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Top Ten Moments from Wisconsin’s Senior Class (5-1)

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If you missed the first part of the countdown, which included the introduction, honorable mentions, and numbers 6-10, you can find them here.

5. Wisconsin beats Kentucky in the Final Four

It’s hard to argue against this being the best moment in Wisconsin Badgers sports history. The only reason it is so low on the list is because that game, and most of that season, had much more to do with the performances of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Josh Gasser than this year’s graduating class. But the duo of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were huge in that game, and Wisconsin likely doesn’t win without them.

In that historic game, Hayes played 37 minutes, and recorded 12 points. He also had the offensive rebound and put-back to tie the score with 2:30 remaining in the game. Koenig also had 12 points, along with three huge free throws to ice the game in the closing seconds.

4. Wisconsin turns season around with win over MSU.

Heading into the January 7th tilt against Michigan State, Wisconsin Basketball was in disarray. They were 9-9 overall, and just 1-4 in the conference. It looked like Wisconsin’s streaks of finishing in the top-4 of the Big Ten and making the NCAA Tournament was dead in the water. Interim Head Coach Greg Gard’s chances of securing the real job also seemed to be rapidly slipping away.

That’s when the duo of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig stepped up and carried the team to a season changing win. Hayes had 25 points and seven rebounds, which believe it or not, was only the second best performance on the team. That’s because Koenig, who was dubbed the “Spartan Killer” by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, poured in 27 points of his own. Koenig also drained the clutch (surprise, surprise) three-pointer to bring Wisconsin within one with 30 seconds remaining. He then had the game-winning assist to Ethan Happ.

As you probably know, the rest is history. Wisconsin went on to win 11 out of their next 13 games, cruise to an NCAA Tournament bid, and keep the streak of top-four finishes alive. Oh yeah, and Greg Gard got his contract, leaving the future of Wisconsin Basketball in good hands. All because of the performances of Koenig and Hayes.

3. Showy sparks Wisconsin to Sweet 16 Victory over UNC

Before I get in to the game itself, I just want to take a minute to talk about Showalter. He may not be the most talented Badger ever, but he might be my favorite. He started as a walk-on, and transformed himself into a spark plug on the best team in school history, before becoming a reliable two-year starter. Showalter was all energy all the time. He really personified the blue collar mentality of this Wisconsin program, and I’m going to miss the hell out of him. He was just a pure, gritty, playmaker. And none of his plays were bigger and more memorable than what he did against UNC.

With Wisconsin in a Sweet 16 dogfight against UNC, Showalter checked into the game with 8:19 remaining and the Badgers trailing by three. On a team with two future first-round picks and four future All-Big Ten players, it was Showy that stepped up to save the day. First, he drove to the basket with 7:58 remaining and got a layup. He then drove into the lane and kicked it out to Frank the Tank to drain a wide open three-pointer.

On the ensuing possession, he got free on a back-door cut and finished with a reverse layup. But his work still wasn’t done. Seconds later, he stripped a UNC player and took it all the way for a layup. Just like that, Showy had created nine-points in under three minutes to give Wisconsin the permanent lead. Nothing that happens for the rest of the season- not the second straight Final Four, not the Kentucky win- happens without the scrappy walk-on from Germantown, Wisconsin.

2. Koenig buzzer-beater to beat Xavier

Bronson Koenig was a great point guard and an even better shot creator. As the all-time leader in made three-pointers at Wisconsin, he was obviously a terrific shooter. But his best attribute was his ability to take, and make, the big shot. Koenig’s veins are made out of pure ice, and nothing else. He hit a ton of clutch shots over his Badger career, but none were bigger and more memorable than his buzzer-beat against the #2-seed Xavier in the Round of 32.

With the Badgers trailing by three with just 13 seconds to play, Koenig drained a deep three-pointer that was arguably just as clutch as the buzzer beater itself. Then on the other end of the court, Showalter did what he does best and took a charge, giving the ball back to the Badgers. The rest is history.

Goosebumps. Goosebumps every single time. Winning on buzzer beaters is much more fun.

1. Wisconsin takes down overall #1 Villanova

This game showed everything this senior class was about. They did not back down from challenges. This was their fourth tournament upset in four seasons. They also never gave up, coming back from seven down with five minted to go. This senior class showed their leadership, resiliency, and fight.

Zak Showalter was the glue, playing great defense and securing every possible loose ball.

Bronson Koenig hit clutch shots (surprise, surprise), scoring eight points in the final five minutes of the game, including a game-tying three-pointer.

Like usual, the often polarizing and criticized Nigel Hayes stepped up with his team needing him the most, putting the team on his back and refusing to let his career end.

