MADISON, Wis. – The conversation in the locker room at halftime between Wisconsin interim coach Greg Gard and forward Nigel Hayes was brief and to the point.
Stop taking outside shots and start getting to the foul line, Gard pleaded.
Message received. Hayes scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half, and the Badgers still made a season-high 13 three-pointers in a 79-68 victory on Thursday night over Ohio State.
"[Nigel's] very good at finding spots," Gard said. "To be able to put the ball into one of your better players' hands that close to the basket, obviously it puts pressure on the defense."
Wisconsin (14-9, 6-4 Big Ten) took advantage of open looks outside but nearly squandered a 12-point lead midway through the second half.
The Badgers made things difficult for themselves by going only 10 of 17 from the foul line. Ohio State (14-10, 6-5) drew within 62-59 with 7:04 left on Jae'Sean Tate's layup.
Hayes, though, was clutch in the second half.
On defense, he dropped back on his man to intercept a pass into the paint with 3:17 left and followed with a dunk on the next possession. Jordan Hill hit a three with the shot clock winding down for an eight-point lead with 1:39 left.
One of the keys of the second half was following Gard's advice.
"I was able to get some things around the rim," Hayes said. "All in all, we did a better job at that."
The Buckeyes lost their second consecutive game despite 27 points from JaQuan Lyle.