As squeaked-out Wisconsin victories go, this one was squeaked out by the slimmest of margins. Despite struggling to connect on jumpers and finish around the hoop for the great majority of the game, the Badgers escaped the Devaney Center with a 47-41 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The win was Wisconsin's (11-4, 2-0 Big Ten) fifth straight, though it did present viable questions as a match-up with No. 11 Illinois looms next Saturday. The Badgers shot just 37.7 percent (20-of-53) from the field and were miserable from the free throw line with a 3-of-13 effort. The Huskers (9-6, 0-2 Big Ten), for their part, finished 36.7 percent (18-of-49) from the field. A strong second half from Jared Berggren boosted the Badgers to the win after a 19-19 halftime tie. Berggren finished with a game-high 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting, as well as three blocks and one rebound.
Nebraska drew within 44-41 with one minute left in the game, but a jumper by Traevon Jackson (four second half points, three first half assists) and subsequently lengthy Huskers possession prevented a full comeback.
The most notable, for better or worse, aspect of Wisconsin's game had to be the play of Ryan Evans. The senior forward posted his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, though he also continued his insanely poor season from the charity stripe with a 2-of-8 free throw-shooting effort. Evans is now 37.9 on free throws this year, down from 72.6 percent mark a year ago.
Evans did have a few significant baskets, including a jumper with 1:52 left that put Wisconsin ahead by four. Barely more than four minutes earlier, he completed a three-point play that eliminated the last lead Nebraska held all game.
For Nebraska, three players -- Ray Gallegos, Dylan Talley and Brandon Ubel -- scored in double figures. Gallegos and Talley each had 12 while Ubel scored 10, though no other Husker scored more than three points. Head coach Tim Miles, in fact, played only six players as David Rivers was the only Husker to come off the bench.
--As promised, the two teams wore the latest adidas "Bleed Out" uniforms that were supposed to echo the NBA Christmas Day jerseys.
Analysis: the grey letters and numbers on Wisconsin's were odd and made them look more like Ohio State (!!!) jerseys. Nebraska's were just too red.
--Mike Brusewitz was Mike Bruesewitz Active, finishing with five points and 10 rebounds in a performance that probably meant a fair amount to Wisconsin actually winning this game.
--Sam Dekker was quiet in the second half, though he finished with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting and three rebounds. He and Jackson had their moments, and they also had traditional freshman/young gun miscues. George Marshall, though, might've had the worst game among Wisconsin's three young guards. The freshman point guard finished with five points on 2-of-6 shooting and notched just one assist, failing to facilitiate much offense while making a few reckless dribble drives to the hoop.
--Berggren scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half, highlighting the lack of sustained production that's being tabbed as one of the Badgers' greater offensive issues. A steadier Berggren -- aside from the thunderdome title, which Bruesewitz actually snagged today with a huge dunk for UW's second basket -- and a surge from at least one of the Dekker/Jackson/Marshall triumvirate could be the deciding factors for Wisconsin once again finishing in the Big Ten's top four.
--Wisconsin out-rebounded Nebraska despite taking four more shots than the Huskers. The Badgers finished with seven offensive rebounds, including three apiece from Berggren and Evans.
--Ben Brust, playing through an ankle injury, scored just three points (1-of-6 from the field) and added three rebounds and two assists.
--The game, naturally, made Bo Ryan saltier than ever. In his post-game interview with BTN's Tim Doyle, Ryan winced when Doyle said the win "wasn't pretty" and responded only half-jokingly, "I hope people remember the way you used to play."
Bo, behave! Doyle, for the record, averaged 6.5 points per game over a four-year career that began with one at St. John's.
Bo also proceeded to open his post-game presser in perhaps the only way possible:
Bo Ryan's opening comment in press conf: "Don't ask, cuz I have no idea." #Badgers— Patrick Herb (@BadgerMBB) January 6, 2013