The Badgers fell in their season opener to St. Mary’s 65-63 in overtime. The tightly contested game saw numerous lead changes and momentum swings but the Gaels out-executed Wisconsin down the stretch of overtime to secure the win.
With 4.4 seconds remaining, a missed free throw left the timeout-less Badgers with one last opportunity, down by two. Wisconsin quickly tried to push the ball down the floor but a backcourt trap by two Gaels slowed the ball handler and led to only a deep three-point heave to decide the game. Junior forward Aleem Ford air-balled, leaving the Badgers empty handed on the most important possession of the game.
The missed heave at the end of overtime, however, was not Wisconsin’s best opportunity to win the game. With thirteen ticks remaining in regulation, Greg Gard called timeout to draw up a play for the win, as the game was tied at 54 a piece. Down screens and dribble handoffs failed to open up shooters, and the Badgers were forced into a tough contest three.
The Badgers will return to Madison thinking that game could have easily been theirs, as a bucket on the final play of regulation or overtime would’ve won them the game. These late game disappointments must lead the team to miss Ethan Happ, who would’ve surely been charged with these scoring opportunities in previous seasons. But Happ graduated and is no longer there for the Badgers when they need a bucket.
The late game mishaps may lead fans to forget what a good game the Badgers played on Tuesday night, as they game 20th ranked St. Mary’s all they could have wanted. The Badgers defense shined for multiple stretches during the game, including an impressive 11-3 run in the first half and nearly five minutes in the second half that they did not surrender a point to the Gaels.
Offensively, Wisconsin struggled from the new three-point line but punished St. Mary’s in the paint. Junior forward Nate Reuvers led the Badgers with 22 points from post work and pick and pop. The Badgers struggled from the three-point line, shooting just 26%, as compared to St. Mary’s who went 8-18 from beyond the arch.
The season-opener for both teams was played at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Badgers return to Madison on Friday for their home opener against Eastern Illinois at the Kohl Center.