In the second round of the National Invitational Tournament, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team (19-14) overtook the Liberty Flames (27-9) at the Kohl Center, 75-71.
In the first half, center Steven Crowl — coming off of a career night against Bradley — continued his hot streak with a series of early buckets, including an alley-oop jam. However, star Liberty guard Darius McGhee also made an early impact with some inside scores.
As Crowl cooled off, Chucky Hepburn stepped up, hitting a fadeaway jumper and finishing multiple and-1 plays soon after. However, Crowl picked up both a flagrant and a technical foul on an unfriendly encounter with Liberty’s big man, Shiloh Robinson, late in the half and headed to the bench. Hepburn responded with a last-second layup to give Wisconsin a 37-34 lead at the break.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Tyler Wahl took charge of the scoring with five straight Badger points, and Hepburn followed up to surpass the 20-point mark with a drive. Liberty’s Kyle Rode drained a corner 3-pointer to give the Flames an early second-half lead.
McGhee continued to flame the Badgers with his 3-point shooting, as he eventually finished with a game-high 31 points. But, Wisconsin’s Kamari McGee checked in and brought a boost, recording a steal and two free throws to bring the crowd back into the game. Max Klesmit hit Wisconsin’s first 3-pointer of the game with two minutes left, keeping the Badgers within a point of Liberty.
Klesmit finished a high-arcing layup to put Wisconsin back up by one point, before the Badgers got a defensive stop on the other end. Connor Essegian only managed to convert one of two free throws, but Carter Gilmore’s defense locked down McGhee, allowing Wisconsin to put the game away with free throws, 75-71.
Behind a career high 27 points from Hepburn, as well as 16 from Wahl and 14 from Crowl, the Badgers earned themselves another game in the quarterfinals of the NIT. The matchup will take place against the winner of the Oregon and UCF duel and will be hosted by the highest seed on either March 21 or 22.