The Wisconsin Badgers (3) began their NCAA Tournament run with a 67-60 victory over the Colgate Raiders (14) on Friday night. Wisconsin advances to face 11-seed Iowa State on Sunday at 5:10 p.m.
Although the game started close to 10 p.m., the predominantly Wisconsin crowd at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee was loud for much of the night and gave the Badgers an undeniable home-court advantage.
Wisconsin fans had little to cheer about early on, as Greg Gard’s squad missed eight of its first nine shots from the field and trailed 9-2 with seven minutes gone in the half. Luckily for the Badgers, Colgate’s shooters were cold for much of the opening 20, giving Wisconsin a chance to find its stroke and begin putting up points.
The latter part of the first half had a considerably faster pace, with both teams seemingly scoring at will and three-point shots beginning to fall. Colgate guard Nelly Cummings made a layup as time expired to tie the game at 28.
It was a challenging half for Wisconsin guard and Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis, who missed his first four shots and was 3-of-11 from the field.
The teams went back-and-forth to start the second half until Colgate, a significant underdog in the first-round matchup, led by five with 13:50 remaining thanks to a three-pointer by Oliver Lynch-Daniels. Considered a dangerous three-point shooting team, the Raiders were as advertised and hardly seemed intimidated by Wisconsin.
With 8:11 remaining, forward Steven Crowl gave Wisconsin a 53-52 advantage with his three-point make. The Badgers led for the remainder of the game, pulling away from Colgate thanks to a red-hot finish by Davis.
Wisconsin’s best player dominated the last six minutes, scoring each of the Badgers’ 14 points during that game-clinching stretch. Davis overcame his disappointing first half and finished the night with 25 points, eight rebounds and an assist. He shot 8-for-20 overall and 4-for-10 from three-point range. The performance should end any concerns about Davis’ health after he injured his ankle versus Nebraska.
Forward Tyler Wahl was Wisconsin’s second-leading scorer against Colgate, shooting 7-of-18 for 15 points. He also added nine rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
Going forward in the tournament, the Badgers must do a better job defending the three-pointer. Colgate shot 45.5 percent from beyond the arc, and guard Tucker Richardson was an impressive 5-of-10 from long range.
Wisconsin faces a similar challenge Sunday in Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter, who made seven of 11 three-point shots and totaled 23 points in the first round against LSU. Hunter converted only 28 percent of his three-point attempts this season, but Friday’s showing indicates game-breaking potential that the Badgers must account for.
The Cyclones’ best player this season has been guard Izaiah Brockington. The 6’4” senior averaged 17.3 points per game in the regular campaign and scored 19 while adding four rebounds and three steals versus LSU. That said, Wisconsin boasts the defensive talent to contain Brockington and Hunter, especially if the Badgers play better than they did Friday.
As the TBS broadcast suggested and any fan could see, Wisconsin needs to start Sunday’s game on a better note than it did against Colgate. The farther they get into the tournament, the harder it will be for the Badgers to get away with an early, 9-2 deficit. Wisconsin can surely dispose of a team like Iowa State if it gains a sizable, early lead.
The second-round contest will be on TNT and is scheduled for 5:10 p.m., however that time is subject to change.