The Badgers lost their third straight game in the final minutes to a ranked opponent on Tuesday night after Aaron Holiday finished a tough layup against Ethan Happ with less than a second left, edging No. 23 UCLA over Wisconsin 72-70.
On Monday night, the Badgers started slowly as No. 22 Baylor ran out to a double-digit lead at halftime. The Badgers fought valiantly to make it a game at the end, but ultimately they dug themselves too deep of a hole to get out of. Against UCLA, they would run out to a quick first-half lead and watch it all evaporate.
The Badgers led by as much as 12 during the first half as Ethan Happ finally got plenty of scoring help from his teammates.
UCLA would come back in the same manner Wisconsin did against Baylor. The Bruins finished the first half strong cutting that twelve point deficit down to 38-31 at halftime. Gyorgy Goloman and Thomas Welsch would combine for 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first half. The Bruins started the second half on a 21-6 run, leading Wisconsin 52-44 with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game.
With the game tied at 67-67 with a little over a minute left, Holiday hit a three to give the Bruins a three-point lead, 70-67. D’Mitrik Trice would have a quick layup, then Khalil Iverson stole the ensuing inbound pass and was fouled on a dunk attempt. He’d hit one of his two free throws to tie the game up.
Then, it was Holiday time. He beat Happ off the dribble, and then beat Happ’s outstretched arm as he laid the ball off the glass just beating the buzzer. Holiday finished with 18 points and five assists.
Wisconsin forced 19 UCLA turnovers but ultimately came up a few stops short of what they needed.
One thing that was important for the Badgers going forward: the true freshmen showed up.
Davison, who made his first career start on Tuesday night along with Aleem Ford, and Kobe King helped the Badgers retake the lead. King had seven points quick points. He made two nice post moves and hit a corner three, making his first true impact on a game this season. Davison hit a three of his own right after his fellow freshman.
Davison was important all night.
With less than four minutes left in the first half, Davison gave the Badgers a 29-26 lead after knocking down a three. The next possession down, he’d steal the ball after ripping down on the post. A few defensive possessions later, Davison would take a charge, something he’s done multiple times already in his short career.
It was just another one of those nights for Happ, stuffing the stat sheet and leading the Badgers in basically every statistical category. UCLA’s center Thomas Welsch is one of the best big men in the nation, but he had no answer for Happ who finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Ultimately, however, the Badgers tough effort wasn’t enough to overcome UCLA’s 9-of-17 three-point shooting. Conversely, Wisconsin has struggled from the three-point line all year and they shot an abysmal 5-of-22 on against the Bruins.
Iverson had 12 first-half points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting and was the beneficiary of some nice passing by Happ down in the low post as the Bruins’ defense crashed on the All-American.
Wisconsin had a well-rounded scoring effort behind Happ’s 19. Trice, Iverson and Davison all had 14 points. UCLA had five players of their own in double-digits.
With Davison and Ford shifted into the starting lineup, Andy Van Vliet and Brevin Pritzl came off the bench. This was the first time the Badgers started two freshmen since the 1997-98 season. Charles Thomas was the first man in off the bench.
The Badgers have in-state rival UW-Milwaukee on Friday. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.