaging 16 points a game. Coach Byron Samuels said Williams was injured Thursday night.

“Sometimes we look at reasons to make excuses for why something did or didn’t happen,” he said. “I’m not in that category.”

BIG PICTURE

Florida A&M: The Panthers have lost 10 straight, and their only wins on the season are against non-Division I programs. No one expected this to be pretty.

Wisconsin: Finals are done. The non-conference schedule is done. Bring on the Big Ten.

GARD THE GRADER

Gard said he would give his team somewhere between a B and a B-minus for its performance over the nonconference schedule, which includes wins over five teams in the top 100 of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. It also, though, includes a 15-point loss to North Carolina in the Maui Invitational. Gard noted the “mountain gets a lot steeper” with Big Ten play coming up. “We’ve got room to get better. We have to get better,” Gard said.

ROAD, UNFRIENDLY ROAD

It’s nothing new for teams from smaller conferences to hit the road a lot in November and December. Still, Florida A&M had rare road games on consecutive nights. They lost to Samford by 20 in Alabama on Thursday night before heading to Wisconsin. Samuels noted players are used to multiple games in a day thanks to AAU and several straight days during conference tournaments. “They’re young, they’re strong, they’re in the best shapes of their lives. They should be able to play back-to-back nights,” he said.

UP NEXT

Florida A&M: The Rattlers travel to Howard on Jan. 4 for their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener.

Wisconsin: The Badgers open Big Ten play at home Tuesday against Rutgers.

 

Unselfish Nigel Hayes leads No. 17 Wisconsin past No. 22 Syracuse for easy win

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 29:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers guards against Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the first half at the Kohl Center on November 29, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin looked like a veteran team with an efficient offense as they easily beat No. 22 Syracuse, 77-60, on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

The No. 17 Badgers showed tremendous patience moving the ball and they took a lot of good shots as they were able to pick apart Syracuse’s 2-3 zone by moving it from side-to-side.

This was the kind of Wisconsin that looked like it could hang with anyone in the country as they shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

And it’s all because senior forward Nigel Hayes didn’t hunt his own shot.

Hayes has been criticized the last two seasons for taking too many three-pointers and showing poor shot selection as he’s transitioned from role player to go-to guy. The last two seasons he’s shot 29 percent from three-point range but he’s still attempting over 3.8 per game.

But the version of Hayes we saw against Syracuse was a major reminder of why he’s considered one of the Big Ten’s best players. Playing at the elbows against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, Hayes showed his gifted passing ability while also taking smarter shots. Hayes finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists — missing a triple-double only because he was 4-for-11 from the field.

Although he didn’t shoot a great percentage, Hayes was able to move the ball from side-to-side or get it down low to sophomore Ethan Happ as Syracuse’s defense had no response. Happ is Wisconsin’s most productive and efficient player on most nights and he finished with 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting with 13 rebounds.

And Hayes didn’t shoot a three-pointer for the second consecutive game.

After going 1-for-7 from three-point range in the Maui Invitational loss to North Carolina, clearly, Hayes received the message — if you can’t hit three-pointers on the soft rims of Maui, it might be time to re-evaluate your shot selection.

Hayes has taken better shots since returning to the mainland and if he continues to get Happ more touches while not hunting threes then it could be huge for Wisconsin’s offensive efficiency. This version of Wisconsin’s offense looked really balanced and strong.

Because the Badgers can also put Vitto Brown at the top of the key — or anywhere on the floor since he can pass and hit threes — their guards could attack from the wings against Syracuse’s zone with good side-to-side movement. This enabled senior Bronson Koenig to finish with 20 points on 6-for-9 three-point shooting as he had an outstanding game on the offensive end.

Syracuse was led by Andrew White’s 14 points while senior center DaJuan Coleman finished with 12 points. The Orange’s 2-3 zone still has a lot of room for improvement, and since it’s a bigger lineup with three forwards, they have trouble with some quicker lineups.

