Wisconsin shreds ‘Cuse zone, 77-60
With big men who can pass and a veteran guard who can get on a roll from 3-point territory, Wisconsin has the tools to shred a zone defense.
Syracuse learned the hard way on Tuesday night.
Ethan Happ had 24 points and 13 rebounds, zone-busting guard Bronson Koenig scored 20 points and the 17th-ranked Badgers defeated the 22ndranked Orange 77-60.
Nigel Hayes added nine points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
“Shared the ball extremely well, were very unselfish. Made good adjustments,” coach Greg Gard said. “Just a group that’s getting closer and closer together, and as we get closer and closer together, the chemistry gets better.”
Koenig, the seasoned senior, was 6 of 9 from 3-point range, and the Badgers (62) shot 48 percent overall (11 of 23) from behind the arc against the Orange’s 2-3 zone.
Coach Jim Boeheim said his team was still learning the intricacies of the zone early in the season.
“Our defense was not good the whole game, and our offense slipped in the second half,” he said. “But we just didn’t cover the shooters.”
Wisconsin led by as much as 17 in the second half before Syracuse (4-2) went on a 6-0 run capped by John Gillon’s layup with 11:25 left. Two Wisconsin turnovers in that span with Koenig on the bench gave Syracuse the opening.
Gard inserted Koenig back in the game and the Badgers went on a 7-2 run to retake a 16-point lead with 9:24 left.
Andrew White III led Syracuse with 14 points, but went scoreless in the second half after Gard assigned 6-foot-8 Hayes to defend the 6-7 sharpshooter. DaJuan Coleman added 12 points.
With deft ball-handlers Happ and Hayes up front, Wisconsin gave Syracuse’s zone fits.
The 6-foot-8 Hayes found open shooters working from the high post. Happ expertly maneuvered around defenders in the low post for trademark baseline layups. Koenig softened up the zone from the perimeter.
Syracuse: White kept his team in the game early after the Orange trailed by 14 midway through the first half. The transfer from Nebraska has fit in nicely as a go-to scorer from the perimeter, and his 6-7 frame is well-suited for Boeheim’s zone. White was 4 of 6 from 3-point range in the first half, and Syracuse was able to chip away with Hayes and Koenig on the bench with two fouls apiece to get within 43-39 at halftime.
Wisconsin: Gard preaches ball movement and the importance of making the extra pass, both keys to playing the zone. A senior-laden starting lineup also has the experience of facing different looks and pressure situations.
Six-3 guard Zak Showalter had the initial defensive assignment on White before the Badgers switched to Hayes after halftime.
“I wanted to make sure that I tried to get at least one steal where I just knocked it out of his hands,” Hayes said. “That way he’ll shield the ball when he comes off a screen. It makes it a little harder for him to catch and shoot it if he’s got the ball on his back hip trying to keep it away from me.”
Syracuse star Tyler Lydon finished with nine points, but was just 1 of 2 for two points in the second half. The 6-9 Lydon is starting at small forward.
“It’s a little harder for him at the 3. He’s more effective offensively at” center, Boeheim said. “He’s being covered by a 6-4 guy and he’s not really a postup player. That guy is taking away his 3s out there.”
Syracuse: The Orange lost their second straight game after falling to South Carolina in New York on Saturday. They fell to their first ranked foe, albeit in a tough road environment. It could knock Syracuse down a spot or two in the next poll next week.
Wisconsin: The Badgers picked up their first win over a ranked opponent, though how they fare in the next poll will be determined by whether they can beat Oklahoma on Saturday.
Syracuse: Returns to the Carrier Dome on Saturday to host North Florida following a two-game swing away from home.
Wisconsin: A tough early-season schedule continues when the Sooners visit Madison on Saturday.
Syracuse’s Andrew White (3) and Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes (10) scramble for a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 77-60.