BUFFALO — When the clock hit 0.00, redshirt senior guard Zak Showalter’s two hands shot up into the sky. At halfcourt, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins’ hands sunk to his knees and his head stared down at the floor.
Thanks to a layup by senior forward Nigel Hayes with 11.4 seconds left in the game and a free throw by senior forward Vitto Brown, No. 8-seed Wisconsin (27-9) did what many considered impossible: upset No. 1-overall seed Villanova (32-4), by the score of 65-62.
While Villanova jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, Wisconsin quickly answered with a 9-0 run of its own. Redshirt sophomore forward Ethan Happ started the game 2-of-2 from the field, but he played only six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.
Without Happ for the half’s final 11:47, the Badgers relied even more heavily on senior guard Bronson Koenig and Hayes. Koenig, who scored a career-high 28 points in the Badgers’ win over Virginia Tech Thursday, had nine first-half points for UW and Hayes chipped in five points and four rebounds of his own. Wisconsin held the Wildcats to 29.6 percent shooting in the first half, but the Badgers had eight first half turnovers and gave up 10 second-chance points and as a result, led by only four, 31-27, at the break.
Wisconsin went to Happ at the beginning of the second half, but it took him just over five minutes to pick up his third foul. All the while, Koenig picked up three fouls in the first six minutes in the half, leaving Wisconsin without two of its three best players on the floor with 13:41 to play in the game. Happ would return two minutes later, but with Wisconsin’s core in foul trouble, the Wildcats came alive.
Villanova took the lead with 13:28 to play and the teams traded baskets as Wisconsin tried to muster a comeback. With 8:25 left in the game, Hayes made a layup to cut the Wildcats’ lead to one, but Wisconsin struggled to draw it closer.
The Wildcats’ Donte DiVencenzo knocked down a crucial triple with 5:31 to play to push Villanova’s lead to seven.
Wisconsin would claw back into the game. After a layup by Hayes, a stop on Villanova’s ensuing possession and then a contested 2-point jumper by Koenig, the Badgers trailed by just three points with 4:13 to play.
Less than a minute later, a 3-pointer by Koenig would tie the game at 57 apiece. After one made free throw by Villanova’s Josh Hart, Wisconsin would regain the lead on a layup by Happ.
With a tie game and just over two minutes to play, Koenig came around a curl and knocked down a 3-pointer giving Wisconsin a three-point lead. The Wildcats would answer with a layup of their own, slashing UW’s lead back to one.
After a missed 3-pointer by Koenig and a turnover by Hart, Wisconsin would give it right back to the Wildcats when a crosscourt pass by Koenig was intercepted by DiVencenzo, who was promptly fouled by Hayes. DiVencenzo would split the pair of free throws, and less than 20 seconds later, a layup by Hayes with 11.4 to play gave Wisconsin a two-point lead.
Hart would miss Villanova’s answer and after a made free throw by Brown, Wisconsin emerged victorious.
Hayes led the Badgers with 19 points and Koenig chipped in 17 of his own. Happ finished with 12 points and Brown added 10.