With 20 seconds left and the game tied at 62-62 against No. 1 overall Villanova, the Badgers called a timeout to draw up a play. For the second straight year, against a larger-than-life opponent, that play worked.
Last year, in the Round of 32 against No. 2 seed Xavier, the Badgers drew up a play to get Koenig open for three, and it worked to perfection.
On Saturday afternoon against Villanova, everyone was expecting the ball to be in Koenig’s hands at the end of regulation. Instead, it was Nigel Hayes’.
Hayes caught the ball in the short corner and half spun his way to the baseline and under the hoop. He got to the other side of the rim and laid the ball in with his left hand to give the Badgers the lead, 64-62.
Villanova had one last chance to tie the game, but Vitto Brown challenged Josh Hart as he was going towards the rim and stole the ball and the Badgers successfully pulled off the upset over the reigning champs and number one overall seed. The final score was 65-62.
Koenig and Happ missed substantial time in the second half after getting in foul trouble. Koenig was whistled for his fourth foul early in the second half on a charge call shortly after reentering the game. Happ got called for his third foul early on as well. As those two sat, ‘Nova was able to grab momentum as the Badger had a lineup of Trice, Hill, Showalter, Brown and Hayes.
The Badgers battled back, however. Wisconsin trailed 57-50 with 5:31 left after a three from Donte DiVincenzo. The Badgers closed the game on a 15-5 run. Koenig had a three to tie the game at 57 off of a nice assist from Hayes, and then it was anyone’s game.
The Badgers went into halftime with a four-point lead despite Ethan Happ missing the majority of the first half with two fouls for the second straight game. In the Round of 64 it was Khalil Iverson who provided the spark. On Saturday afternoon, Vitto Brown had three first-half threes and outscored his scoring average in the first half.
Wisconsin controlled the first half. The Badgers outshot the Wildcats 54.2 percent to 29.6 percent, but Villanova reached the free throw line with regularity, helping them make up the difference. This was the second straight game Villanova struggled in the first half. The Wildcats went to halftime tied with the #16 seed in the Round of 64.
The senior class is headed to their fourth Sweet 16, a very impressive feat. Hayes finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. Koenig added 17 points. The Badgers fought through the adversity of foul trouble from the start of the game.
Villanova had an incredible two-year run with their championship last year and a 32-3 record this year, but they ran into a balanced, experienced team just like themselves way too early in the tournament because of mis-seeding by the tournament committee.
For the third straight year, Wisconsin took down a team they were underdogs against to make it to a later round.
The Badgers will face Florida in the Sweet Sixteen on Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The time is still to be determined.