The Sports Xchange
MADISON — Wisconsin sophomore forward Ethan Happ and senior forward Nigel Hayes did a masterful job navigating through Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense.
Happ scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to pace No. 17 Wisconsin to a 77-60 victory over No. 22 Syracuse in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.
Hayes delivered nine points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists. The standout missed a free throw in the final minute of the game that would have secured a triple-double performance.
Happ said Hayes made a difference.
“It’s Nigel, really,” said Happ, who scored 18 points during a win at Syracuse last year. “It’s him getting me the ball. The first time we played Syracuse, I should have had more points than I did because I didn’t finish around the rim. But yes, shoutout to Nigel.”
Wisconsin, which won its ninth consecutive home game, shot a season-high 47.8 percent (11 of 23) from beyond the arc, with the 11 3-pointers matching a season high.
Badgers coach Greg Gard said he felt comfortable not going to his bench as much as usual.
“I went with the starters a little longer because they were in such a rhythm,” Gard said. “They had played very well, and I really felt they were in sync.”
Senior guard Bronson Koenig added 20 points, which included 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range for the Badgers (6-2).
Koenig finished one 3-pointer shy of the single-game program mark. That record is held by many players, most recently accomplished by Rob Wilson in a 2012 Big Ten tournament game against Indiana.
Happ also posted four assists.
Syracuse’s Aaron White III, a graduate transfer, scored 14 first-half points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. He shot 4 of 6 from 3-point range in the opening half, but he was scoreless in the second half, missing all three long-distance attempts.
Guard John Gillon, another graduate transfer, contributed 10 points for Syracuse (4-2). The Orange shot 38.2 percent from the field and were 6 of 23 from beyond the arc.
The Badgers were 7 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half and led by as many as 14, but the Orange chipped away to battle back in contention. Syracuse shot 10 for 10 from the free-throw line in the first half.
Orange coach Jim Boeheim said he was pleased with how Syracuse responded in pulling within two points in the first half, but the team’s inability to attack the offensive glass hurt in the second. Wisconsin outrebounded Syracuse 40-25 overall, though the Orange held a 16-15 rebounding edge after the first half.
“They got on the boards and we didn’t,” Boeheim said. “They’re a confident, veteran team playing at home, and I thought they turned it up a bit, really kept playing the way they were playing. Our offense slipped, and that was the difference in the second half.
The Badgers broke the game open with a 12-0 run at the onset of the second half, as Koenig and senior forward Vitto Brown combined for three 3-point buckets and Happ drained consecutive layups to push Wisconsin’s lead to 58-41 with 14:21 to go.
BADGER BITS: Syracuse was eighth in the nation in 3-point shooting at 43.9 percent entering the game. ... Wisconsin took a 3-2 lead in the series. The Badgers won 66-58 in overtime last season in Syracuse, N.Y. ... The Badgers are 1-2 against ranked teams this season with losses to No. 12 Creighton and No. 3 North Carolina.