Tourney recap: No. 8 Wisconsin knocks off No. 1 Villanova
Down goes Villanova!
Yes, Wisconsin wasn’t your normal No. 8 seed. Villanova knew that. The Badgers have been hardened and seasoned by myriad NCAA games in recent years, as Wisconsin reached the national title game in 2015 and was in the 2014 Final Four.
Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are savvy seniors for a squad that finished second in the Big Ten in the regular season and reached the league tourney title game. Still, UW as a No. 8 seed. Why? Oh, well. The Badgers live on.
Nova? Its season is over with a 65-62 loss to Wisconsin.
The Wildcats were the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tourney and the defending national champion. Jay Wright had a primo team led by guard Josh Hart. But after a grind-it-out NCAA opening victory vs. Virginia Tech, the Badgers took down the mighty Wildcats and are off to the Sweet 16 for a fourth season in a row. There will be no repeat NCAA champ, as the last team to do that was Florida in 2006 and 2007.
Top star: It has to be Hayes. The senior from Toledo, Ohio, was a star on a day when Koenig and Ethan Happ had to deal with foul trouble. Hayes scored a team-high 19 points, hitting 8-of-15 shots with eight rebounds. Best of all, he hit the game-winning shot in the final minute. Hayes was one of four Badgers in double-figures, as Koenig had 17, Happ 12 and Vitto Brown 10, as UW wiped out a 57-50 hole in the last 5:07 to win.
Top stat: 12, as in offensive rebounds for Wisconsin. That allowed the Badgers to tallying some key second-chance points in this tight game. And it helped Wisconsin overcome 43 percent free-throw shooting and 14 turnovers.
It was over when: The Badgers led at halftime, 31-27. But the Wildcat shooters heated up in the final 20 minutes to forge a lead as big as seven points, driving to the hoop time and again vs. a foul-plagued UW team. But Wisconsin battled back and led 62-61 with less than a minute to go and with possession. That’s when Bronson Koenig threw an errant pass that caused Nigel Hayes to foul Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo with 36.4 seconds left. But the Nova star hit just one of two to make it 62-62. The Badgers had the ball for the final shot. Hayes went to work, hitting a nice up-and-under layup to give Wisconsin a 64-63 lead with 11.4 seconds left. Then, Vitto Brown broke up a driving layup by Josh Hart and drew a foul. Brown iced the game for the Badgers with one freebie with 3.4 seconds left.
What’s next? Wisconsin is off to the Sweet 16 for a fourth season in a row. The Badgers will take on the winner of the No. 4 Florida vs. No. 5 Virginia game. Look out for Wisconsin.