Evans scores 22 as No. 11 Wisconsin tops Nebraska
Evans scored a career-high 22 points and No. 11 Wisconsin defeated injury-plagued Nebraska 64-40 in the Cornhuskers' inaugural Big Ten game Tuesday night.
Evans came in as the Badgers' No. 4 scorer at 9.9 points per game, and he had made just 2 of 7 3-point attempts in 13 games.
The junior forward hit 2 of 3 from long range against the Huskers and finished 9 of 11 overall after going 1 for 6 for five points against Mississippi Valley State on Friday.
"I'm sure they overlooked me," Evans said. "I wanted to get conference play off to the right start and I ended up hitting a few. Teammates were finding me."
The Huskers (8-4, 0-1) had scored the game's first seven points, but Evans' swirling 3-pointer tied it 10-all — and the Badgers (12-2, 1-0) were off on a 19-2 run.
Toney McCray's steal and layup just before the buzzer pulled the Huskers within 33-26 at the half, and it was a five-point game after he made a couple of free throws early in the second half.
Then the Badgers broke it open again by holding Nebraska to two field goals over 11 minutes, and with Jordan Taylor, Evans and Josh Gasser combining for three 3s in a 27-5 run.
Taylor added 15 points as the Badgers (12-2, 1-0) won their ninth consecutive conference opener.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said Evans' production was a pleasant surprise.
"He was open. He got himself open. He had some open looks," Ryan said. "You always like that because it sends a message to other teams you're going to play that you can't play off of him too much. That was very welcome."
Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel said Evans wasn't totally neglected in preparation for the game.
"Our scouting report, he hadn't shot very many 3s on the year," Ubel said. "We were still playing him close out, get a hand in his face, don't let him tee it up. He hit the shots."
Evans said Taylor, the Badgers' point guard, built up his confidence by encouraging him to shoot in practice.
"I couldn't be happier for him," Taylor said. "He's a really talented player. He knows that, we know that. It's just that we've been waiting for him to come out and show that. He's played well all year long, but that's one of the best games he's played in his career. He was aggressive, didn't hesitate, and any time he does that he can be an all-conference player."
McCray led the Huskers with 16 points and nine rebounds. But like almost everyone else that plays Wisconsin, points were at a premium.
Wisconsin extended its streak of holding opponents to 65 points or less to 18 games. The nation's top defensive team, Wisconsin has held 12 of 14 opponents to season lows in points.
Nebraska's previous low was 51 against Florida Gulf Coast.
Ryan said other than the first 3 minutes of the first and second halves, it was the Badgers' best defensive performance of the season. Nebraska's 14 second-half points were its fewest in a half since scoring 11 over the first 20 minutes against Creighton in December 2006.
The season-high crowd of 10,812 at the Devaney Sports Center began filing out with 5 minutes left and the Badgers leading by 23 points.
Nebraska needed, and got, more scoring production from McCray because of injuries that kept two of their top four scorers on the bench.
Center Jorge Brian Diaz sat out with sore feet and guard Dylan Talley missed the game with a thigh bruise. The Huskers also were without 6-11, 310-pound Andre Almeida, who has been limited because of nagging knee problems.
Guard Corey Hilliard returned to action for the first time in five weeks after a sports hernia, and guard Caleb Walker played even though he badly bruised his back last week.
In a pregame ceremony celebrating the first Big Ten game, former Nebraska players were introduced to the crowd and then formed a line between the locker room and arena, welcoming the current Huskers to the court with handshakes and high-fives before tipoff.
Nebraska also played Wisconsin in its Big Ten football opener, losing 48-17 in Madison.
"That's a heck of a lesson to take," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. "They've got a good basketball team and they do it the right way. They don't get in a hurry. Everybody wants to talk about how fast, slow, whatever you play. The fact of the matter is they're efficient."