MADISON, Wis. – Before this season, Wisconsin's Vitto Brown was a little-used reserve, best known for his stirring rendition of the national anthem before select games.
Brown hit all the right notes on the court on Wednesday night.
The junior forward had a career-high 18 points and Nigel Hayes scored 20 as the Badgers defeated Nebraska 72-61 for their sixth consecutive victory.
"You know, it was about time, because I was ready to rough him up," Hayes said of Brown as the two classmates from northwest Ohio laughed. "I told him at the beginning of the year, that's what we expect from him. He knows he can play like that."
Brown made a three-pointer from the corner as the shot clock expired on Wisconsin's second possession, a harbinger of things to come. The Badgers (15-9, 7-4 Big Ten) connected on 11 of 18 shots from beyond the arc, their best three-point shooting effort of the season.
Wisconsin took the lead for good with a 13-2 first-half spurt keyed by consecutive threes from Brown, Jordan Hill and Bronson Koenig. Brown made all three of his three-point attempts, while Koenig made three of four.
The Badgers abused Nebraska's zone defense, employed in the absence Shavon Shields, one of the Cornhuskers' top defenders who is recovering from a head injury suffered against Rutgers on Saturday.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said it was "highly doubtful" he would have used zone exclusively if Shields had been available, and lamented the Cornhuskers' 5-for-16 showing on layups.
"When you shoot threes better than the other team shoots layups, you're gonna win," Miles said.
Freshman Glynn Watson Jr. scored 16 points to pace Nebraska (13-12, 5-7).
Hayes missed three of his first four shots from the field as the Cornhuskers built an early lead, but the Badgers rallied when their leading scorer settled in. He finished seven of 14 from the field.
After eight games in double figures in nonconference games, Brown did not have one in Big Ten play until he scored 12 in Thursday's win over Ohio State.
"It feels good," Brown said. "But the best part about it is that we're taking care of business and getting the W."