First there was Xavier. Then there was Baylor. Following that, UCLA. Penn State nearly joined the club Monday night.
For the fifth time already in the young season the Wisconsin men’s basketball team (1-1 Big Ten, 4-6 overall) collapsed down the stretch, blowing a late three-point lead to let Temple (5-2) steal a 59-55 victory.
Things began swimmingly for the Badgers, as they stormed out to a 7-2 lead in the first 2:31 of the game. Freshman guard Brad Davison hit a three, redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ found space in the lane for a layup and junior forward Khalil Iverson exploded for a one-handed jam on a fast break to open the scoring for UW.
But poor shooting and one-and-done possessions quickly allowed the Owls back into the game, culminating in a 47-41 deficit for the Badgers.
It was then that Happ would come alive, though, single-handedly dragging UW back on the heels of back-to-back-to-back buckets. With 3:27 remaining, the Badgers were grooving and held a 55-52 lead.
Over the course of the next three-and-a-half minutes, all Wisconsin could do was watch as it failed to score and repeatedly turned the ball over and came up empty on possession after possession.
The Badgers had three shots blocked in the final three minutes of the game, each more demoralizing than the last. Shizz Alston hit 4-of-4 free throws to seal the victory, sending UW back to the drawing board to salvage its season.
Happ was remarkably productive on the night, scoring a game-high 23 points on 11-of-19 shooting. But he had two layups blocked by Obi Enechionyia in a span of 23 seconds toward the end of the game that each led to points for Temple.
Iverson, Davison and redshirt freshman guard Aleem Ford were the only other Badgers to make more than a single bucket, combining for 25 points on 6-of-19 from the field.
At this point, it’s entirely unclear where UW can go from here. The Badgers are quickly running out of opportunities to lock up good wins for a March NCAA Tournament berth. They’ll likely need to shred their conference foes to secure a spot in the big dance, and barring that they would need a miracle in the Big Ten Tournament.
All things considered, though, this is a team that lacks identity. The Badgers still haven’t figured out how they want to win games, who they want on the court down the stretch and where they want their crunch-time shots to come from.
Against Temple, down two, UW’s last possession came down to a pull-up three off a curl from a true freshman. Ethan Happ didn’t get a look near the basket.
That can’t happen if the Badgers want any hope at a 20th-consecutive trip to the only postseason tournament that matters.
Next, Wisconsin heads home to the Kohl Center for the annual I-94 rivalry matchup with Marquette. Tipoff is set for 11 a.m.