MADISON, Wis. (AP) Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said it was a simple formula against Green Bay on Wednesday night.
When the Badgers were dribbling east-west and not sharing the ball, things bogged down. When they moved the ball, cut and screened for each other, things clicked.
Shaking off some early sluggishness, Wisconsin beat Green Bay 73-59 as Nigel Hayes scored 24 points.
The Wisconsin offense was at its best when the Badgers (10-2) were sharing the ball, and they had 18 assists on 27 field goals.
“You’re a lot harder to guard when the ball moves like that,” Gard said.
While Hayes’ offensive output wasn’t much of a surprise, Zak Showalter’s was. The senior guard is averaging less than 7 points a game and came in shooting less than 29 percent from behind the 3-point line.
But he connected on a career-high four 3-pointers as he scored 16 points, while Ethan Happ added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Showalter credited Happ for some of his success, saying the Phoenix (4-6) were doubling down on him in the post. Happ made them pay with six assists.
“It’s just good to see the ball go through, and it really felt good tonight,” he said.
Green Bay coach Linc Darner said Showalter’s shooting wrecked his game plan, which included sagging off Showalter when he was on the perimeter.
“It was almost like he knew we weren’t going to come out and guard him and he caught them in rhythm,” Darner said.
Kerem Kanter led Green Bay with 18 points.
Green Bay: The Phoenix are 1-22 vs. Wisconsin and 0-19 in Madison. Their only win in the series was in 2009. Green Bay was competitive at times Wednesday night, but couldn’t sustain it.
Wisconsin: The Badgers did exactly what they were expected to playing at home against an in-state rival it has regularly handled with ease. They now get a break to take care of finals before one last tune up ahead of Big Ten play starting Dec. 27.
The Badgers were a little lethargic to start and trailed Green Bay 12-11 almost 9 minutes into the game. But they reeled off a 20-4 run that included a nearly 5-minute scoreless drought for the Phoenix. Green Bay cut the lead to seven early in the second half. But Wisconsin responded with a 25-8 run that blew the game open.
ONE YEAR ON THE JOB
Wednesday’s game was an anniversary of sorts for Gard. Then-coach Bo Ryan abruptly resigned almost a year ago after a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Gard was immediately installed at the interim coach. His first game at the helm was one week later, an 84-79 win over Green Bay. Gard joked the only thing that’s changed since then is his hairline. “The basketball and the relations with the players remains the same, and it’s strong,” he said.
At 6-foot-10, Happ knows his game is largely in the post, and he hasn’t even attempted a 3-pointer in his two seasons. But the crowd erupted when he pulled up just inside the top of the key and drained one. Happ, who has been working to add an outside shot to his game, noted one difference between making one near the top of the key and scoring under the basket. “It was nice to not have to run the length of the floor for once” to get back on defense, he said.
HAYES CROSSES 1,500
Hayes became the ninth player in Wisconsin to score 1,500 points and has 1,510 for his career. According to Wisconsin, he’s the only active player in the country with 1,500 career points, 600 rebounds and 200 assists.
Green Bay: The Phoenix return home Saturday for the first time in three weeks to host Belmont.
Wisconsin: The Badgers host Florida A&M on Dec. 23.