Nigel Hayes

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Swanigan, Thompson lead No. 15 Purdue past Wisconsin 91-80

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Freshman Caleb Swanigan scored a career-high 27 points and sophomore P.J. Thompson also set a career best with 22, leading No. 15 Purdue to a 91-80 victory against Wisconsin on Sunday.

A.J. Hammons added 16 points and Vince Edwards had 11 for the Boilermakers (24-7, 12-6), who forced a four-way tie for third place in the Big Ten with Maryland, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Purdue earned the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will play in Friday’s second semifinal against an opponent to be determined.

Nigel Hayes led Wisconsin (20-11, 12-6) with 30 points, including 18 in the second half. The Badgers earned the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament and will play Thursday in Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Badgers, who had a four-game winning streak snapped, are the reigning Big Ten Tournament champs.

After Thompson made five first-half 3-pointers, the Badgers were forced to extend their defense and Swanigan, Purdue’s power forward, had a 23-point second half. The Boilermakers will take a three-game winning streak into the Big Ten tourney.

The Boilermakers opened the second half with a three-point play from Swanigan and a steal and dunk from Edwards to seize a 50-39 lead with 18:12 remaining. Swanigan’s layup pushed the advantage to 52-39 at the 17:09 mark.

Purdue shot 63 percent (17 of 27) during the first half and led 45-39 through 20 minutes, getting 15 from Thompson on 5 of 6 from 3-point range.

After Wisconsin, which shot 57.1 percent in the half (16 of 28) took a 29-21 lead, the Boilermakers finished the half outscoring the Badgers 24-10, including six 3-pointers. Purdue also outrebounded Wisconsin 13-7 during the first 20 minutes, when Hayes scores 12 for the Badgers.

TIP-INS

Wisconsin: Entering the Purdue game, the Badgers were 11-1 since a Jan. 12 loss at Northwestern, losing only at second-ranked Michigan State on Feb. 18. … In its eight most recent games, Wisconsin is 72 of 175 from 3-point range (41.1 percent), averaging nine made 3s in those eight contests. … The Badgers have won 20 games for a 10th consecutive season and have won at least 12 Big Ten games for a seventh consecutive year.

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ non-starters outscored the opponent’s bench in 28 of the first 30 games. … Entering the Wisconsin game, center A.J, Hammons had scored in double figures 11 consecutive times … The Boilermakers’ 46.5 field goal percentage is the program’s best since the 1997-98 team shot 48.4 percent. … Purdue entered having won 22 of its last 23 home games.

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Wisconsin: Big Ten Tournament, TBA

Purdue: Big Ten Tournament, TBA

Wisconsin beats No. 8 Iowa, continuing recent hot streak

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As one of the Big Ten’s most improved players, Iowa’s Peter Jok has become a primary offensive option alongside Jarrod Uthoff for one of the conference’s best teams. And in the first half of Wednesday’s game against Wisconsin the junior was nearly unstoppable, scoring 17 of Iowa’s 34 first-half points. Wisconsin needed to slow him down in order to win, and thanks in large part to the defense of Zak Showalter the Badgers managed to do just that.

Jok scored just four points in the second stanza thanks to Showalter, and thanks to contributions throughout the lineup Wisconsin produced a 67-59 victory in Iowa City. At one point 9-9 on the season (1-4 in Big Ten play), Wisconsin’s now won nine of its last ten games. And at 10-5 in conference play Greg Gard’s team is still a factor in the Big Ten title race, something that few envisioned for this team six weeks ago.

Bronson Koenig scored 15 points and Nigel Hayes ten, and while they’ve matured throughout the season so has the rest of the roster. The role players made the difference Wednesday night, be it Showalter with his defense or reserves such as Charlie Thomas and Khalil Iverson providing a needed spark off the bench. Wisconsin received 23 points from its bench compared to four for Iowa, and that combined with Wisconsin’s defense was the difference.

Jok was quiet in the second half thanks to Showalter, and Wisconsin also limited Jarrod Uthoff to 11 points on 3-for-12 shooting. Earlier in the season Iowa was receiving points from a host of players, so even with Uthoff playing at an All-American level and Jok not far behind Fran McCaffery’s team proved incredibly difficult to slow down offensively. That hasn’t been the case of late, one reason why Iowa’s lost three of its last four games.

If Iowa, which now trails Indiana by a game in the Big Ten standings, is to win the conference title it will need more from the likes of Mike Gesell (four points, 2-for-9 FG) and Dom Uhl (two points, 1-for-4 shooting) than they’ve received in recent games.

With its defense Wisconsin made those players beat them, and Iowa couldn’t get it done. Hayes and Koenig will continue to lead the way for the Badgers as this team approaches the NCAA tournament. But the reason why Wisconsin will hear its name called when the field is announced, not to mention be a threat to win once there, is the fact that the players who aren’t the headliners have improved throughout the course of the season.

And that’s a credit to the players and their head coach, who continues to strengthen his case to have the interim tag removed.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Minnesota stuns No. 6 Maryland

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GAME OF THE NIGHTMinnesota 68, No. 6 Maryland 63

Minnesota picked up its first conference win of the season, stunning the Terrapins in Minneapolis. Joey King, who hit some big free throws late, scored 15 points off the bench with Nate Mason accounting for 18 points and six assists and Jordan Murphy 17 points. Maryland played without the suspended Diamond Stone, and Melo Trimble once again struggled. If not for Rasheed Sulaimon (28 points), the margin could have been worse.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Connecticut 68, No. 21 SMU 62: The Huskies, who appeared to be in good shape in regards to the NCAA tournament, picked up a quality win at home as they outlasted the Mustangs in Hartford. Amida Brimah was good on both ends of the floor, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks, and Shonn Miller added 12 and seven caroms. SMU, which shoots 52.6 percent from two, made just 40 percent of those looks thanks in large part to Brimah’s play in the middle for UConn.

No. 8 Michigan State 69, Wisconsin 57: The Spartans ended the Badgers’ seven-game win streak, with Denzel Valentine playing a key role. Valentine finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and ten assists to lead the way for Michigan State, with Bryn Forbes adding 17 points. Ethan Happ scored 18 points and Bronson Koenig 12 for Wisconsin, but an off night from Nigel Hayes spelled doom for the visitors.

No. 14 Kentucky 80, Tennessee 70: No. 14 Kentucky avenged its loss at Tennessee earlier this season with an 80-70 win over the Vols in Lexington. Jamal Murray scored 28 points and Derek Willis 25 for Kentucky, which currently leads the SEC. John Calipari’s team has been playing very good basketball of late, and the emergence of Willis is one of the reasons why.

THURSDAY’S BUBBLE BANTER

STARRED

Jamal Murray and Derek Willis, Kentucky: Both players shot 8-for-12 from the field, with Murray scoring 28 points and grabbing nine boards in the win over Tennessee. Willis has really emerged in recent weeks, and he added 25 points while shooting 7-for-11 from three.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 24 points, seven rebounds and ten assists in the Spartans’ win over Wisconsin.

Joel Bolomboy, Weber State: 34 points and ten rebounds in the Wildcats’ win at Southern Utah.

STRUGGLED

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: Hayes scored five points, shooting 1-for-13 from the field, in the Badgers’ loss at No. 8 Michigan State.

CJ Wiggins, North Carolina Central: Wiggins shot 1-for-9 from the field in the Eagles’ 71-60 loss at Coppin State.

Kevin Johnson, Cincinnati: Johnson scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting as the Bearcats lost by two at Tulsa.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • UNCW’s 11-game win streak came to an end, as the Seahawks lost 87-69 at William & Mary. Kevin Keatts’ Seahawks are still on top of the CAA standings with a record of 12-3, one game ahead of second-place Hofstra.
  • In a matchup of two of the better teams in the Atlantic Sun, reigning league champ North Florida blitzed NJIT by the final score of 107-71. Demarcus Daniels scored 25 points and Dallas Moore added 21 and 11 boards for the Ospreys, who ended their four-game losing streak with the win.
  • UNC Asheville and Winthrop are tied for first in the Big South, as both teams picked up wins Thursday night. The Bulldogs rebounded from a 19-point first half to win by nine at Presbyterian, and Winthrop beat Coastal Carolina by 12 at home.
  • Wichita State retained its two-game lead atop the Missouri Valley with a 99-68 beating of Missouri State. Zach Brown scored 16 points and Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker added 15 apiece for the Shockers, who are now 13-2 in league play.
  • In a matchup of two of the four teams that entered the night tied atop the NEC standings, Wagner won 94-74 at Fairleigh Dickinson. Bashir Mason’s Seahawks are now in sole possession of first, as Mount St. Mary’s was upset by Central Connecticut State and Saint Francis (PA) lost to St. Francis-Brooklyn at home.
  • Chattanooga maintained its two-game lead atop the SoCon with an 85-59 win over VMI. The Mocs scored 52 first-half points against the Keydets.
  • Little Rock moved to 13-2 in Sun Belt play with a 57-49 win at Georgia State. The Trojans limited the Panthers to 5-for-22 shooting in the second half, and Lis Shoshi finished the game with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
  • Marshall took care of Charlotte, 87-72, thus remaining a game behind UAB in the Conference USA standings. Marshall and Middle Tennessee are both 10-3 in league play, with the Blue Raiders taking on UAB Sunday.
  • IPFW moved into sole possession of first place in the Summit League with a 91-79 win over South Dakota State. Max Landis and John Konchar scored 22 apiece for the Mastodons, with Konchar also grabbing 12 rebounds.
  • Belmont moved to 11-3 in OVC play with an 86-78 win at Eastern Kentucky. Craig Bradshaw finished with 33 and seven boards for the Bruins, who host 10-3 Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
  • Gonzaga beat Pacific 90-68, moving to 13-2 in the WCC. Kyle Wiltjer and Damontas Sabonis combined to score 49 points, with Sabonis adding ten rebounds. The Bulldogs are a game ahead of Saint Mary’s, who they host Saturday night.
  • Tulsa nearly threw away the game with a turnover in the final seconds of overtime, but a Cincinnati three missed the mark as the Golden Hurricane won 70-68. The loss makes Saturday’s game against UConn even bigger for the Bearcats, who are squarely on the bubble.
  • New Mexico State retained its lead atop the WAC with a 63-55 win over CSU Bakersfield. The Aggies hold a one-game lead on Grand Canyon in the standings.
  • Weber State moved into a tie for first in the Big Sky with an 87-83 win at Southern Utah. Joel Bolomboy led the way with 34 points and ten rebounds.
  • A Joe Rahon shot in the final seconds gave Saint Mary’s a two-point win at Portland. With their résumé not having much from a non-conference standpoint, the Gaels can’t afford any missteps down the stretch.
  • Utah picked up its first win at UCLA in 55 years as they held off the Bruins 75-73. Jordan Loveridge led the way for the Runnin’ Utes with 17 points.
  • Stacy Davis became Pepperdine’s all-time leading scorer as he scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for the Waves to avoid an 82-72 home loss to San Francisco.
  • Stefan Jankovic scored a career-high 34 points as Hawai’i remained alone atop the Big West with a 69-63 win at CSUN.
  • Cal hung on in the second half to pick up their second win away from Berkeley this season, 78-75 at Washington. Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace combined to score 41 points for the Golden Bears.

