MADISON, Wis. -- Steven Crowl scored 15 points, Jordan Davis had 14 and No. 22 Wisconsin overcame a first-half deficit to beat Lehigh 78-56 on Thursday night.
Freshman Connor Essegian added 13 points and matched a career high with six rebounds off the bench for the Badgers (9-2) in their fourth straight victory.
Tyler Wahl, who scored a career-high 21 points in Wisconsin’s overtime victory at Iowa on Sunday, had 13 points and seven rebounds. Wisconsin was 11 of 21 from 3-point range, with Davis going 4 of 6.
Badgers coach Greg Gard said he liked the offensive spark that Essegian provided but said the 6-foot-4 guard needs to work on his defense.
“He got going, made some shots and gave us some energy,” Gard said. “Connor moves well without the ball and he gets in a rhythm, he’s a good player. We need to help him on the other end of the floor as well.”
(backslash)Wisconsin was 11 of 20 from 3-point range, with Davis going 4 of 6.
Evan Taylor led Lehigh (4-5) with 18 points and Keith Higgins Jr. had 15. The Mountain Hawks shot 55.6% from the field in the first meeting between the schools.
Higgins had six points to help the Mountain Hawks take a 17-8 lead. The Badgers had turnovers on six of their first 13 possessions.
Wahl said that a half-time chat helped the Badgers focus on being confident and playing better defense.
“We were beating ourselves,” Wahl said about the first-half effort. "We were getting easy looks and missing those and then we had mental lapses on the defensive end.”
Gard said that the game was a tale of two halves for Wisconsin.
“In the second half we were much more physical and aggressive,” he said. “We were not in the first half and that allowed (Lehigh) to get comfortable on offense.”
Higgins scored five straight points to push Lehigh to a 43-38 lead early in the second half. But Essegian came off the bench and made back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Badgers back on top at 44-43 with 13:21 left.
Lehigh coach Brett Reed said the Mountain Hawks couldn’t handle the Badgers hot shooting in the second.
“We hit a small stretch particularly in the second half, where we made some uncharacteristic mistakes which allowed them to separate the game a little bit, at that point,” Reed said. “It was a little bit harder to recover.”
Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks’ inside game was strong in the first half as they scored 22 of their 32 points in the paint, with most of those baskets coming off dribble drives. Taylor had 10 first-half points.
Wisconsin: Badgers coach Greg Gard used early substitutions to help Wisconsin find success on offense and defense. Carter Gilmore came off the bench and contributed four points and five rebounds in nine minutes in the first half. Essegian and Kamari McGee also contributed in the first.
Lehigh: At Saint Elizabeth on Saturday.
Wisconsin: Host Grambling State on Dec. 23.
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