It was far from poetry in motion, but the Badgers went into the Carrier Dome Wednesday night and picked up their biggest win of the season thus far.
Wisconsin (5-3) outlasted No. 14 Syracuse (6-1) 66-58 in overtime as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, successfully bouncing back from an ugly loss to Oklahoma Sunday and handing the Orange their first loss of the year.
Forward Ethan Happ finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds to record his third double-double of the year. But it was far from a perfect night for the redshirt freshman, who turned the ball over five times and missed a few bunnies underneath the basket.
However, the same could be said for the entire Wisconsin team.
The Badgers continued to be plagued by ball control issues, recording 20 turnovers (though Syracuse only scored 16 points off UW turnovers). On the other hand, Wisconsin dominated in the post, outrebounding Syracuse by a 51-25 margin and outscoring the Orange 30-14 in points in the paint.
Despite their offensive struggles throughout the season, the Badgers had a fair amount of success against Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense, especially during the first half.
The Orange jumped out to a 10-5 lead to start, but UW answered with a 22-9 run of its own. Junior forward Vitto Brown, who finished the game with 14 points on 6-9 shooting, was instrumental to the team’s success on offense in the first half, scoring 11 points to lead all scorers at the half.
However, Syracuse did finish the half on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to just three points heading into the locker room.
The Orange offense would come alive early in the second half, including a three-possession stretch over 1:19 that saw them hit a trio of 3-pointers, giving Syracuse a 41-35 lead with 11:10 remaining.
But Wisconsin refused to go away quietly, staying within striking distance down the stretch. With his team trailing by three, junior guard Bronson Koenig buried a triple with 1:22 left to tie the game. After a Syracuse turnover, the Badgers had a chance to win it in regulation, but Brown airballed on an open jumper to send the game to overtime.
The Orange scored the first two points of the extra period, but UW responded with a 9-0 run to take firm control of the game. It was Wisconsin’s first win in a game where it turned the ball over at least 20 times since December 2007 and dropped Syracuse’s record to 20-4 in overtime games at the Carrier Dome.
The Badgers also had the advantage at the charity stripe, where they went 11-12. Meanwhile, Syracuse went just 11-20.
Thanks to major contributions from Happ and Brown in the frontcourt, Wisconsin was able to overcome its myriad of misakes and a couple of uncharacteristic performances from juniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.
Though Hayes and Koenig finished with 15 and 12 points, respectively, they combined to shoot just 8-24 from the field.
Even though its star players weren’t at their best, Wisconsin still was able to weather the storm and down its ranked opponent.
Moreover, the victory gives the Badgers a confidence boost and a solid résumé win as they prepare to return home for their next seven games.
Wisconsin returns to action at the Kohl Center against Temple (3-3) Saturday at 11:30 a.m.