Wisconsin ends No. 2 Maryland’s 27-game home win streak

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Just over a month ago Wisconsin lost at Northwestern, dropping to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten and had the look of a team that would have to fight simply to get into the NIT. Since then, Greg Gard’s Badgers have won seven straight games with the most recent triumph being a 70-57 victory at No. 2 Maryland. Not only did Wisconsin become the first Big Ten team to beat the Terrapins at the Xfinity Center since Maryland joined the Big Ten, but they also ended Maryland’s 27-game home win streak.

And it was Wisconsin’s offensive balance that stood out, as four starters scored in double figures led by forward Vitto Brown.

Brown, who accounted for 18 points and five rebounds in Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska Wednesday night, was even better against Maryland as he scored a career-high 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. While Bronson Koenig (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nigel Hayes (14 and six rebounds) are the ones expected to shoulder much of the load, players such as Brown, Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter (11 points) will also be key as Wisconsin makes its push for an NCAA tournament bid.

In Wisconsin’s first five conference games Brown averaged 4.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. Since then he’s averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures in each of Wisconsin’s last three games.

Overall Wisconsin’s looked far more fluid offensively during this win streak, and over the last three games the Badgers have shot very well from the perimeter as they made nearly 51 percent of their attempts (12-for-26 against Maryland). Add in Wisconsin’s ability to take advantage of Maryland’s defensive rebounding issues, converting 13 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points, and it was easy to see why Wisconsin was able to grab control of the game in the first half during a 20-0 run that gave them the separation they needed.

Maryland’s issues throughout conference play remain the same, as they struggled to end defensive possessions while also turning the ball over far too often (seven times) during the aforementioned Wisconsin run. With Melo Trimble not playing at the level he’s capable of reaching (he may not be completely healthy), Maryland has some things to address during this stretch run.

But more than anything, Saturday was the product of a Wisconsin team that’s starting to click at the right time. And as crazy as it may seem, given how Wisconsin began Big Ten play, the Badgers only two games out of first place.

Nigel Hayes’ comment on basketball brands hits on greater point

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Much is made about the ball when it comes to how the sport of basketball is played and rightfully so, as the ball is the most important piece of equipment. Different brands have different characteristics, and with college basketball programs being able to pick the ball they use for home games there are adjustments to be made during the season.

Wisconsin will play at No. 2 Maryland Saturday, meaning that in the days leading up to the game the Badgers needed to get used to the Under Armour basketball. The brand became a conversation point in the aftermath of Maryland’s win over No. 4 Iowa last month, with the Hawkeyes (while not blaming the ball for their loss) made note of the differences between the Under Armour ball and the Nike ball they use for their home games.

Thursday Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes offered up his observations on the basketball while also pointing out (albeit sarcastically) the goal of intercollegiate athletics.

“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.

“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”

Hayes makes a good point here, and in regards to the NBA all hell would break loose under similar circumstances (remember the leather vs. microfiber composite controversy in 2006?). If these games are solely about fun and the college experience, wouldn’t having one ball used by all schools better fit that mission? This isn’t the biggest of deals when it comes to “amateur” athletics, as different basketball brands have been used for years.

But Hayes was able to take this situation and work it into the discussion of the goals of intercollegiate athletics. Is it about the experience? Or does the ability to profit, be it through a minor move such as using a particular ball or the more impactful step of moving from one conference to another, take precedence? Given the shifts that have occurred in college sports in recent years, it’s quite apparent that the search for additional revenue streams has won out.

Hayes did note that neither he nor his teammates would make excuses, saying that the team would simple “have to get used to” the unfamiliar basketball according to the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end, this was a good use of sarcasm by Hayes to make a greater point about the collegiate athletics machine he and his teammates are but minor parts of.

