NEW YORK — For the second year in a row, the Wisconsin Badgers lost an absolute heartbreaker in the Sweet Sixteen. This one was a bit tougher, not only looking at how the game played out, but the fact that it was the last game for Wisconsin’s incredible group of seniors, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown.
Each senior had a lot to say regarding the final game of their collegiate career
Hayes, a leader on and off the court, tried to be positive, but it was pretty evident how much this hurt the Badger all-time great from Toledo, Ohio.
“I’m extremely proud,” said Hayes. “We were able to come all the way back, and tonight we just got out-luckied.”
Luck may have been the defining factor in the game. Hayes noted particularly rough Chiozza’s shot was for the senior class.
“You see the reaction from the guys on top, and the other guys that didn’t,” said Hayes. “The heartbreak, the heartache. Four years over, just ends with that shot.” When Hayes says four years, he’s right, too – he did not miss a game in his storied four-year college career.
Koenig, similar to Hayes, gave some positive reflection and complimentary statements, but couldn’t believe his time at UW was over.
“I’m proud of how we fought, how we fought all year,” said Koenig. “We showed how resilient we were, and I’m proud of this team.”
“It’s been a huge part of my life,” noted Koenig, who throughout his four years was known for making clutch shots. “[It] shaped me into the man I am today, and I’m very thankful for every part of it, not just basketball.”
Showalter, the do-it-all player for Wisconsin, shared many thoughts, from his amazing shot, to how he felt and his lasting reaction to this classic game.
“I mean, this is definitely my hardest loss,” said Showalter, whose clutch, off-balance three initially sent the game into overtime. “It’s the last one I’ll ever play with this group of guys, and this program, which I love.”
“I poured my heart and soul into this thing, so to have another emotional roller coaster that we went through to get to this one…man…I’m still flustered.”
“This one is going to hurt for a long time,” he said. “Last year, obviously we hit the one against Xavier to put us ahead, tale of two stories, that’s what we got here.”
Koenig and Showalter are the only Wisconsin natives of the group. The Germantown product was a walk-on with the team when he joined.
For a full reaction from Zak Showalter, read here.
And Vitto Bornw, the smooth big man with the even bigger smile, had a really tough time putting this one into words.
“There’s no sweetness about it, nothing sweet. I’m just trying to make it sweet,” said Brown, who’s known for his beautiful voice and crisp three-point shot. “Being sad and depressed about it doesn’t help anything. It’s just sad, like you said, it’s frustrating and sad.”
“Not many words were said. We’re not stupid, we’re seniors, we know what was at stake,” he said. ” [We]did our consoling after Coach talked to us.”