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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, January 21, 2022
Nigel Hayes and the Badgers may have finally broken out of their slump in the second half against Maryland Sunday.

Nigel Hayes and the Badgers may have finally broken out of their slump in the second half against Maryland Sunday.

Hayes, strong second half lead Badgers to late blowout of Oklahoma

Senior forward Nigel Hayes received some important advice yesterday from an unlikely source hours before his team faced off against Oklahoma. “Play hard, aggressive, find your teammates,” Hayes’ mother told him on a phone call prior to UW’s matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday afternoon.

Hayes took her advice to heart.

The senior forward from Toledo, Ohio, finished the game with 28 points, taking only two of his 13 shots from behind the arc.

But per his mother’s advice, Hayes also tacked on six assists, as the senior forward helped guide the No. 17 Badgers (6-2) to a blowout 90-70 victory over the Sooners (5-2).

“He has a unique skill set in terms of his size, his skill set, his strength,” head coach Greg Gard said. “He’s a hard matchup and the further he gets away from the basket, the more the hard matchup scenarios level off or dissipate.”

In the first 20 minutes against the Sooners, though, Hayes’ unique strengths were nullified by the Badgers’ poor team defense.

Wisconsin fell behind 6-0 just 90 seconds into the game and looked lethargic for much of the first half. Multiple attempts by the Kohl Center crowd to reenergize the Badgers, plus an inadvertent fire alarm, both proved to be unsuccessful sparks as UW allowed the Sooners to shoot 62.5 percent from three and 50 percent from the field en route to a 40-37 halftime lead for Oklahoma.

But the second half saw a renewed defensive spirit from the Badgers.

“We got more aggressive on the dribble hand-off, we came up and closed the gap a little bit better and played a non-typical lineup at times with smaller guys to be able to handle that,” Gard said.

Offensively, the Badgers, led by Hayes, were more aggressive attacking the basket as well.

“I just wanted to shoot and make sure I was in rhythm, and that’s the best way for me to be most successful,” Hayes said. “In the most humble sense I don’t think I can be guarded, period. No matter where I’m at.”

On Saturday afternoon Hayes’ declaration was true. In the second half of Wisconsin’s victory, Hayes was 3-for-4 from midrange, 1-for-2 around the rim and made his lone 3-pointer of the half.

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He couldn’t be guarded, period.

But equally important for the Badgers was Hayes’ ability to find teammates as a result of his aggressive play around the basket.

“How many of those came right out of him at the rim? I think probably quite a few,” Gard said of the senior forward’s six assists. “To be able to see him shoot 13 free throws and have six assists, that tells you how aggressive he was in the paint or at the rim.”

Hayes wasn’t the only Badger that was relentless Saturday afternoon. Sophomore forward Ethan Happ had 16 points and nine rebounds, taking all of his nine attempts from right around the basket.

Senior guard Bronson Koenig added 16 points as well, taking a game-high 15 shots. Even freshman guard D’Mitirik Trice tailed 16 points for the Badgers, making six of his eight field goal attempts in 20 minutes off the bench.

Trice knocked down all four of his triples Saturday afternoon. Each one was the result of a Hayes assist.

The Badgers’ victory Saturday afternoon was widely a result of Hayes’ more aggressive play. But give credit where credit is due—it was all thanks to a pregame call from his mother.

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