1. Badgers beat Spartans in inaugural Big Ten Title Game—December 3, 2011
In the first season featuring 12 Big Ten teams and two divisions, one team stood out in each. In the Leaders, Wisconsin built talk of a national title run before losing in stunning fashion to Michigan State, the best team on the Legends side. Then, after an equally devastating trip to Ohio State, the Badgers needed help to wind up in the inaugural conference title game in Indianapolis. That help gave the Badgers a shot at redemption against the Spartans and, ultimately, delivered Wisconsin to its second straight Rose Bowl thanks to a karmic final blow.
Montee Ball rushed for 96 yards and two scores as the Badgers raced to a 21-7 first quarter lead. The Spartans dominated in the second quarter, as they’ve become accustomed to doing against Bret Bielema and Co. The teams traded scores through the night set in an electric stadium in the middle of an incredible host city. UW didn’t quite hail Mary, but when Jeff Duckworth flagged down Russell Wilson’s desperation heave on 4th and 6 in the closing moments, the Badgers put the finishing touches on a Big Ten season of resilience and offensive firepower.
They were rewarded with a trip to Southern California.
2. Rob Wilson goes off at the Big Ten Tournament—March 9, 2012
Senior forward Rob Wilson was the perfect Badger to go for 30 points in a 79-71 win over Indiana in the Big Ten men’s basketball conference tournament.
The moment wouldn’t have made this list if senior guard Jordan Taylor had dropped a 30-spot. Heck, Russell Wilson could have suited up and scored 10, and that still wouldn’t have made for a better moment than Rob Wilson’s.
The thing was, nobody saw it coming. Wilson had been in head coach Bo Ryan’s doghouse for much of his junior year and—despite increased minutes down the stretch his senior year—was regarded as the seventh or eighth man in Ryan’s rotation. Wilson’s season-high up to that point had been an 11-point showing in a 67-66 loss at Iowa. If opponents prepared for Wilson, his scouting report was pretty simple: He can make open three-pointers, so don’t give him too much space on the perimeter.
But none of it mattered that afternoon in Indianapolis. Wilson blew his 11-point night out of the water with 11 field goals and finishing 7-of-10 from behind the arc against the Hoosiers. Despite Wilson splashing a couple early three-point shots, Indiana’s defense couldn’t contain him.
3. Men’s cross country team claims fifth national title—November 21, 2011
2011 was a banner season for the Badgers’ men’s cross country team as their Big Ten Championship only served as an appetizer for the squad’s ultimate goal—a national championship.
Wisconsin began a cold, damp day in Terre Haute, Ind., as the No. 1 ranked team in the country and left with the program’s fifth national title, and first since 2005.
The Badgers fielded an impressive roster, including four All Americans—seniors Ryan Collins and Elliot Krause, and juniors Reed Connor and Mohammad Ahmed—as well as junior Maverick Darling.
Wisconsin typically ran in a tight pack, but Ahmed, the Big Ten’s overall champion, broke away from his teammates early and finished the 10-kilometer race fifth overall with a time of 29:06—good for All-American honors for the third straight year.
Krause and Collins also broke the 30-minute mark, finishing 17th and 23rd overall respectively, with times of 29:41 and 29:52.
Wisconsin finished with just 97 overall points, putting them miles ahead of second place Oklahoma State (139) and third place Colorado (144).
4. 12,402 fans ‘Fill the Bowl’ for women’s hockey—January 28, 2012
The Wisconsin women’s hockey team set the NCAA women’s hockey single-game attendance record for the third year in a row at the 2012 “Fill the Bowl” game when 12,402 fans saw the Badgers defeat Bemidji State 1-0.
It would take almost the full 60 minutes to determine the winner in the game as the Badgers could not find a way to put the puck past the Bemidji State goaltender.
Wisconsin found the break they needed just past the 12-minute mark of the third period when junior forward and team captain Hilary Knight received a pass from behind the Beaver net and buried it for the game’s only goal.
The over 12,000 people that filled the Kohl Center that night speak to the quick rise that the Wisconsin women’s hockey program has experienced. The program played its inaugural season in 1999-’00 and since then it has claimed four national championships, four WCHA playoff championships, four WCHA regular season championships and four Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winners.
After 13 years of success, the Badgers will play next season at their new home in LaBahn Arena.