Vitto Brown chipped in 10 points, and came up with the defensive play of the season for the Badger by stripping Josh Hart of a chance at a game-tying layup.

This was the game that defined this senior class. It was the game where they refused to back down and refused to lose. The season, and their careers, didn’t end the way we wanted them to, but we’ll always have this game, and the rest of the moments on this list. For that reason, I’ll always be thankful for this group.

 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers top Xavier in Gavitt Tipoff Games

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A trio of big nights from Ethan Happ, D’Mitrick Trice and Brad Davison helped the Wisconsin Badgers avenge last season’s defeat in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, defeating Xavier 77-68 on Tuesday night. 

The trio combined for 71of Wisconsin’s 77 points in the victory, as the Badgers improved to 2-0 on the young season. 

Senior All-American Ethan Happ continued his history-making start to the season, pouring in 30 points while making a career high 15 field goals. 

He had a double double, adding 13 rebounds and also 5 assists in the win. 

Trice, who had a career high 21 points in the win over Coppin State followed that up by making a new career high with 22 points, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. 

Sophomore guard Brad Davison also got in to the act, adding 19 points in the win. The final three of those points came on a late step-up triple with the shot clock running down and the Badgers lead at just 69-60 with just over a minute to play. 

Following the big make, Davison gave Xavier a piece of their own medicine with a JP Macuria-like chomp. 

Xavier made a late run after that chomp, but Trice and Kobe King hit three late free throws to put the icing on the victory. 

Davison helped pick up the Badgers in the second half as they erased any and all momentum Xavier had thanks to a 12-4 run to end the first half. 

The hosts used that run to make it a 30-28 game at the half, but UW went on a 7-0 run early in the second half and made it 39-30. The Musketeers never really got within serious striking distance after that, largely due to Davison’s production being added to what Happ and Trice did. 

Xavier would test the Badgers mettle a few times in this game, but ultimately its inability to hit from the perimeter cost the hosts. The Musketeers shot just 21percent (5-24) from beyond the three-point line in the loss. 

Naji Marshall led the Musketeers in scoring with 24 points on 10-15 field goals. 

Wisconsin raced out to a 10-2 lead inside the first four minutes of the game. It was led by 4 points from Happ and back-to-back triples from Trice. 

Xavier ended that run with a pair of baskets of its own to bring it to 10-7 with 15:42 to play in the first half. 

It would be the only offensive firepower the Musketeers would have until late in the first half. Xavier went 3:20 without a single basket at one point and one field goal in 6:27 for the Musketeers. 

The Badgers weren’t much better from the field either and it led to Xavier being able to slowly chip away at Wisconsin’s lead.

Wisconsin ended the half shooting just 39 percent from the field, but were 4 of 8 from beyond the arc to help them take a 30-28 advantage in to the locker room. 

Trice led the way with 3 of 3 from beyond the arc for 11 points. Happ led all Badgers with 12 points on 6-12 shooting himself.  

Xavier would end the half shooting 12 of 31 from the field, including just 3 of 14 from three-point range. 

It felt a lot like deja vu to start the second half, as the Badgers used a quick start to control the game. This time it was a 16-2 run that made it 48-32 Badgers with just over 14 minutes to play. 

Xavier fought back, but ultimately it couldn’t find a way to win the battle on the boards (40-32) or hit the big buckets to end Wisconsin runs to really get back in the game. 

Despite the close moments late in both halves, the game was tied just one time and the lead never went out of the Badgers favor. Wisconsin led for all but 1:27 and still managed to let the Musketeers hang around late. 

A lot of it had to do with free throw shooting, as Happ struggled to a 0 of 4 night from the free throw line and the team was just 6 of 13. Yet, they stepped up when it really mattered, knocking down three of the last four to ice Xavier out of the game. 

Up next is a contest with Houston Baptist on Nov. 17. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm CT on BTN. 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: Xavier edition

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After a season-opening trouncing of Coppin State, the Wisconsin Badgers will take the court a week later. The competition will be much stiffer this time around. 

That’s because it’ll be the Gavitt Games and a road trip to Xavier on the docket. It’s also because these two teams had one heck of a matchup last year. 

Xavier came in as the No. 15 team in the nation and nearly were upset by a Badgers squad trying to find itself. The game ended with a Musketeers 80-70 victory, but it appeared to be a step in the right direction for a young Badgers squad. 

Even if that wasn’t what happened for the Badgers after that game, this is a bellwether matchup once again.  That’s because the roles will be reversed this season, as Wisconsin returns a ton of its production from last season and Xavier are the ones trying to figure themselves out. 

Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and can be seen on FS1. 

