Evanston, Ill. — Patience.
It's what Wisconsin's offense preaches, it's what Northwestern's defense forces opponents to have and it was what the Badgers had for their top scorer Trevon Hughes Wednesday night.
The New York native came alive in the last seven minutes to lead his squad past a resurgent Northwestern team 60-50. Welsh-Ryan arena has traditionally given Wisconsin (4-1 Big Ten, 14-3 overall) fits, and Northwestern did just that, keeping the game close for most of the evening.
""This is a tough place to play because of how well they play here,"" Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. ""This is the most buzz I've seen at a Northwestern game, and they are a very good team. We beat a very good team. Our senior guards made the difference … Trevon had open looks, he took good shots. To finally hit some and get some distance with Northwestern was huge.""
Hughes struggled hitting open jumpers for most of the game and had tallied only two points after 33 minutes of play, failing to connect on a single field goal.
And then things started to click.
His three-pointer tied the game at 42 and a minute later his layup put Wisconsin up by a point. Freshman guard Drew Crawford answered with a long range bucket to go up two, but Hughes was not done, reeling off three straight shots from beyond the arc, the first two coming off offensive rebounds by sophomore guard Jordan Taylor. He finished with 15 points in the second half.
""He was getting good shots [all night],"" senior guard Jason Bohannon said. ""[Of] all the shots there might have been a hand in the face on one of them, but the majority of them were open shots, open set shots. When you're getting those kinds of looks against a defense that's doing the things they are, those are good shots.""
Earlier in the contest, it had been Bohannon carrying the offense with 10 of the Badger's 27 first half points, mostly when he found open spaces in Northwestern's 1-3-1 trapping zone.
That scheme usually gives the Badgers fits, but Wisconsin only turned the ball over five times, something the team credited to its disciplined offensive play.
""I think it shows maturity, it also shows great coaching,"" sophomore Jordan Taylor said. ""Our scout team obviously gave us a good look at that or whatever. I just think that taking care of the ball is part of our program's success.""
Taylor made his first career start in place of Jon Leuer, the team's second leading scorer who was sidelined with a broken wrist. The junior compiled 10 points, seven assists and zero turnovers, but perhaps the area where he most contributed was on the offensive glass.
Ryan played his three-guard lineup for 37 of 40 total minutes, but despite a size disadvantage at most positions his team pulled down 15 offensive boards and grabbed the final 11 rebounds of the contest. Taylor had four of those offensive rebounds and freshman forward Mike Bruesewitz hustled for four more in just nine minutes.
""We had to attack the glass,"" Hughes said. ""They were not in a man [defense] so they don't have box-out assignments, so in that zone, you don't know who to box out, so we had to take advantage of that.""
All night the Wildcats did not make it easy for Wisconsin, and neither team led by more than five points for the first 37 minutes.
Sophomore center Luka Miravic was the fulcrum for Northwestern's Princeton offense in the first half, scoring seven points and handing out four assists, good for half his team's total. At the break, the score stood at 27-27 and Hughes had all of Wisconsin's turnovers to go along with a single point.
But in the end, Wisconsin's patience in their top scorer paid off
""I thought this was a winnable game, but [Hughes] came through,"" Wildcat head coach Bill Carmody said, paying special attention to one of his late 3-pointers. ""He misses a shot, then lines up another one, misses and then knocks it down. He's a senior and he's a very good player.""