Two big Badger runs — 14-0 in the first half and 16-0 in the second — spoiled an otherwise strong defensive effort from Nebraska as No. 9 Wisconsin took down the Huskers 67-53 in Madison on Tuesday night.
“Those two runs that Wisconsin put together was hard to bounce back from,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “To go on the road against the No. 9 team in the country and hold them to 40% shooting after what they did in their last game against Louisville was something we can build on. I told the guys I think we’re close. We’re going to start making shots. We have too good of shooters on our team to continue to shoot the percentage we are.”
The Huskers led by as much as 10 in the first half and took a one-point lead in the second, but an eight-minute drought from the field proved to be too much to overcome. Nebraska shot 33.3% from the field, 29.6% from 3 and 53.9% from the foul line.
Dalano Banton led the Huskers with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He shot 3-of-5 from deep but struggled to finish in the paint, converting just two of his seven 2-point attempts. Teddy Allen also shot 3-of-5 from deep and had 11 points, but he made just one of his four shots inside the arc and foul trouble limited him to 25 minutes. Trey McGowens added 10 points and six rebounds but shot just 2-of-7 from the field and 5-of-9 from the line.
Lat Mayen, Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Kobe Webster and Trevor Lakes combined to shoot 1-of-14 from 3.
For the first time this season, Hoiberg changed up his starting lineup, inserting sophomore Yvan Ouedraogo for Thorbjarnarson to get some more size on the floor to combat Wisconsin’s starting frontcourt of Nate Reuvers (6-foot-11) and Micah Potter (6-foot-10). Ouedragoo contributed six points, six rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes.
“I thought Yvan played really well,” Hoiberg said. “I thought it was his best performance of the season … Yvan finishes three-out-of-four at the rim tonight and that’s tremendous growth for Yvan this year. His effort and going out and using his physical body, that’s why we had him in the starting lineup tonight.”
Hoiberg did not rely on his bench much outside of Thorbjarnarson as Lakes played 16 minutes and Webster played 14. Neither of them scored. Shamiel Stevenson played just 67 seconds. Freshman Eduardo Andre and Elijah Wood didn’t check in until the final minute. Hoiberg said he’s still sorting out his rotation.
“We’ve got guys back in the rotation now with Trevor coming back into the fold,” Hoiberg said. “Had a couple good looks, Trevor did tonight, but there’s still going to be a role for Shamiel on this team, there’s no question about it.”
The Badgers had four players core in double figures led by Brad Davison with 15 points and seven assists. Potter and Reuvers scored 10 points apiece. Wisconsin shot 40% from the field including 30.8% from deep. The Badgers had shot 43.7% on 3s in their first seven games.
Nebraska was locked in defensively from the tipoff, holding Wisconsin to just one field goal and one trip to the foul line in the first 12-and-a-half minutes of game time. A 3 by Allen and a three-point play by McGowens gave the Huskers their largest lead of the game at 19-9.
The Huskers forced six turnovers and blocked four shots during that start.
“We knew that they were going to play through the paint knowing that we give up size,” Banton said. “We wanted to double them every time they caught it, on the dribble. We wanted to harass them, make them fire it out and rotations. That was working for us early.”
The Badgers settled in from there, however, as freshman guard Jonathan Davis banked in a tough shot in the lane. Banton missed a tough shot at the rim for Nebraska, but Ouedraogo blocked a Davison layup attempt on the other end, leading to a transition opportunity for Banton and this time he converted to push the lead back to 10.
Wisconsin answered with a 3 from the top of the key by Aleem Ford, sparking a 14-0 run as Wisconsin began to pick apart Nebraska’s defense while the Huskers continued to struggle on the other end.
Wisconsin pulled ahead 25-21 before Thorbjarnarson knocked down a 3 from the right corner, and the huskers closed out the half with a stop to make it a one-point game heading into the break.
Allen led the Huskers with six points but picked up his third foul at the 2:03 mark. The Huskers shot 33.3% from the field including 4-of-13 from deep.
Wisconsin shot 31% including 3-of-15 from deep but went 4-for-4 at the foul line compared to Nebraska’s 2-for-5.
Nebraska missed its first four shots of the second half as Wisconsin pulled ahead 30-24. Ouedraogo got the Huskers on the board almost three minutes in with a layup on a broken play.
Nebraska used a 7-0 run capped by a McGowens 3 in transition to retake the lead at 33-32, but Potter took over from there. The big man hit a pair of free throws, scored inside, assisted on a 3, converted a 3-point play and then assisted on another 3 during a 13-0 Badger run.
The run reached 16-0 and the lead 48-33 after Nebraska collapsed on a Potter post touch. Potter skipped the ball to Trevor Anderson who swung it to Davison for another 3, leading to a timeout from Hoiberg.
“I feel like during that stretch they went on, we let our offense dictate how we were playing on defense,” Banton said. “So I feel like just having the same intensity on defense and bringing that will convert to our offense when we’re not making shots to where we can get out and run and play the way we want to play. With the guys we have, we’ve got to play 40 minutes and we know that. We know that there’s a fine line between winning and losing, man, and we have to do all the little things and all the things that we can control in order to help come out with the victory at the end of the game.”
Allen, the Huskers’ best source of individual offense, picked up his fourth foul before the 12-minute mark and sat for the next five minutes while Wisconsin made its run.
Thorbjarnarson finally got the Huskers on the board, splitting a pair of free throws, but the drought from the field reached eight minutes before a bucket by Allen in the paint with just over six minutes to play.
The Wisconsin lead grew to as much as 18 before the Huskers hit a few 3s in the final three minutes to make the final score look bit more respectable.
“The effort we had on the defensive end of the floor was outstanding,” Hoiberg said. “Generally when we have that type of defensive effort and have those types of possessions, it lets to a run-out break opportunity in transition. That’s what Wisconsin does, they’re the best in the country in getting back and making you work for everything you get. If we can go out and have that same intensity on the defensive end, we’re going to be just fine.
“That’s the message from this game. We gave them six offensive rebounds; that’s phenomenal against a team with this type of length … Turning the ball over nine times — that’s growth, that’s progress. Now we just need to take the lid off the rim and knock down some shots. I’m confident that we’ve got the guys in that locker room that can make that happen.”
The Huskers have a quick turnaround as they’ll welcome Michigan to Lincoln for a Christmas game. Tipoff against the Wolverines is set for 5 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network.