MADISON, WI - JANUARY 09: Bronson Koenig #24 of the Wisconsin Badgers shoots a three pointer during the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Kohl Center on January 09, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Bronson Koenig

Badgers basketball lose heart-breaker to No. 3 Maryland

Melo Trimble came in as a must-stop player for Wisconsin, but even the best of efforts couldn’t stop the sophomore point guard. The Terps’ All-American upped his resume with a game-winning three pointer from deep with 1.2 seconds left to play, lifting Maryland to a 63-60 victory.

Following a clutch three pointer from junior point guard Bronson Koenig to make it 60-60, Trimble went cold blooded and hit this:

It was the final three points in a 21-point day that mattered most. However, Trimble wasn’t just a one-hit wonder — putting up 21 points on an efficient 9 of 17 shooting and a game-high five assists.

Wisconsin countered with two big time efforts from its forward duo of Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, combing for 33 of Wisconsin’s 60 points (17 from Hayes, 16 from Happ). Happ finished the game with his sixth double double of the season, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with those 16 points.

It all added up to a game that was intense and down to the wire, yet it ended just the same as it has all season for the Badgers when faced with a close one — a loss.

Wisconsin dropped its fifth game at the Kohl Center, all by a combined 14 points too.

Between Trimble’s hot hand, missed opportunities down low and a poor effort from the free throw line (5-11) Wisconsin just couldn’t find a way to eek out a victory.

UW knew it was going to be in a hard-fought game if it wanted a chance — and it got exactly that from tip to final buzzer.

Maryland went up 9-5 early in the contest and it appeared the Terps were going to dominate, as Wisconsin was missing easy shots inside and Maryland was getting great looks. Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown struggled to contain themselves on both ends.

Wisconsin wasn’t afraid of the fight though, and it fought back in a major way thanks to youngsters Ethan Happ and Alex Illikainen. Following a barely missed three-pointer with the Badgers down 9-7, Illikainen came back with the triple and made it an 11-10 Maryland lead.

Happ, who settled down with a seat on the bench at the first official timeout, contributed to the momentum swing with a steal on a Terps rebound and an easy lay-in. It was all part of a 7-2 run that go Wisconsin its first lead of the game at 12-11 with 11:55 to play in the first half.

Maryland put any hope of a big momentum swing for the Badgers to rest quickly after UW’s scoring burst, turning around with a 7-0 run of their own.

It was no coincidence that Trimble got going during this run as well. He got to the lane on three straight possessions, with one lay-in and two assists on easy baskets in the paint.

However, the Badgers didn’t fold there either, continuing to put pressure on Maryland thanks to an efficient effort from beyond the arc and with a good effort from the front court.

Wisconsin finished the first half 4 of 9 from three-point range, holding Maryland to nothing from deep in the half.

The duo of Hayes and Happ would combine for 22 of Wisconsin’s 32 points in the first half, with Hayes pouring in 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting and Happ putting up eight points and four rebounds.

As a result, Wisconsin trailed by just four points despite allowing Maryland to shoot 59.5 percent from the field.

Following the break, Wisconsin continued to battle and it also continued to not be able to get completely over the hump.

The Badgers tied the game twice in the first five minutes, but couldn’t get a lead until it went up 40-39 with 14:28 to play.

Even then, it was short-lived lead, as the Terps responded with a quick five-point run to make it 44-40.

It would be the story of the Badgers’ life in the second half, as the Badgers fought back to get the lead at 47-46 with 10:01 to play on Koenig’s second three-pointer of the game. However, it was the only make in what has become a signature for the young Badgers — long scoring droughts.

Koenig’s make was the only one in an stretch of 1 of 12 field goals that lasted until nearly the final minute of the contest.

That streak of bad shooting combined with the hot hand of Trimble pushed Maryland right back to a two-possession lead at 51-47 with 8:23 to play in the game. He continued to stay hot, putting up the next five points to put the game nearly out of reach at 56-48 with 6:39 to play.

Wisconsin continued to miss, and Koenig and Hayes were big culprits thanks to bad shot selection and simply trying to do too much with the ball. Hayes had multiple drives with wild shots in the hope of getting a foul call, while Koenig tried repeated pull-up jumpers that hit all iron.

However, Gard’s team wouldn’t give up and it was the gritty nature of coach and former walk-on Zak Showalter that gave UW late hope. Showalter hit six straight points for UW, on a lay-in and free throw and a deep three pointer with 1:04 left to play.

Koenig, who kept shooting and kept missing from deep never blinked and UW nearly put the Terps on the back foot thanks to that effort. With the game down to three points in the waning seconds, Koenig hit the biggest shot of the game for Wisconsin, draining a straight on three pointer.

UW got back on defense and tried to prevent Melo Trimble from getting deep on them. Instead, Trimble just shot over them and buried the dagger from State Street.

A good effort gone to waste? Only if Wisconsin doesn’t find a way to learn and grow from this type of loss. Hanging with the No. 3-ranked team in the country with all the youth and struggles happening in 2015-16? That is something you can build on, but will this team turn that corner sooner or later?

The loss drops the Badgers to 1-3 in Big Ten play, and UW will face another tough test with a trip to Northwestern up next. Learning from this game and showing it can compete in the middle of the conference is what this next game will be all about.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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