Hayes, Brown lead Wisconsin to 72-61 win over Nebraska
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prior to this season, Wisconsin’s Vitto Brown was a little-used reserve, best known for his stirring rendition of the national anthem before select games.
Brown hit all the right notes on the court on Wednesday night.
The junior forward had a career-high 18 points and Nigel Hayes scored 20 as the Badgers defeated Nebraska 72-61 for their sixth-consecutive victory.
“You know, it was about time, because I was ready to rough him up,” Hayes said of Brown as the two classmates from northwest Ohio laughed. “I told him at the beginning of the year, that’s what we expect from him. He knows he can play like that.”
Brown made a 3-pointer from the corner as the shot clock expired on Wisconsin’s second possession, a harbinger of things to come. The Badgers (15-9, 7-4 Big Ten) connected on 11 of 18 shots from beyond the arc, their best 3-point shooting effort of the season.
Wisconsin took the lead for good with a 13-2 first-half spurt keyed by consecutive 3s from Brown, Jordan Hill and Bronson Koenig. Brown made all three of his 3-point attempts, while Koenig was 3 for 4.
Koenig had 12 points for Wisconsin and Zak Showalter chipped in 10.
The Badgers abused Nebraska’s zone defense, employed in the absence Shavon Shields, one of the Cornhuskers’ top defenders. The senior guard/forward saw his 106-game start streak come to an end as he recovers from a head injury suffered against Rutgers on Saturday.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said it was “highly doubtful” he would have used zone exclusively if Shields had been available, and lamented the Cornhuskers’ 5-for-16 showing on layups.
“When you shoot 3s better than the other team shoots layups, you’re gonna win,” Miles said.
Freshman Glynn Watson Jr. scored 16 points to pace Nebraska (13-12, 5-7).
Hayes missed three of his first four shots from the field as the Cornhuskers built an early lead, but the Badgers rallied when their leading scorer settled in. He finished 7 of 14 from the field.
After eight games in double figures in the non-conference season, Brown did not have one in Big Ten play until he scored 12 in Thursday’s win over Ohio State. He suffered a rib injury last month that led to him coming off the bench for a game before rejoining the starting lineup against the Buckeyes.
Brown’s resurgence helped cover for an off night from freshman forward Ethan Happ, as the Big Ten’s leader in double-doubles finished with just two points and three rebounds. Happ’s only points came at the free throw line with 6:17 left in the game; it was the first time all year he had been held without a field goal.
Brown was 6 of 7 from the field and grabbed five rebounds. He bested his previous career high of 16 points with an emphatic right-handed dunk between two defenders midway through the second half.
“It feels good,” Brown said. “But the best part about it is that we’re taking care of business and getting the W.”
Nebraska forward Benny Parker lost a shoe early in the second half, and had to carry it down the court with the Cornhuskers on defense.
He tried to quickly put it back on, but had to cut short his effort to defend Koenig, who sank a 3-pointer over Parker from the top of the key. Parker adjusted the shoe again - without a stoppage in play - and scored on a drive on the other end.
Former Badgers forward Duje Dukan received a loud ovation when he was shown on the video board during a timeout early in the second half.
Dukan, who played on Wisconsin’s back-to-back Final Four teams the past two seasons, is now a member of the Sacramento Kings, but he has yet to make his NBA debut. The Kings reassigned Dukan to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League last week.
Wisconsin: The Badgers wore their 1976 red throwback uniforms, leading to the odd sight of a road team wearing white at the Kohl Center. . Koenig hit a 3-pointer in his 35th consecutive game. . Wisconsin won for the 31st straight time when scoring at least 70 points.
Nebraska: Sophomore guard/forward Nick Fuller, from nearby Sun Prairie, Wis., had two points and four fouls in 17 minutes. . The Cornhuskers’ 61 points were their lowest output in a Big Ten game this season; they came in averaging 75.0 points per game in conference play.
Wisconsin visits No. 2 Maryland on Saturday.
Nebraska hosts Penn State on Saturday.