MADISON – #15 ranked Xavier came into Madison as an underdog in what was both teams’ first true test of the season. In an entertaining, exciting, up-and-down, back-and-forth game in a hostile environment, Xavier came out on top 80-70 behind late, clutch shooting from Trevon Bluiett. The Musketeers shot 57% in the second half, as they turned a tie game with just over two minutes left into a ten point victory.
Bluiett came into the game averaging 25.5 PPG, just over a point per minute in his first two outings, but didn’t convert a field goal attempt until he hit a three-pointer with 15:42 left in the game. The Badgers held him to four first-half points all on free throws. But, Wisconsin wouldn’t keep him held down all game.
“I like to look at myself as a mentally tough kid,” Bluiett said. “In this game, you have to have a short-term memory.”
Bluiett scored 12 points in the final 2:25 of game time.
With the game tied at 66-66 with under two minutes left, the preseason All-American hit a clutch three to break the tie. Roughly thirty seconds later, Bluiett hit another one from beyond the arch, all but ending the Badgers push. The senior standout finished right on his average with 25 points and nine rebounds.
Xavier got out to a hot start in the first half making seven of their first nine shots, and led by as much as nine during the first half, but the Badgers scrapped their way back because of freshman Brad Davison. Davison scored nine of 12 Badger points as they cut a 28-19 deficit into a tie game at the break, 34-34. Davison hit an array of tough, contested mid-range jumpers and even banked in a three for good measure.
“If you’ve been around Brad Davison you understand these are the type of games he flourishes in,” head coach Greg Gard said. “He likes being physical, he likes to get on the floor. He made a lot of good things happen. Maybe I should have played Brad even more.”
J.P. Macura paced Xavier with eight points, four rebounds, and four assists in the first half. Wisconsin was not able to corral Macura off the ball as he got loose for a few easy backdoor lay-ups. The senior guard came out firing in the second half as well, scoring 10 of the first 17 Xavier points as they steadily rebuilt their lead.
Macura was in a battle all night with the UW student section and ended his night in celebration by “gator chopping” towards the Grateful Red, much to their dismay. Macura finished with 20 points, eight assists, and four rebounds.
The win gave Macura, Bluiett, and other Xavier players a sense of revenge after getting knocked out by the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament two years ago by a Bronson Koenig buzzer beater.
“It means a lot to me,” J.P. Macura said after the game. “We lost in the NCAA Tournament to them. It was heartbreaking. Along with Tre and the rest of the guy, it was tough. To come here to play team basketball and get a win…it feels good.”
Xavier rebuilt that lead 54-47 with under ten minutes left in the second half, but Wisconsin’s Brevin Pritzl hit back-to-back threes at the top of the arch cutting into the lead. After each Pritzl three, Bluiett was there to answer with tough jumpers of his own.
The other All-American in this game, Ethan Happ, was up to his own ways as well with 21 points and eight assists, but nonetheless just got outshined by Bluiett when it mattered most. Happ entered the 1,000 point club with his 17th point of the night. Pritzl finished with 13 and Davison with 12.
Wisconsin fought valiantly, but ultimately, the Musketeers were just too experienced, and had Macura and Bluiett firing on all cylinders.
“We have a little bit more experience right now,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “Guys like J.P. and Trevon have been around college basketball for a long, long time. Wisconsin’s got some younger guards that will get better because of this.”
The Badgers, now 2-1, play Baylor at 8:30 p.m. on Monday in Kansas City in the Hall of Fame Classic