In the first Final Four matchup of the night in Las Vegas, Wisconsin (20-15) failed to hold off a second-half comeback from North Texas (30-7) as the Badgers’ season ended at the hands of a 56-54 loss.
After recording five 3-pointers in the first half, Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn went scoreless for the rest of the game as the Badgers only managed to score 13 points in the second half. The Mean Green came back from a 14-point deficit to end an unfavorable season for the Badgers.
In the opening minutes of the first half, Hepburn and Max Klesmit each found their range early; however, North Texas’ star guard Tylor Perry matched the Badgers’ early scoring with his own hot shooting. Connor Essegian drilled a stepback 3-pointer to keep Wisconsin’s early lead, 14-8.
Hepburn continued his shooting with a barrage of 3-pointers — including a stepback and a logo shot — on his way to shooting 5-8 from three in the first half. Inside scoring from Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl supported Hepburn’s first half performance to give the Badgers a 41-29 halftime lead.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Crowl and Wahl continued to put points on the board from the paint, but North Texas rallied with a series of 3-pointers to draw within seven points. Essegian broke Wisconsin’s slide with a 3-pointer of his own, but the Mean Green continued to close the gap.
North Texas’ Moulaye Sissoko laid the ball in to take the lead — the first of the night for the Mean Green — to cap off a 10-0 run that lasted over nine minutes. The Badgers failed to convert two free throws to tie the game and, on the last play of the game, could not get a shot off as they fell to North Texas, 56-54.
Hepburn led the way with 15 points, followed by 12 from Wahl and Essegian. Crowl grabbed eight rebounds, but the nine minute scoring drought proved to be the downfall of Wisconsin’s tumultuous season.