SUNDAY’S SNACKS: Wisconsin comes back, No. 10 SMU still undefeated

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GAME OF THE DAY: Colorado 91, Oregon 87

The Buffaloes completed an important home weekend sweep of the Oregon schools with a four-point win over Oregon in Boulder. If you like offense this was the game for you, as both teams shot at least 50 percent from the field and ten players scored in double figures (five for each team). Josh Scott led the way for Colorado with 17 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds, and Colorado’s 14-point advantages at the foul line (25-11) and in second-chance points (26-12) helped them make up for Oregon shooting 12-for-21 from three. Dillon Brooks paced Oregon with 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 

Wisconsin 77, No. 4 Michigan State 76: Trailing by four in the final minute, Wisconsin scored the game’s final five points to pick up a close win after falling short on multiple occasions this season. The Spartans played without the injured Tum Tum Nairn and they certainly missed their point guard down the stretch. With the late collapse Michigan State became the third Top 10 team to lose two games this week (No. 8 Miami, No. 9 Duke). Should we be worried about the Spartans?

No. 16 Iowa 82, Michigan 72: Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes won their 11th straight Big Ten regular season game, pulling away from the Wolverines late in Iowa City. Jarrod Uthoff scored 23 points and Peter Jok added 16 for Iowa, which had four players score in double figures and shot 51.7 percent from the field. Derrick Walton Jr. led the way for Michigan with 16 points and six assists, but 13 Wolverine turnovers were converted into 16 points by Iowa. Iowa scored the game’s first 11 points, and that proved to be the difference.

Florida State 69, No. 13 Virginia 62: Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles shot 63.2 percent from the field in the second half as they won their second straight ACC game. Malik Beasley scored 14 of his 17 in the second half and fellow freshman Dwayne Bacon tallied 18 points and nine rebounds in the win. As for the Cavaliers, they’ve lost all three of their conference road games and the same reasons reared their ugly heads Sunday night in Tallahassee.

STARRED

Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes: Wisconsin’s two leaders combined to score 52 of the team’s 77 points in their win over No. 4 Michigan State. Add in Ethan Happ’s 14 and the remaining Badgers combined to score 11 points.

Creighton’s Isaiah Zierden: Zierden shot 9-for-12 from the field, including eight three-pointers, and scored 31 points in the Bluejays’ win at DePaul.

Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet: 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field (8-for-8 FT), five assists and three steals in a win over Indiana State.

STRUGGLED

Tulane’s Jernard Jarreau: Jarreau scored five points on 1-for-8 shooting from the field in Tulane’s loss to No. 10 SMU.

Houston’s Devonta Pollard: Pollard scored two points, shooting 0-for-7 from the field, in the Cougars’ home loss to UConn.

Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon: Brogdon scored ten points, shooting 4-for-17 from the field in the Cavaliers’ loss at Florida State.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 10 SMU remained the nation’s lone undefeated team, as they moved to 17-0 with a 60-45 win at Tulane. Markus Kennedy led four Mustangs in double figures with 13 points, and SMU limited the Green Wave to 29.2 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers on the day.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Creighton took another step towards entering the bubble conversation (if they aren’t involved already) Sunday, avoiding what would have been a bad loss by winning at DePaul 91-80. Isaiah Zierden shot 8-for-11 from three and scored a career-high 31 for the Bluejays.
  • UConn got back on the right track, outscoring Houston 41-22 in the second half and winning 69-57. Sterling Gibbs led four Huskies in double figures with 20 points.
  • Army West Point defended its home floor with a 65-45 win over American. Larry Toomey scored 13 points and Kyle Wilson and Dylan Cox added 12 apiece for the Black Knights, who are now 3-3 in Patriot League play.
  • Playing without the suspended Jordan Washington, Iona dropped its second straight game 79-75 at Rider. The Gaels are now 6-2 in the MAAC, with Monmouth and Saint Peter’s (both 5-1) tied in the loss column.
  • Wichita State remained atop the Missouri Valley with an 82-62 win over Indiana State. Fred VanVleet scored 29 points and dished out five assists, and Ron Baker added 16 points in the win.
  • Utah picked up a much-needed win at home, coming back to beat Oregon State 59-53. Jakob Poeltl scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the way, as the visiting Beavers were undone by a cold offensive stretch of more than seven minutes and Jarmal Reid’s moment of insanity.