Syracuse faces Wisconsin in battle of ranked foes
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge game between No. 17 Wisconsin and No. 22 Syracuse on Tuesday features two teams that faced each other last year in the event, but this meeting is in a different location.
The Badgers (5-2) host the Orange on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Last season, the Badgers upset then-No. 17 Syracuse 66-58 in overtime at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ posted a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds in the victory, in which the Badgers scored 13 of the final 16 points in the extra session and were 7 of 7 from the free-throw line. Senior forward Nigel Hayes contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds for Wisconsin.
Syracuse senior guard Andrew White III, a graduate transfer from Nebraska, scored 10 points apiece in two games last season against Wisconsin while playing for the Cornhuskers. White is the Orange's current scoring leader at 15.8 points per game
Syracuse (4-1) took its first loss of the season Saturday, a 64-50 setback to South Carolina in the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational.
The Orange's roster is filled with new and young players vying for key minutes, including sophomore guard Frank Howard, freshman forward Taurean Thompson and guard John Gillon, a transfer from Colorado State.
Orange coach Jim Boeheim said his team looked “a little bit lost” with a lack of ball movement and dribble penetration, and Syracuse also missed 10 of 26 free throws against South Carolina.
Boeheim's ideal situation would be putting Howard and Gillon in at guard and having White at a forward spot. However, he said Thompson likely is the team's best low-post option, and he would like the freshman to get more touches.
“We don't have a low-post game, so we have to get penetration from our guards,” the coach said.
Boeheim said the atmosphere of the South Carolina game at the Barclays Center wasn't a problem for his young players. Still, the Orange shot just 31.8 percent (14 of 44) from the field and only had eight points in the paint.
“It shouldn't be (a problem),” Boeheim said. “(The fans) were on our side. If they have a problem with this, they're really going to have a problem Tuesday night when we go to Wisconsin. Our young guys have got a lot to learn.”
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard got the opportunity to spread minutes to reserves in easy wins at home, but the veteran Badgers will have to place focus on attacking the rim, decreasing turnovers and not relying on their perimeter game.
Hayes scored 17 points in 19 minutes in a 95-50 blowout of Prairie View A&M on Sunday to lead six Wisconsin players who scored in double digits. Senior guard Bronson Koenig's leadership will be critical against Syracuse. Koenig drained a 3-pointer and had a free throw to rally Wisconsin and force overtime last season at the Carrier Dome.
Gard said he is confident his team will perform well if the Badgers stay focused, despite the short preparation time.
“They're really good and talented,” Gard said of the Orange. “Coach Boeheim, obviously, has been there forever, and they're really good at what they do.
“It's a quick turnaround to play that type of team in 48 hours with one practice, but we have to build off of (the Prairie View A&M game).”