It was a tale of two halves on Sunday at the Kohl Center as the No. 11 Badgers took on visiting No. 23 Maryland.
The first half: a six-point deficit, 28% shooting from the field, a team that looked lost offensively.
The second half: a 17-point swing, 51.5% shooting from the field, a confident team that looked the part of a tournament-tested conference champion.
It has been a tough few weeks for Wisconsin (22-5 overall, 11-3 Big Ten). Ever since Bronson Koenig injured his left calf against Rutgers, the Badgers have looked out of sorts, particularly on offense. Shooting has gone down, so has assertiveness, and the result has been a couple of uninspiring wins and a two game losing streak that saw Wisconsin drop winnable games against Northwestern and Michigan.
The losses dropped the Badgers back into the Big Ten pack with No. 16 Purdue and No. 23 Maryland (22-5 overall, 10-4 Big Ten), the latter of whom came to visit on Sunday.
Wisconsin started the game as flat as they had played in large stretches against Northwestern and Michigan. Despite getting the Terrapins into early foul trouble, Wisconsin looked lost offensively, managing to shoot only 28% from the floor and 16.7% from beyond the arc.
Maryland star Melo Trimble finished the half with 15 points and when Wisconsin freshman Brevin Pritzl’s buzzer-beating three-pointer was waived off to close the half, it felt like Badgers fans were in for more of the same.
Wisconsin came alive in the second half, however, erasing the Terrapins’ six point lead less than four minutes into the half. The previously stagnant Wisconsin offense finally found its stride, as the Badgers shot 51.5% in the second half en route to an eleven point win.
Senior Nigel Hayes led the way for Wisconsin, finishing the game with 21 points, 14 of which were scored in the second half. Sophomore Ethan Happ had 20 points, 11 of which came after halftime.
Senior Bronson Koenig had nine points for the Badgers in 31 minutes in his first game back after sitting out the Michigan game with a calf injury. Koenig played 17 minutes in the second half after freshman D’Mitrik Trice got the start. Trice finished with seven points in 19 minutes.
Bronson Koenig said NOT TODAY. @BadgerMBB https://t.co/S9LE6cDQWF— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) February 19, 2017
Freshman Brevin Pritzl got extended time, netting seven points in 23 minutes, including 10 minutes in the second half, stretches of which came with the starters to close out the game.
.@BadgerMBB with AUTHORITY https://t.co/PzUnAXvB15— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) February 19, 2017
Wisconsin struggled all game long with three-point shooting, finishing the game just 2-for-12 from beyond the arc, but the Badgers won the turnover battle, 8 to 13, and held Maryland to just 34.8% shooting in the second half. While Trimble finished the game with 27 points the only other Terp to finish with double-digit scoring was center Michal Cekovsky who left the game in the second half with an ankle injury.
With the win, the Badgers keep pace with Purdue at the top of the Big Ten. The Boilermakers beat Michigan State 80-63 on Saturday in West Lafayette.
Wisconsin travels to Columbus on Thursday for a match-up with Ohio State before a big game with Michigan State on Sunday in East Lansing. With just four games to go before the conference tournament, Wisconsin can lock down a double-bye with wins against the Buckeyes and Spartans.