After a struggle all game long, the Badgers long battle for a victory ended with star guard Bronson Koenig hitting a legend-making three-pointer to send Wisconsin (22-12, 12-6 B1G) to a 66-63 victory over Xavier in the NCAA tournament second round.
Koenig, who had been struggling from the field the past few weeks found his stroke from beyond the arc when his team needed it the most. He was 6-12 from beyond the arc for the game, pouring in a game-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds.
It wasnâ€™t just Koening though, as redshirt freshman Ethan Happ came up huge when others were struggling. He added 18 points and seven rebounds, while going 7 of 10 from the field.
It appeared Hayes and Koenig were going to be up to their old tricks early on, but as Xavier made a switch to the 1-3-1 zone defense, all of it changed. Koenig was able to exploit the holes in the zone and stepped in to back-to-back triples â€” the last of which gave UW a 17-8 lead on an 11-2 run.
Xavier came out of the ensuing media timeout hot, switching back to man-to-man defense and confounding UWâ€™s offense. It led to easier looks on the other end for the Musketeers and they went on a 6-0 run to get within one possession at 17-14 with 8 minutes left in the first half.
After trading buckets for awhile, Xavier came out of their offensive shell and used Wisconsinâ€™s inability to play transition defense against them. It led to a pair of three-pointers, and after and Edmond Sumner lay-in, Xavier was on a 10-0 run to take a 29-25 lead with 2:19 left in the half.
Xavier also took advantage of Ethan Happ having to sit thanks to a second foul.
#Badgers led, 25-21, when Happ went to bench with 2nd foul w/4:54 left. They trail at half, 33-30.
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) March 21, 2016
Brown did what he usually does, bailing the Badgers out of their slump and buried a triple to end Xavierâ€™s run and give him 10 points in the first half.
However, Xavier still found ways to control the game and ended the half on a 12-5 run to take the 33-30 lead in to intermission.
Koenig found himself open from the wing, knocking down his third triple of the game and tied the game at 39-39 with 16:31 to play.
It became a foul-fest from that point forward, and it was Xavier with the major advantage. The Musketeers found a way to not only get to the line, but hit buckets and get fouls.
Xavier ended the game 14-21 from the free throw line, while the Badgers managed just 13 free throw attempts all game long. Still, it wasnâ€™t enough to beat out the gritty Badgers.
Instead of folding, Wisconsin adjusted to what was happening in game and found a way to win. No set of plays may have been bigger than a set of plays made by Happ with just under three minutes to go and the Badgers down four points (61-57).
AsÂ TrevonÂ Bluiett missed a jumper with 2:40 to play, Happ grabbed the defensive rebound to help keep his team in the game. On the other end of the court, Happ would grab a key rebound on a missed jumper by Koenig and lay it back in, pulling the Badgers to within a bucket at 61-59 with 2:09 to play.
Koenig doesnâ€™t become a hero if it isnâ€™t for that sequence and others like it throughout the second half.
Wisconsin won the overall rebounding effort 38-36 on the night, while also getting 31 of those on the defensive end of the court.
What is also likely to be overlooked is the equally huge three-pointer that Koenig hit with his team down 63-60 with just 14 seconds left to play. After allowing the clock to drain down, Koenig dribbled and took a deep three to tie it all up.
Zak Showalterâ€™s gritty play came in handy on the ensuing Xavier possession, as he got in front of guard Edmond Sumner and earned the charge call.
As Koenig took the inbounds, Wisconsin waited until he got to halfcourt and took their final timeout with 2.0 seconds to play. UW drew up the only play it could, going with the hottest of hands and it worked to perfection.
Wisconsin will head out East to take on 6-seed Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 in Philadelphia, Penn. on Thursday.