Associated Press, November 20, 2017
(AP) Baylor was stuck on the same point total for so long Monday night that coach Scott Drew thought about strolling over to the scorer's table and punching the button to change it himself.
Nobody on the court seemed to be doing it for him.
But despite going the final 8 minutes, 43 seconds without a field goal, the No. 22 Bears somehow managed to hang on to beat Wisconsin. They blew most of a 19-point lead and looked ragged in doing it, but the outcome was all that mattered in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Classic.
"We knew they wouldn't go away. Pleased that we had enough poise in the last 4 1/2 minutes to hold it off and finish the game," Drew said. "We really played a great first half, and a pretty good first 10 minutes in the second half, but we couldn't buy a bucket at the end."
Manu Lecomte hit a series of free throws to put the game away, finishing with 25 points. Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. added 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Bears (4-0), who at one point led 53-34, survived to play Creighton for the tournament championship on Tuesday night.
Creighton dumped No. 23 UCLA 100-91 in the other semifinal.
"Creighton's got a great turnout here. Normally when we come here for the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State have a lot of fans," Drew said, "so this will prepare us for that."
The Bears got good preparation for pressure situations from Wisconsin.
The Badgers (2-2) whittled their deficit to 57-55 with 2:12 left in the game, but Lecomte answered with three free throws. Nuni Omot added two foul shots and Lecomte made two more to put the game away.
Ethan Happ had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Badgers (2-2), while Brad Davison returned from a left shoulder injury to ignite their second-half charge. He finished with 13 points.
"I saw some good things down the stretch. As they say, if you want to get out of a hole stop digging," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "Happy with the battle and the willingness to put things on the line to get us back in the game."
The Badgers were trying to rebound from an 80-70 loss to No. 15 Xavier, but instead fell into an early hole. It was still 33-26 at halftime, and it only grew deeper in the second half.
We don't have the luxury of guys who have been around a lot of games, like we have the last couple years," Happ said. "We need guys to realize it's going to be a fight from the start."
The plucky Badgers refused to go away, though, at one point scoring on seven consecutive trips down floor. Davison got things going after returning from the locker room, where he had his left shoulder worked on, and Happ began getting loose underneath the basket for put-backs and layups.
After piecing together a 21-3 run, the Badgers had cut their deficit to 57-55 with 2:12 to go.
That's when Lecomte was fouled beyond the 3-point line and made his free throws, beginning a parade of Bears to the line. And while they struggled there early, they made them count late.
"We kind of struggled in the second half," Lecomte said. "That's a real good team but we made some really tough plays defensively down the stretch and then it was just knocking down free throws."
BO KNOWS HALLS
Wisconsin fans cheered wildly when they saw Bo Ryan, their longtime coach, who was inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame earlier in the day. Ryan led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Four appearances before turning the program over to his protege, Greg Gard.
Baylor showed off its talent over the first 30 minutes, then displayed down the stretch some of the reasons the Bears have struggled in the NCAA Tournament. They began taking ugly shots, committed crucial breakdowns on defense and allowed the momentum to get away from them.
Wisconsin showed some poise in mounting its comeback, but the Badgers don't have enough perimeter scoring to come from behind quickly. It took some grinding to make it a game, and the Badgers ran out of time to come all the way back.
Baylor takes on the Bluejays for the tournament title.
Wisconsin meets UCLA in the third-place game.