Down 80-78 with 7.9 seconds remaining, Western Kentucky’s Darius Thompson calmly dribbled up the floor, attacked off the dribble from the top of the key, forced his way into the lane with two seconds remaining.
The Badgers were looking for a prayer on a full-court heave, but their prayer was answered in a different way. Brad Davison was knocked down to the ground setting a screen on the man defending Brevin Pritzl as he ran the baseline with the ball trying to inbound. In reality, Pritzl was trying run his man into Davison. The foul got called on one of the more bizarre plays that has happened in a long time.
“My job was just to let him run me over and it would be a foul on them,” said Brad Davison. “It was a great call by coach. I just had to get run over and it worked.”
Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury was adamant post-game that Davison was out of bounds making it an illegal screen.
“If you look closely (on that last play), the screener was out of bounds, which is an automatic turnover from an illegal screener,” said Stansbury.
“I had a great view,” Pritzl said. “He wasn’t out of bounds.”
Nonetheless, the call went Wisconsin’s way. The Badgers were in the double-bonus and Davison would knock down the first one and threw the second one off the rim, averting a crisis in the Kohl Center. The Badgers won 81-80.
Wisconsin defeated Western Kentucky behind one of their best shooting efforts of the season, ending a two-game skid. The Badgers had four players in double-figures in a balanced attack, the first time that’s happened since November 24th against Milwaukee. Brevin Pritzl and Ethan Happ both scored 17 points, Davison added 16, and Aleem Ford chipped in a career-high 14.
Although Western Kentucky isn’t a powerhouse name, the Hilltoppers are a solid team this year, coming into the game 6-3 with a win over the Big Ten’s very own Purdue. It was a game Wisconsin couldn’t afford to lose, and they did not, improving to 5-7 on the season.
The Badgers were hot from three-point range from the jump. Wisconsin’s first three field goals were all worth three points. Brad Davison started it out with a three in the corner, and then Aleem Ford hit back-to-back threes. Happ would hit a hook shot to end the streak of threes, giving Wisconsin a quick 11-2 lead.
Justin Johnson, Western Kentucky’s leading scorer, would single-handedly bring the Hilltoppers back. Johnson scored in an array of ways including a hook shot, a dunk, and a three-pointer. His second dunk of the game, off of a blown defensive coverage on an inbound play by Wisconsin, tied the game up at 13. Johnson had nine of WKU’s first 13.
The Wisconsin three-point parade started again with T.J Schlundt getting in on the action, followed by another Aleem Ford three, giving the Badgers some breathing room. Then, Brevin Pritzl would hit another one beyond the arch, sinking the sixth three of nine attempts for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin led 27-17, but WKU would turn that 10-point deficit into a lead after they ripped off a 17-2 run over the span of nearly four minutes. The Badgers turned it over three times during that span. The Hilltoppers scored nine points via the three-point line, and the run was capitalized by a dunk over Schlundt by Darius Thompson.
With WKU up 38-31, Brevin Pritzl hit a three at the buzzer to shorten WKU’s lead to four at halftime.
UW opened up the second half the way they started the first, with a barrage of threes. Pritzl opened up the second half with a three of his own. Davison and Ford would follow with a trey apiece, recapturing the lead the Badgers.
Then it was time for the All-American to get involved. Happ was quiet for most of the first half, scoring just six points on six shots. Happ would score on three straight possessions, all on buckets in the paint. Western Kentucky hung on keeping the score tied, however, while the Badgers made a run at the beginning of the half, behind six quick points from Hollingsworth.
Wisconsin would again create some breathing room with an 8-0 run. Khalil Iverson had a strong take to the cup resulting in an and-one finish. Pritzl followed with another three-pointer. The defense forced a turnover, and Iverson finished a lay-in off of a nice pass from Davison, and then Ford would sink two free-throws pushing the Badgers lead up to ten, 61-51, with about 12 minutes left.
Western Kentucky then went on a 15-6 run turning an 11 point deficit down to two, 71-69, with 5:01 left after a Thompson three. The following possession the Hilltoppers forced a turnover for an easy lay-in, tying the game.
The two teams would keep going back-and-forth until the final seconds when Davison saved the day for Wisconsin.
Western Kentucky is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the entire country at over 40 percent. They shot 50% from the three-point line, but more impressively, the outscored Wisconsin 46-28 in the paint. That was due in part because of the shooting night Wisconsin had from beyond the arc, shooting 12/20.
UW lost Kobe King for the season and D’Mitrik Trice for a few weeks, thus leaving Greg Gard and company adjusting on the fly without two major rotation players. Walt McGrory played his first collegiate minutes on Wednesday night. Schlundt has found himself in the rotation playing 21 minutes, and produced more than most fans could have hoped with six points on a pair of treys. Additionally, during the first half, Schlundt showed some toughness and energy as he battled down low for a loose ball and came up with it, sending the Kohl Center into a minor frenzy.
“Greg has lost some guys and he’s doing a terrific piecing that team back together,” Stansbury said.
Germantown native Lamonte Bearden played excellent basketball back in his home state, scoring a team-high 19 points, five assists, and five rebounds.
Wisconsin has a nice ten-day break before it plays UW-Green Bay in the Kohl Center on December 23rd.