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Wisconsin men’s basketball: three things that stood out against Nebraska

A trio of takeaways from the eight point road win.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska
The hometown kid putting an exclamation point on the Wisconsin win.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team improved to 16-3 overall and 7-2 in Big Ten play with an eight point road win over Nebraska on Thursday afternoon. Let’s dig into some takeaways from the win.

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Davison + Hepburn

With Johnny Davis and Tyler Wahl unable to get going offensively in the first half, the duo of Brad Davison and Chucky Hepburn stepped up. Davison not only added 17 first half points, but he also surpassed Bronson Koenig for first place in program history for three-point makes.

Overall, Davison made five threes in the first half alone. Hepburn added three made three-pointers of his own, as Wisconsin shot a balmy 64% from deep as a team in the first 20-minutes.

Davison and Hepburn would combine to contribute 34 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists for the game. Even with a quieter second half for both players, the production that the two guards added in the first half gave the team a big lead at halftime that turned out to be the difference.

Hepburn’s play on both ends of the court, considering the recent death of his dear friend was very impressive for anyone, let alone a true freshman.

No. 2: Inside presence

Wisconsin’s front court was outplayed by Michigan State last weekend. Against Nebraska, the big men came to life on the offensive glass. The Badgers recorded nine offensive rebounds in the first half and finished with 13 overall. Wisconsin struggled to finish near the rim to take advantage however. As a team they finished shooting 10-of-20 on layups, and in the first half they shot only 14% on two-point attempts.

Wisconsin was clearly the better team inside all night long, but the inability to finish at the rim at times was tough to watch. The Badgers did a much better job in the second half at converting inside though which was nice to see. Sophomore Ben Carlson look much more comfortable and confident as the game wore on, and his six point, five rebound performance gave the team a nice lift off the bench with Wahl being worked back into the rotation.

No. 3: Defense —> transition

Nebraska took advantage of some poor defense in the first few minutes of the game. However, for the majority of the game the Badgers did a tremendous job of staying in front of Nebraska’s athletes. Wisconsin was able to turn defense into some easy offense specifically in the second half, as they held Nebraska without a field goal for more than six minutes in the second half.

Johnny Davis, in particular, did a great job of maintaining defensive intensity throughout the game, even as he struggled offensively in the first half. In the second half Davis took advantage of some Nebraska turnovers to get out in transition where he thrives. He wound up finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds.

While the his overall numbers were significantly below his season average, the team’s defensive effort was a big reason for the win, Davis included. Coming off a tough home loss to Michigan State where the Spartans scored seemingly at will, the Badgers appear to have remedied some of their defensive rotation issues.

Up next: The Badgers will have a relatively quick turnaround, as they welcome rival Minnesota to the Kohl Center on Sunday. Tip time is set for noon CT and the game is scheduled to be aired on Big Ten Network.