NCAA Tournament preview: Revisiting the Badgers' brightest moments from a rollercoaster season of ups and downs
Nigel Hayes and the senior class ended their Kohl Center careers on the highest of highs, blowing out Minnesota in front of the Wisconsin faithful.Image By: Brandon Moe
Happ goes off at the Garden:
Under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ walked onto one of the most hallowed floors in all of basketball and took center stage, delivering his best performance of the season.
In Wisconsin’s 61-54 overtime victory over Rutgers, Happ carried the load on both ends, torching the Scarlet Knights for a career-high 32 points while also anchoring the defense with two blocks.
On a night when scoring woes nearly cost Wisconsin the game, it was up to Happ to keep his team alive. Playing from behind for a substantial amount of time, the Badgers had to dig themselves out of a nine-point deficit, relying on stingy team defense and a string of late-game heroics from Happ to rally past Rutgers.
Happ piled up 14 points over the final three minutes of regulation and in overtime, an offensive outburst which included a game-tying bucket with two seconds left in the second half and five crucial points to put the Badgers ahead in the extra frame.
Koenig comes up clutch in Minnesota:
The Badgers added another overtime victory to their résumé, by defeating the Golden Gophers 78-76 on the road. This back-and-forth affair, which featured 18 ties and 16 lead changes, unfolded in much the same way as the one in New York.
Burgeoning big man Ethan Happ proved vital yet again, stuffing the stat sheet with 28 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals. The outcome was decided when Bronson Koenig, a player who has made a living off of clutching- up in crunch time, did what he does best.
The senior sharpshooter buried a pair of 3three-pointers to keep his team from losing. After falling behind 76-74, Koenig came off a screen, got open and drilled his second three of overtime, delivering the fatal blow to finish off the Gophers.
Badgers right the ship in regular season finale:
Losers in five of their last six, a very successful senior class entered the last game they would ever play at the Kohl Center reeling. With its season growing increasingly grim, Wisconsin finally managed to turn things around, relying on its vast array of senior leadership to lead the team to a 66-49 victory.
The senior triumvirate of Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter all finished in double figures as the senior class as a whole combined for 46 points on the night, downing a red-hot Minnesota team.
After relatively putrid showings on offense, Wisconsin scored the basketball with much greater success and balance, especially in the second half.
Koenig, especially, found his stroke, scoring 17 points after the intermission. Most importantly for Wisconsin, the solid showing on senior night may have stemmed the tide just in the knick of time, as the team, even with the clunker in the Big Ten title game, looked much better during the Big Ten tournament.
While Wisconsin’s execution remains far from perfect, the Minnesota game marked the first time the Badgers showed signs of life and may have gained some momentum heading into March Madness.
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