As expected, the Wisconsin Badgers came into Champaign last night and put an end to their two game losing streak. It wasn’t a great win by any means, but there sure were some positives to focus on.
From the start, the first half of action was a seesaw of scoring. The first 16 minutes saw 17 lead changes until Wisconsin was finally able to pull themselves away with the help of a Sam Dekker three ball.
The stars of the first half had to be the freshman pair, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.
With starting point guard Traevon Jackson struggling, Bo Ryan decided to give Koening a fair amount of minutes to run the offense. Koening made the most of his opportunity by notching five points in the first half. Koening’s best attribute is his passing. It showed after a perfectly timed post entry to Jackson, which led to a three-point-play. His contribution will not be ignored by Bo Ryan. Bronson may not see 17 minutes like he did last night, but expect a decent amount of playing time come Saturday.
As for Nigel Hayes, his ability to get to the line is something spectacular. Don’t let his age fool you, this 18-year-old plays like a fifth year senior. His understanding of angles along with his brute strength routinely places him at the foul line. In the first half, Nigel found himself at the line three times. He led the Badgers at the half with ten points.
Coming out of the break, Wisconsin would not let their lead slip away. The Fighting Illini put up a fight, keeping the game within single digits until the last minute. Wisconsin though, wouldn’t give in. With the help of solid free throw shooting, the Badgers finished off Illinois 75-63.
It was a well played team effort throughout. Sam Dekker sunk four triples, Ben Brust went six-for-six from the foul line, Josh Gasser snagged eight rebounds, and Frank Kaminsky had two blocks along with a game sealing charge call which he drew with 1:33 remaining.
Individually, the biggest positive to take out of last night’s game was the effort out of Traevon Jackson. Jackson played smart, fundamental basketball that Badger fans are accustomed to. He scored 14 points while shooting over 50% from the field. Traevon also collected seven rebounds and was accountable for only one turnover. This is exactly the type of play the Badgers want out of their point guard. He took the opportunities that the defense gave him, forcing only one or two shots.
Defensively, Jackson held his own, allowing opposing point guard Tracy Abrams to eight points off 25% shooting. Bo Ryan’s decision to cut down Jackson’s minutes seemed to pay off. Last night’s performance was perfect for Jackson in building confidence for Michigan State.
The stage has now been set for Saturday’s game against Michigan State. The Spartans are sitting atop of the Big Ten standings along side in-state rival Michigan. Wisconsin can put themselves right back in the Big Ten race if they can pull off the upset. Keep on eye on Michigan State as they take on the Nittany Lions tomorrow night.