Men’s basketball: Hayes, Happ head Wisconsin’s overtime victory against Indiana
The Indiana Hoosiers have not won in the Kohl Center since 1998. Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ were on a mission to keep it that way, as the Wisconsin mens basketball team fought off the No. 17 Hoosiers — who were riding a 12-game win streak — in a thrilling 82-79 victory Tuesday night in Madison.Hayes and Happ combined to score 56 of UW’s 82 points, and the Badgers’ offense went exclusively through the frontcourt duo down the stretch, as they scored 21 of the team’s 25 points in the final six minutes of regulation and all of overtime.Hayes, who finished with a game-high 31 points, did most of his damage at the free throw line, as he hit 17-of-22 shots from the charity stripe. He continued to attack the basket all night and draw fouls, and, as even Hayes will tell you, he was simply unguardable.“I got this mindset that I am the best player on the court and no one can guard me,” Hayes said. “It’s not a matter of who is guarding me. It’s a matter of where I catch the ball and what I can do.”While Hayes had no problems getting to the free throw line all night, he did struggle from the line early, making just five of his first 12 from the line. But that didn’t phase the junior, as he went on to make eight of his last 10 free throws, including two with just nine seconds remaining in the outing to tie the game and ultimately send it to overtime.Happ, on the other hand, knew who he was going up against in Indiana freshman big man Thomas Bryant. And for the redshirt freshman, it wasn’t the best start against the Hoosiers’ big man in the middle.“[Happ] didn’t start exceptionally well,” UW head coach Greg Gard said. “If I remember correctly, he missed a couple [shots] and we missed a couple block outs.”Coming off winning back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, Happ quickly shook off the nerves and played the best game of his short Wisconsin career, scoring a career-high 25 points along with eight rebounds.But while Hayes and Happ shined bright on the Kohl Center floor Tuesday night, the most surprising performance may have come from redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Hill.Hill, who has played double-digit minutes in seven of the eight games under Gard, played a career-high 32 minutes Tuesday and scored a career-high 13 points while shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field.The redshirt sophomore had struggled as of late, scoring just three combined points in his past four games, but his performance ended up just being a matter of being confident.“Just playing aggressively and believing in myself,” Hill said of what was different about his play Tuesday. “It’s really that simple. There’s not a lot to it. I just tried to make sure my confidence never wavered.”Hill, with Bronson Koenig struggling defensively and Zak Showalter dealing with foul trouble throughout the night, also took on the responsibility of guarding Indiana star point guard Yogi Ferrell for most of the game. And while Ferrell managed to score a team-high 30 points while hitting five of his six three-point attempts, Hill still managed to do an effective job of staying aggressive and locking up Ferrell when he needed to, poking the ball away at times to disrupt the flow of the Indiana offense.Hill embodied the aggressive play the Badgers needed to maintain in order to pull out a victory Tuesday night, as shown by their 37 free throw attempts to the Hoosiers’ 18. And in the end, that was the difference.“[Hill] has been in and out of the lineup based on matchups I’ve seen,” Gard said. “But when we needed him tonight, he obviously stepped up.”The victory brings Wisconsin’s record to 12-9 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten, while Indiana’s first conference loss brings their record to 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten.