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Thursday, June 30, 2022
Chucky Hepburn
Chucky Hepburn after his game-ending ankle injury

Hepburn injury, miserable shooting performance end Wisconsin’s season

The Iowa State Cyclones (11) beat the Wisconsin Badgers (3) 54-49 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

In Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum, which was once again filled to the brim with Wisconsin fans, the Badgers failed to sustain any offensive production throughout the contest and ended their promising 2021-22 campaign. 

Wisconsin, surely hoping for a faster start after trailing 9-2 against Colgate on Friday, avoided such an early deficit. Even so, the Badgers didn’t enjoy much offensive success in the first half against Iowa State. The teams remained close and Wisconsin held a 22-17 lead with five minutes remaining. 

Then, with 4:37 on the first-half clock, Badger point guard Chucky Hepburn injured his ankle and exited the game for good. It’s unclear exactly what injury the freshman sustained, but he required help off the court and was later sporting crutches and a walking boot. Hepburn had shot 0-for-3 with two rebounds before going down. 

The Badgers looked poised to take a one-point lead into halftime when a defensive breakdown allowed Iowa State’s Caleb Grill to make an uncontested layup as time expired, giving the Cyclones a 27-26 advantage. 

With Hepburn officially ruled out, Wisconsin then turned in a dismal second-half performance. Guards Jordan Davis and Jahcobi Neath played 11 and 22 minutes in the game, respectively, while totaling four points. Not only do they lack Hepburn’s playmaking ability, their inability to convert wide-open shots was glaring and made it easier for Iowa State to focus its defense on Johnny Davis and Wisconsin’s other capable scorers. 

It took nearly eight minutes for the Badgers to reach 30 points. Tyler Wahl narrowed the deficit to 38-34 with nine minutes remaining, but that was as close as Wisconsin would get to tying the game. 

Wisconsin shot a dreadful 29.8 percent from the field and made only two of its 22 three-point attempts. The Cyclones deserve credit for their tight interior defense, and they were clearly willing to foul (as they did 25 times) rather than yield easy baskets in the paint. That said, the Badgers’ horrendous shooting is the main reason their season ended so soon. 

Davis finished with 17 points, although nine of those were free throws. He shot 4-of-16 from the field and 0-of-7 from three-point range, and his late-game magic against Colgate never really showed up this time. The guard tallied nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks, but he did turn it over four times. 

Brad Davison was Wisconsin’s second-leading scorer with 12 points and seemed to be on the ground more often than not. In his final game as a Badger, he drew several Iowa State fouls while committing four fouls of his own. Wisconsin needed a huge game from Davison after Hepburn went down and he delivered a solid, albeit unremarkable performance. 

The Badgers successfully contained Cyclone guard Izaiah Brockington, who shot 4-of-15 for a modest 10 points. It was senior guard Gabe Kalscheur, in fact, who gave Wisconsin fits. Kalscheur, despite averaging only 9.1 points per game during the regular season, put on a show with 22 points, four rebounds and a pair of steals. His 10-of-19 shooting performance made all the difference for Iowa State, which shot 34.5 percent as a team. 

It’s worth wondering whether Hepburn’s injury changed the outcome of Sunday’s game—the point guard was undeniably a catalyst for Wisconsin’s offense in his freshman season. No matter, the favored Badgers had every opportunity to make some easy shots and move on to the Sweet Sixteen. 

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Instead, it will be Iowa State moving on to face 10-seed Miami, which just toppled two-seed Auburn. 

The Daily Cardinal will continue to cover the Wisconsin men’s basketball team as it progresses into the offseason and the 2022-23 campaign. 

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