Badgers get revenge on UIC, advance to next round of NCAA Tournament after 4-1 victory.
Wisconsin has been on a run of revenge, and Thursday night it was a dish best served cold.
The Badgers (4-3-1 Big Ten, 11-4-5 overall) continued their five-game winning streak as they knocked off the UIC Flames (6-2-1 Horizon, 11-6-3) with a 4-1 win on a frozen night in McClimon Park to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
All of the teams who Wisconsin beat in the postseason had previously handed UW a defeat. And while the Badgers only faced the Flames in an early season exhibition, the Flames won 1-0.
Thursday night was a different story, however. Wisconsin had some struggles early on as the Flames struck first in the 28th minute when senior defender Jacob Graiber headed home a gorgeous free kick from junior midfielder Oscar Gonzalez to give UIC the lead.
The Badgers nearly struck back minutes later, though, after a dipping free kick from senior midfielder Chris Mueller went just wide of the post.
UIC kept up the pressure with Gonzalez being the focal point. The Chicago native was a constant threat crossing the ball down the wing, most notably creating two great headed chances for freshman forward Peter Becht that blazed just over the bar.
Wisconsin answered before halftime after senior forward Tom Barlow converted a penalty kick. It was the senior’s ninth goal of the season, but after the game, Barlow gave a ton of credit to Mueller who earned the penalty.
“All credit to Chris [for earning the penalty],” Barlow said. “He saw the guy coming on from behind and drew the PK, and I was able to tuck away. It was huge for us.”
Getting it tied 1-1 before the break seemed to give the Badgers a spark, and Wisconsin’s attack found its gear in the second half.
After an early save from senior goalkeeper Philipp Schilling to deny UIC freshman forward Markell Saddler, senior midfielder Mike Catalano got the lead in the 53rd minute for the Badgers with an assist from Mueller. Catalano found time to turn at the top of the box, and after dragging out the goalkeeper with a step over, buried the ball into the back of the net.
“First half we didn’t come out strong,” sophomore midfielder Mitch Guitar said. “But we’ve always been a second-half team this year.”
Guitar and his midfield partner sophomore Noah Leibold were able to limit the attacks coming from Oscar Gonzalez, who cut a really frustrated figure without much service. After their halftime adjustments, the two were all over the place and figured out how to stop Gonzalez in the second half.
“Mitch and Noah just really are tremendous midfielders, and they picked it up [after the break],” head coach John Trask said.
In the second half, with the offense clicking, Guitar got on the scoresheet for the first time this season. After Mark Segbers blew past his defenders towards the byline, Segbers put a cross on a platter that Guitar tapped in for a 3-1 lead. Trask called it “special,” and Guitar was quick to focus on the work from the senior attack.
“Mark busted his backside to give me a nice little tap in which really got me confident,” Guitar said.
That confidence gave the Badgers another goal. The midfielder found himself on a breakaway, and he laid it off selflessly to Barlow for the senior to tap one of his own, thus adding a 4-1 exclamation point. Barlow’s brace gave him 10 goals on the season making the striker the team’s leading scorer.
With the team getting their first tournament game under their belt, they want to build confidence going into the second round against Notre Dame. The Irish are ranked 10th in the country and are battle-tested in the powerhouse ACC conference.
But Trask hopes the “tremendous” performance will propel the Badgers into the round of 32.
“We got three days to get ready ... and it’s gonna be a great game,” Trask said.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter