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Monday, June 05, 2023

Brad Davison drew a crucial foul with two seconds to play in regulation to help Wisconsin emerge victorious 81-80 over Western Kentucky. 

In most unlikely of ways, Davison plays hero in Wisconsin's 81-80 win over Western Kentucky

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Sometimes the opposite is true. And sometimes, as the Wisconsin Badgers (1-1 Big Ten, 5-7 overall) learned Wednesday night, it's best to just be smart.

When Western Kentucky (6-4) guard Darius Thompson silenced the Kohl Center with a runner that knotted the game at 80-80 with 2.0 seconds to play, head coach Greg Gard’s options were limited.

He could have Brevin Pritzl fling the ball the length of the court and hope for a short jumper, he could bank on a running 40-footer a la Ben Brust in 2013, or he could run the clock out and take his chances in overtime.

Instead, he sent freshman guard Brad Davison to draw a charge 93 feet from the basket. It worked.

Davison walked the length of the court and calmly hit a free throw to give his team a one-point lead before intentionally missing the second to ice the game, 81-80.

“My job was just to let him run me over and it would be a foul,” Davison said. “Just a really good play call by coach and it worked perfectly, so I'll take it.”

Long before the Maple Grove, Minn., native secured a win in perhaps the most unusual manner possible, he set the tone with a contested three-pointer from the right corner on Wisconsin’s very first possession.

As he came down from the shot, Davison landed awkwardly on WKU’s Lamonte Bearden, coming up limping and sending a wave of fear through the Kohl Center. Already without two significant contributors in sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice and freshman guard Kobe King, the Badgers could ill afford another injury to their backcourt.

But after limping back on defense, Davison shook off his injury and wouldn’t leave the game until the 7:53 mark. He played a team-high 18 minutes in the first half.

“My first three-point attempt I just came down on [Bearden’s] foot wrong and I twisted my ankle,” Davison said. “But I just kind of tried to stomp it out and kept going, so it's all good.”

In the absence of Trice, UW’s most reliable ball handler with 23 assists to 13 turnovers, the Badgers shared the ball well and finished with 17 assists, their second highest mark of the young season, including nine on their first 10 made field goals.

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After a jumper from freshman forward Nate Reuvers put the Badgers up 29-20 with 6:24 to play in the first half, they started to unwind as the Hilltoppers went on an 18-2 tear before redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl mercifully closed the half with a three that cut the WKU lead to 38-34.

UW exploded out of the locker room, though, hitting 10 of its first 11 field goal attempts in the second half to open a 10-point lead that it clung to until Thompson’s shot in the waning seconds.

Redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ played a major role in that swing, scoring or assisting on each of the Badgers’ first 15 points in the period, including assists on three consecutive three-pointers.

“We didn’t mix it up as much [defensively] the second half. We didn't double him as much … we doubled him every time [in the] first half,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We gave up some threes on double teams second half, and you just kind of choose your poison.”

While Davison came up big in the final minutes — he drew another charge with 38.8 seconds to play — UW once again struggled to put away its opponent. The Badgers led by double digits with under 10 minutes to play and held a five-point lead at the one-minute mark, yet found themselves tied with little shot at escaping overtime with just seconds to go. If not for Davison’s unlikely heroics, it could have been another demoralizing disintegration.

But the young guard came through and UW escaped with a feel-good victory that sets the Badgers back on the winning track as finals week approaches and their return to a frightening Big Ten slate looms in the distance. So it goes.

“We always have been [close] down the stretch. We're there then we hadn't finished,” Pritzl said. “Today it was really good for us to just finally see that we can pull it out when we need to and execute down the stretch.”

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