UW 70, Nebraska 69: Heroics of Hayes and Happ rescue Badgers

Wisconsin's Ethan Happ drives around Nebraska's Ed Morrow.

LINCOLN, Neb. – Greg Gard’s team continues to parlay a risky but effective victory formula: shoot poorly, win ugly.

Wisconsin struggled to score for the fourth consecutive game but once more avoided an upset on Thursday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The fifth-ranked Badgers this time needed overtime to subdue Nebraska, 70-69, thanks largely to a huge three-pointer by Nigel Hayes with 18.4 seconds left.

Hayes’ basket gave UW the one-point lead and Ethan Happ then stuffed a drive by Tai Webster, corralled the ball and called timeout with 3.3 seconds left.

Hayes was fouled with 2.2 seconds left. He was 7 of 9 from the line to that point but missed the first attempt. He missed the second and Nebraska’s Michael Jacobson grabbed the rebound but Happ poked the ball loose from behind and time expired.


“Here we are again,” Gard said. “Just continue to find a way. They answered the call when they had to.”.


“We’ve got to grow, mature,” Hayes said, “and finally put together 40 minutes of basketball.”.

BOX SCORE: UW 70, Nebraska 69.

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UW (21-3, 10-1 Big Ten) maintained its 1 1/2-game lead in the league by recording its eighth consecutive victory.

The Badgers’ lone Big Ten loss came on Jan. 8 at Purdue.

Purdue (20-5, 9-3) moved into sole possession of second place with a 69-64 victory over Indiana on Thursday. Maryland (20-4, 8-3), which has lost its last two games but was idle Thursday, is alone in third place.

Nebraska (10-14, 4-8) welcomed back forward Ed Morrow, who had missed the previous seven games because of a foot injury, but fell for the eighth time in nine games. The Cornhuskers have lost five of those games by a combined 17 points.

“Wisconsin is an excellent team,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “They’re very strong inside. They make it very hard to score at the rim. I think you saw that tonight.”.

Hayes scored 20 points, 18 in the second half and overtime. He hit 7 of 11 free throws. UW hit 16 of 24 overall, 10 of 13 over the final 12 minutes 46 seconds.

Zak Showalter hit 4 of 6 three-pointers and added 15 for UW. He also had six rebounds, two steals and an assist. Bronson Koenig added 12. He hit just 2 of 6 three-pointers but one came with 1:27 left in overtime to forge a 67-67 tie.

Happ finished eight points and 14 rebounds for UW, which shot just 36.5% (23 of 63) and surrendered 20 offensive rebounds. Happ’s lone block came in the closing seconds when Webster (19 points) drove into the lane and tried a reverse layup.

“He had been scoring – a lot,” said Happ, who made just 3 of 9 shots and had three turnovers against aggressive double teams. “We knew that once he got in there he was probably going to try to put one up. We had a lot of guys who did great chest-ups and I just saw the ball so I went for it and got the block and was lucky enough to call a timeout.”.

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Glynn Watson Jr., Slowed by a groin injury, added 15 points for Nebraska. Jacobson chipped in 10. He was 3 of 21 from three-point range entering the night and hadn’t attempted a three-pointer since Dec. 28 against Indiana.

After Koenig and Happ got the ball out of the hands of Watson Jr., Jacobson was free and buried the three-pointer with three-tenths of a second left in regulation to forge a 58-58 tie.

Gard said the defensive plan was to deny all three-point shots without fouling.

“Knowing that they were going to take a three, we don’t want to end up fouling a three-point shooter,” said Gard, who saw Showalter convert a four-point play in the opening minute of overtime. “He (Jacobson) got a little bit too much space. We don’t want anybody to get a three off. As we made the last switch were back too far.”.

Hayes provided the ultimate answer to Jacobson’s three-pointer.

With Vitto Brown in for Happ in the final minute of overtime, Gard had Hayes work a two-man game with Koenig.

Nebraska used Webster and Jacobson to double-team Koenig, who moved to the left wing and then flipped the ball to Hayes, who had drifted to the right of the circle.

Hayes launched the shot before Jacobson could get back in time. Hayes was 1 of 9 from three-point range in the previous three games and 17 of 57 overall this season.

“A lot of teams are hard-hedging him, trying to get the ball out of his hands,” Hayes said, referring to Koenig. “So I just came up and set the screen and just popped back. I was fortunate enough to knock the shot down…

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“I like to say that big players make big-time plays. Again, you know me well. I’ll never lose confidence in myself.”.

After Nebraska called a timeout, Gard put Happ back into the lineup for his defense and he delivered.

Webster understood why UW prevailed.

“They’re in the position they are for a reason,” he said. “They play well and they make big plays. They know how to win down the stretch.”.