After getting obliterated by then-No. 7, now-No. 6 Oklahoma, 65-48, this past Sunday, the Wisconsin Badgers were in desperate need of a win. And they got it Thursday, beating No. 14 Syracuse, 66-58, on the road in overtime as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“After the disappointing loss to Oklahoma, we definitely took time to look back and reevaluate and figure out what we could have done differently to have more success,” Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Since we know that Syracuse is an equally athletic team as Oklahoma and they have similar styles of offensive play, we were able to really break down that film to help prepare us for tonight.”
The game was close throughout but the Badgers pulled away late, outscoring Syracuse 13-5 in the extra frame. Wisconsin freshman Ethan Happ was a man amongst boys in the paint, finishing with 18 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals in 43 minutes.
Neither team shot well from distance – Wisconsin went 5-of-18 (27.8 percent), Syracuse went 7-of-24 (29.2 percent) – but the Badgers won the game at foul line. They shot 11-of-12 (91.7 percent), while Syracuse shot 11-of-20 (55 percent).
“Yeah, that definitely helped us out,” said Brown, who finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. “We didn’t get to the line as much as we wanted to, but with that overtime being forced, we did a good job of drawing fouls and then knocking them down when we got there. Then on defense, that was definitely our main emphasis after the Oklahoma game. Obviously shots weren’t falling, but we thought we could have done 20 times better on defense. We really hammered that in (during) practice and I think we did a lot better job tonight. Still got work to do, though.”
Of course, that’s to be expected when you lose Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker from a team that came within a few shots of winning the national championship last season.
“It’s so much more than just them two, though,” Brown said. “Obviously those are the two obvious ones, with them being NBA players now. But Josh Gasser, we miss him just as much. Having that guy being able to stick a face on the ball and get defensive stops. Zak Showalter has done a great job of helping to fulfill that role, but yeah, it’s definitely hard without them. That’s why it’s been a slow start, but I think with every game we’re getting better and we’re learning each other even more.”