Offensively, the Orange also don’t have a true identity right now and some guys are trying to do too much on their own. Sophomore Tyler Lydon also seemed content to hang on the perimeter as a catch-and-shoot option as he finished with nine points on 4-for-9 shooting. Lydon was only 1-for-6 from three-point range.

The Orange had to battle foul trouble in the first half and struggled to catch up once they fell behind in the first half. Syracuse didn’t appear prepared for this kind of road test and they’ve now dropped two straight after falling to South Carolina in Brooklyn this weekend. Syracuse still has plenty of talent but they have to fix some things quickly before ACC play.

PHOTO: Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes takes jab at NCAA in College Gameday sign

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives to the basket in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin senior forward Nigel Hayes is one of the more vocal college athletes in America when it comes to social issues and he took a jab at the NCAA with his College Gameday sign on Saturday.

With the college football show in town for the big Ohio State/Wisconsin showdown, Hayes decided to be a normal college student and bring a sign.

Hayes has a sign similar to one that was seen on the show earlier this season when a college student asked his mom for beer money and put his Venmo account on the sign. That guy ended up with over 2,000 people contributing to his Venmo — even though that wasn’t the original intent.

So Hayes attached a Venmo account to his sign under the guise of being a broke college athlete, something he talked about with regards to Big Ten revenue on Twitter the night before. Hayes has been vocal about college athletes being paid and this sign probably isn’t the last thing he’ll do about it before the end of the season.

VIDEO: Wisconsin coach Greg Gard supports activism of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes

Greg Gard
(Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
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Wisconsin has been in the news recently for two seniors being involved in off-the-court activism. Senior point guard Bronson Koenig has stood up for Native Americans by joining the Dakota Pipeline protest and holding a clinic for local kids while senior forward Nigel Hayes has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement in trying to draw attention to that cause.

On Monday, Badgers head coach Greg Gard strongly supported his two senior leaders taking a stance for things that they cared about as he answered questions about the duo in a press conference.

“I think the first thing is you have to applaud them for bringing awareness to both situations,” Gard said. “Obviously, the depth of their knowledge and their intellect in both areas really has helped me. I’ve learned a lot more about it and I’ve talked to them about it both individually and as a team. And I really applaud them for what they’ve done and the stance they’ve taken. We’ve obviously supported them in two different issues.”

Gard went on to talk about how both Koenig and Hayes are doing a great job of being student-athletes who have grown on-and-off the floor since coming to Wisconsin.

“They’re using college for what it should be used for. You try to better yourself. You try to educate yourself. You expand your horizons,” Gard said. “One thing we’ve talked t0 them about is being cautious. Understand ramifications in tomorrow and understand them in six weeks and six months and how it all plays out. I commend them for how they’ve grown, how they’ve matured. They understand and have really grasped the idea of student-athlete.

“They’re way more than just a basketball player. I think that has shown through with their actions and statements here.”

One main takeaway from Gard’s answers is how he seems to be on the same page with his players and his team over the activism. While these subjects can sometimes be divisive and difficult to discuss in a public forum, Gard mentioning that the team has talked about these issues seems to be a positive for a team that has high hopes moving forward. If Wisconsin can rally together around issues away from basketball then it might be a good sign that this can staff focused on being a major threat in the Big Ten.

Nigel Hayes owes Wisconsin students a lot of donuts after losing season ticket bet

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 28:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers cuts the net after the Badgers 85-78 victory against the Arizona Wildcats during the West Regional Final of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin has one of the best student sections in the country and they backed that up this week by selling out their season ticket allotment in three minutes.

The new record time could come in-part because senior forward Nigel Hayes made a bet with students on Twitter.

If Wisconsin’s students purchased all 2,100 student season tickets in less than five minutes Hayes and senior guard Bronson Koenig — who never backed up Hayes’ bet, it should be noted — would buy all of them a donut.

Since Wisconsin’s students did their part, it looks like Hayes is going to have to buy a lot of donuts to pay up his end of the bet.

With most of last season’s Sweet 16 team returning, Wisconsin is a consensus preseason top 25 team as they’ll be one of the major contenders in the Big Ten this season.