By Mary Cunningham
If you thought Wisconsin’s Final Four team last April was a flash in the pan with a couple of players gone to the NBA leaving an empty shelf, think again.
Wisconsin used big runs in each half, the first fueled by freshmen and the second by veterans, to run past Temple 76-60 on Saturday.
Nigel Hayes (above) led the way with 18 points, Bronson Koenig added 17 and Zak Showalter pitched in with 11 in a balanced attack for the Badgers (6-3).
Wisconsin seized control with a 19-2 run in the first half. Charlie Thomas had seven points in the surge and Alex Illikainen had six as the Badgers opened up a 30-12 lead.
“I think both of them played pretty solid,” Showalter said of Thomas and Illikainen. “They both knocked down some jumpers, which stretches the defense for those driving lines for Nigel, myself and (Koenig). So, yeah, they played solid and hopefully they can keep it going.”
In Wednesday’s 66-58 overtime win over the Orange, Wisconsin’s bench — Thomas, Illikainen and fellow freshman Khalil Iverson — combined for just one point and three rebounds in 16 minutes. They contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds and logged 46 minutes against Temple (3-4), despite Iverson sitting out the second half with an injury. Badgers coach Bo Ryan didn’t disclose any further details.
“We always try to preach, ‘Play with confidence on offense and play solid on defense,’ and they did that,” added Hayes, who pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds in his third double-double of the season. “As you saw during that streak, we were able to get a lot of things going.”
Temple cut the deficit to five at 39-34 after halftime, but Showalter started a 13-0 run with a 3-pointer and ended it with a driving layup that gave Wisconsin a 52-34 lead with 13:27 remaining. Hayes scored six points in the run and Koenig had the other basket.
“I liked where we were early in the second half: We get it to five and Showalter hit a huge 3 in the corner — that was a big play, and they spaced us right back out again,” Owls coach Fran Dunphy said. “They’re a good team and obviously very well coached, and I thought they showed the requisite toughness that they needed and we needed to be a little tougher than we were.”
Jaylen Bond scored 12 points for Temple, which was held to a season low for points. Quenton DeCosey, who came in as the Owls’ leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, was held to a season-low three points on 1-for-6 shooting working primarily against Hayes. DeCosey hit his first shot, a 3-pointer from the right corner 2:53 into the game, but got into foul trouble and played just 18 minutes.
Temple freshmen Levan Shawn Alston Jr. and Trey Lowe came off the bench and added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Owls. It was a career high for Lowe, and both players logged career highs for minutes (24 and 21).