during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin’s season ends with Sweet 16 as Notre Dame comes back in final minute

After the most wild and heartbreaking final minute imaginable, the Wisconsin Badgers found themselves on the wrong end of a 61-56 decision.

With the game knotted at 51 with a minute to play, Ethan Happ converted a second chance layup to give the Badgers a two-point lead, before picking up his fifth foul diving on top of Zach Auguste chasing down a shot that he had blocked on the other end. Auguste sank the two free throws to tie the game, but Vitto Brown nailed a huge wing three-pointer with under 30 seconds to play. A disastrous 8-0 Notre Dame run in the final 19 seconds, aided by a defensive lapse after the Brown 3 and two turnovers from Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, sent the Badgers crashing out of the tournament.

The contest opened up in unfamiliar fashion for the Badgers, with the action racing from one end of the floor to the other thanks to turnovers and quick shots from both sides. Shots were falling during this stretch for both teams and Wisconsin held a 13-9 lead at the 13 minute mark thanks to five points a piece from their starting backcourt. A Badger timeout helped Wisconsin slow down the game, but also slowed down the scoring. In almost 3 minutes after the timeout, neither team scored a basket until hard work by Ethan Happ on the glass and a great look from Showalter to find Khalil Iverson underneath broke the ice. Notre Dame’s switch to a 2-3 Zone after that first timeout initially flustered the Badgers offensively, forcing 6 turnovers, but on the offensive end the Irish could not buy a bucket against a stifling Wisconsin D. At the 4:55 mark in the first half, they were shooting just 22% from the field and had just five made field goals.

A Bronson Koenig three stretched the Badger lead to 22-13 and forced Notre Dame coach Mike Brey to call a timeout to sort out his struggling offense. Out of that timeout however, unheralded Irish 2-guard Matt Farrell nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to six, and the Badgers offense promptly went ice cold. A lone free throw from the quiet Nigel Hayes was the only scoring they would do before the half. They fortunately managed to continue their absolute suffocation of Notre Dame defensively, and a Bonzie Colson layup and Zach Auguste free throw were the only points the Irish managed before the half. The Badgers headed to the locker room clinging to an ugly 23-19 lead.

Zach Showalter was the shining light of the first half for Wisconsin, playing lockdown perimeter defense on Notre Dame’s star guard Demetrius Jackson, drawing a patented charge, and contributing his five points to the cause on 2-4 shooting.

The second half started at a quicker pace and the offenses began to pick up somewhat. Happ bullied his way down low against Auguste for six early points, two coming off offensive rebounds of his own misses. The under-sixteen media timeout saw the Badgers up 31-26. Happ continued to have his way against Auguste and impose his will on the game, exemplified by a powerful drive from the top of the key and a lay-in for his 11th and 12th points of the night that extended the Badgers’ lead to eight points. Just as the lead reached that point, turnovers reared their ugly head again for the Badgers, and their 10th and 11th turnovers of the game on consecutive possessions around the 12 minute mark allowed Notre Dame to cut the lead to four with two transition baskets, prompting the to that point subdued Irish faithful to come alive. That run continued and with 10 minutes to play Demetrius Jackson finally wriggled free of the clutches of Jordan Hill to knot the game at 34.

Nigel Hayes’ first made 3 in 20 attempts silenced the roaring Irish crowd, but a travel negated his dunk the next possession, and a tip in from Auguste and 2 free throws from Jackson gave Notre Dame their first lead since they led 5-4. The tide was stemmed by Showalter, who continued to have the game of his life, exploding for a tip dunk and sweeping in for a finger roll on back-to-back possessions to restore a 3 point lead for the Badgers with 6:38 remaining. The lead then changed hands twice in the space of a minute, and two free-throws from Auguste knotted the game at 44 with four minutes remaining. Hayes’ second three in two attempts after missing his previous 20 then sent the Wisconsin contingent of the stands into a frenzy, and a Jordan Hill steal and layup then blew the roof off the Wells Fargo Center and gave Wisconsin a 5 point lead with 3:330 to play. But the Fighting Irish lived up to their name and just would not go away. An Auguste alley-lop dunk capped a late 7-2 run to tie the game at 51 with a minute remaining. Then followed the collapse that ended the Badgers season.

Despite containing the best of Notre Dame’s scorers for the majority of the game, they were able to catch up at the end. Demetrius Jackson had 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting, and V.J. Beachem added a game-high 19 on 7-of-11 shooting for Notre Dame. Wisconsin was led by Ethan Happ, who despite fouling out in the last minute of the game, went for 14 and 12. Nigel Hayes and Zak Showalter both added 11 in the losing effort.

“We just started moving in slow-motion down the stretch,” said a downtrodden Brown in the locker room post game. “Yes, they earned the win but we gave it away.”

“We were feeling like we had them where we wanted them, we just couldn’t clean up the turnovers,” said an equally somber Hill. “We overcame a lot of adversity throughout the game and we were up for most of it, so to lose it at the end is gut-wrenching.”

“You cannot do the type of stuff we were doing and have 17 turnovers and expect to win,” Hill added later.

“Obviously we wanted more and it’s tough to lose a game like that,” said the Badgers’ star of the night Showalter. “We didn’t take it one possession at a time in the key moments and this is what happens when you don’t take care of the ball.”

“Losing in the Sweet 16 is never what you want, and this hurts a lot right now,” he continued. “We lost in a game that we should have won.”

“We should have won this game,” Koenig stated more bluntly. “We should really be in the Elite Eight.”

“It’s the roller-caoster of emotions” said Hayes, who remained coy on whether he would be returning to the program in the post-game press conference. “We go from Vitto hitting that three, to thinking we still have a chance in the game, to jackson hitting those two free throws and were down five and going home.”

“I really believe we should have won this game,” Hayes added. “We have the better team but we didn’t play well enough and had too many turnovers.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s