MADISON -- Facing weaker non-conference opponents in the season's early stage, the Wisconsin Badgers could not put together more than two wins in a row.
Oh, how the times have changed.
The Badgers (15-9, 7-4) rattled off their sixth consecutive win in Big Ten play by shooting the Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-12, 5-7) out of the Kohl Center on Wednesday night, 72-61.
Nigel Hayes scored 20 points and Vitto Brown added a career-high 18 points as Wisconsin drained 11 of 18 three-pointers.
The Badgers victory can be summed up with one statistic: Nebraska head coach Tim Miles noted after the game that the Cornhuskers shot 5-for-18 on layups, compared to Wisconsin's 11-for-18 shooting from deep.
"When you shoot threes better than the other team shoots layups, you're going to win," Miles said.
Bronson Koenig scored 12 points and Zak Showalter chipped in 10 of his own as the Badgers shot 51.2 percent (22-43) from the field and went to the free throw line 28 times.
Wisconsin led 30-26 at the half, but quickly pulled away behind seven second-half three pointers. The Badgers extended their lead to a game-high 17 point margin on a Jordan Hill triple with five minutes to play in the second half.
Here's what we learned from Wisconsin's latest win.
1. Wisconsin's shooting adds another dimension to the offense
Against the Huskers, Brown hit all three of his three-point attempts. Koenig went 3-for-4. Showalter buried his two triples. Jordan Hill continued to shoot well, going 2-for-5. After that shooting barrage, the Badgers are 24-for-45 (53.3 percent) on three-point attempts over their last two games.
Sustainable? Probably not at that clip.
But it comes at a good time for the Badgers. Over their first four wins of their current streak, they had established themselves as a paint-dominant team that would beat from inside.
Miles had taken note.
"We thought coming in Greg Gard had done such a good job of getting them the ball inside, getting fouls with the ball inside, which opens up offensive rebounding on top of that," he said. "Their points in the paint, their rebounding and their foul shots, we weren't going to be able to keep up with.
"So we tried to mix man and zone and then they go out and make 11 of their first 16 threes or whatever it was."
In their 13-for-27 three-point performance against Ohio State last Thursday, Gard noted that he thought his team had taken too many threes. There was a difference against the Huskers.
"I thought we did a good job tonight of touching the post and playing inside-out, and being able to knock down shots that were available to us," Gard said.
Many of the Badgers looks from deep came via solid ball movement and passes out of the post.
"We're just taking advantage of the way that teams are playing us," Hayes said. "Going back to the beginning of the year, we weren't the best team for spacing, that was a problem for us.
"And with the way we've been playing after that point, as of late, teams are now trying to double the post and get the ball lout of your hands or go zone to prevent that from the beginning, so we're just making sure that we're always ready to shoot. We know that we're always ready to shoot and know that we can all shoot the ball well. We're all good shooters."
2. Vitto Brown continues to solidify his role
With under 10 minutes remaining in the second half and the Badgers leading 51-40, a Koenig three-pointer rimmed off. Alex Illikainen, however, came flying in for the offensive board and subsequently drew the attention of multiple Nebraska defenders.
To his right, he found Brown open near the low block. The junior forward took the pass, powered up and soared over the outstretched arms of an assembly of Cornhuskers to flush home an emphatic right-handed jam.
It counted for just two points on the scoreboard, but carried the weight of a much more grandiose statement from Brown.
From the hesitant fifth scoring option in the offense at the season's outset, Brown has scored 30 points over Wisconsin's last two games.
"It feels good, but the best part about it is we're taking care of business and getting the W."
Perhaps Brown has turned the corner.
3. Nigel Hayes, lock-down defender?
Without the help of their best player in Shavon Shields, Nebraska was going to need a strong outing from Andrew White III in order to pull off the upset.
White, the Cornhuskers leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, finished with just 10 points on 5-for-11 shooting. A 42 percent three-point shooter coming in, White failed to make a triple for the first time this season in missing both of his attempts.
In no shocker to anybody who has followed Badgers basketball this season, he was guarded by the lengthy and disruptive Hayes. After yet another strong outing on the defensive end, Hayes continues to solidify his position as the best defender on the team.