Game 3: Wisconsin Badgers edge Maryland, face Michigan State next
This was a classic nip-and-tuck No. 8 vs. No. 9 game, as Maryland (8) took on Wisconsin (9). And the Badgers earned a hard-fought 59-54 win to move on to play No. 1 Michigan State on Friday. Wisconsin lost a close one to the Spartans in the season finale last Sunday, falling 68-63.
Greg Gard’s team is playing its best ball of the season, going 5-2 in the last seven games.
Maryland brought some mojo to New York, going 4-3 in its last seven. But the Terrapins end a disappointing season, ending a three-year NCAA tourney run.
Top star: Ethan Happ. The Badger big man led Wisconsin with 14 points and seven rebounds. Best of all, Happ hit 6-of-7 free throws, as UW hit 20-of-24 freebies. Maryland took just nine free throws.
Top stat: 48, points that the Maryland trio of Kevin Huerter, Bruno Fernando and Anthony Cowan combined for. Their teammates had an aggregate six.
Top shot: With the game tied, 53-53, with less than two minutes to play, Wisconsin’s Brevin Pritzl got into the lane and sank a jumper to give the Badgers a 55-53 lead with 28 seconds left. That proved to be the game-winning shot, sending Wisconsin on to Friday’s action.
Top dunk: Take you pick of any of three thunderous slams by Maryland’s Bruno Fernando. The freshman delivered a monster two-handed jam about three minutes into the first half. He then threw down a slam off an alley-oop later in the first half. And Fernandez tossed in a tomahawk five minutes into the second half. Pity these poor MSG rims.
It was over when …: Maryland trailed, 55-53, and had the ball. Terrapin sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter got fouled. But the 75 percent free-throw shooter missed the first attempt and hit the second. Wisconsin then hit two free throws to take a 57-54 lead. Then, Maryland saw the Badgers Khalil Iverson steal a pass, get fouled and sink two free throws to ice the game in the final second.
Did you see that? Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez and football coach Paul Chryst were in attendance.
Notable: Wisconsin shot just 36 percent but still won… Wisconsin must win the Big Ten tourney to extend its run of NCAA tourney appearances to 20. The last time the Badgers missed the Big Dance was 1998… Four Badgers were in double figures: Brevin Pritzl (10); Khalil Iverson (11); Brad Davison (13); Ethan Happ (14)… Kevin Huerter scored Maryland’s last seven points and nine of the last 11.