Story By Bill Scott/WRN
The 8th-seeded Wisconsin Badgers are headed back to the “Sweet 16”, coming from behind to knock off Villanova 65-62 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Buffalo.
The Badgers trailed 57-50 with just over five minutes left. Villanova would score just one field goal and five total points the rest of the way as the Badgers tightened up their defense down the stretch.
“There has been a lot of teams that have had a hard time keeping them out of the paint” said Badger Coach Greg Gard.
The Badgers pulled out the win despite guard Bronson Koenig’s second half foul trouble. He returned with more than five minutes left and helped lead the comeback. Koenig finished hitting 3 of 6 three-pointers and scored 17 points. “I felt terrible to say the least when I got my fourth foul” said Koening. “I was just sitting on the bench and trying to being a coach from the bench and help my guys out, but I knew that it was not how my career was going to end, and I knew that when coach got me back out there that I was going to make something happen.”
Two of his three-pointers tied the game at 57-all and gave the Badgers a 62-59 lead with 1:58 to play.
Nigel Hayes hit the game winner on a baseline drive and left-handed reverse layup. He led the Badgers in scoring with 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Villanova had a chance to tie the game and set up a play for senior guard and Big East Player of the Year Josh Hart, but he was cut off on a drive to the basket by Ethan Happ (12 points – 8 rebounds). That’s when Vitto Brown (10 points) reached in and stripped the ball free, drawing a foul.
Brown then hit one of two free throws and the Badgers defended the last second play off of the miss as Villanova couldn’t get a good look at a last second game tying shot.
“Just an unbelievable gutty performance against a terrific team” said Gard. We did not play perfectly, but we played well enough and had enough perseverance to get things done in the amount of time we had.”
Wisconsin (27-9)improved to 4-6 against number-one seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers also advanced to the “Sweet 16” for the fourth straight year and six of the last seven. The Badgers are 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament since taking over the head coaching job.