Let’s look inside the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 1-0 (0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (58-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Last time out the Badgers got a triple double from center Ethan Happ. It was just the second one in program history. The Badgers also got a career high 21 points from D’Mitrick Trice in his return from a season-ending injury suffered 10 games in to last season.

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
G – Brad Davison – 9 ppg, 5 rpg, 0 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 7 ppg, 5rpg, 1 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 8 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 10 ppg, 11 rpg, 12 apg

Xavier Musketeers 

Record: 2-0 (0-0 Big East)
Head Coach: Travis Steele, 1st year at Xavier and overall
Notable: Last time out, Xavier was a 6-point winner over Evansville, as they struggle with the transition away from Chris Mack and a group of solid seniors from last season’s team that beat the Badgers by 10 points. 

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – Paul Scruggs, So. — 14.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.5 apg
G – Kyle Castin, Sr. — 7.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Naji Marshall, So. — 9.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.5 apg
F – Tyrique Jones, Jr. — 18 ppg, 13 rpg, 1.5 apg
F – Ryan Welage, Sr. — 14.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

Matchup to Watch: The Frontcourt

Xavier has been really good at eliminating opponents scoring up front. With an athletic group of players up front, opposing teams are having trouble scoring inside. 

Now, of course, teams are having a field day scoring from outside. How else do you describe a team that allows opponents to score 77 points per game so far this season? 

Teams are shooting just 40 percent from the field overall, but are 26 o 60 (.433) from beyond the arc. Wisconsin was on fire from outside for most of the contest against Coppin State, but can that outside shooting be trusted to be consistent? 

It’ll be a big help if Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson are lighting it up inside the paint again. Happ is easily the toughest opponent Xavier has seen on the inside and Xavier’s length and athleticism are trouble for Happ as well. 

Last season, Happ had 21 points, but was just 7 of 13 from the field and added seven points from the free throw line. If he can get Xavier in trouble on the foul front, it will be a huge help again. 

But, given the changes to the Xavier frontcourt group going in to this season, this is a matchup that will look a lot different. 

Prediction:

Wisconsin 70, Xavier 65

While this game is on the road and that can be a huge factor, what I saw from the inside-out game of the Badgers last time out is enough to make me believe this is a win for the good guys. 

Additionally, Xavier has seen its share of struggles early on this season and nearly lost to Evansville, a middling Missouri Valley squad at best. Look for the experience of the Badgers to matter and for them to win this one at the free throw line of all places. 

Season Prediction Record: 1-0

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Happ, Trice lead Badgers to easy win over Coppin State

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The return of redshirt sophomore D’Mitrick Trice was one to remember.

After missing all but 10 games last season, Trice poured in a career high 21 points in his return to the team, leading the Badgers to an 85-63 win over the Coppin State Eagles.

Trice got there thanks to 5 of 9 shooting from deep and 7-13 overall from the field. He had 17 of those 21 points in the first half alone, and UW needed those points. 

Three straight makes from deep for Trice with the Badgers trailing by five points gave the team the kick start they needed. It was the start of a 20-2 run that blew the game open from an 11-6 deficit to a large Badgers lead that never got close again.

However, he wasn’t the only headline of the night for the Badgers. 

Star senior center Ethan Happ showed just how versatile he can be with a season-opening triple double. He had 10 points on just 3-7 shooting, but hit all four of his free throws and added 11 rebounds and 12 assists on the night. 

No other Badgers player had more than one assist. 

Happ and Trice were joined in double digits scoring by senior guard Brevin Prtizl who had 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc. 

As a team, the Badgers shot just 38.7 percent from deep on the night, but happened as the team cooled off late in the game as the bench got cleared out. UW shot 52.9 percent (9 of 17) from the three-point line in the first half alone.

Coppin State was led by a pair of double digit scores in Lamar Morgan (15) and Taqwain Drummond (11), but they were never really in the game after the first three minutes of action. 

Wisconsin’s other returning player from injury, redshirt freshman Kobe King, had a bit more of a struggle off the bench. He had 8 points on 3 of 6 shooting from the field, but missed on both of his deep attempts. he did add four rebounds, good for third on the team. 

Perhaps the biggest shock came from the free throw line, as Wisconsin shot an impressive 88.5 precent (23 of 26) on the night. 

Wisconsin also was able to get its big lead thanks to much better play on the defensive end of the floor. UW held Coppin State to just 35.6 percent shooting on the night and just 11 of 29 from beyond the arc. 

Up next for Wisconsin is next Tuesday as they go to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Muskateers in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and will air on FS1. 

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Badgers Basketball Preview: Coppin State edition

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It’s here, Wisconsin Badgers basketball is back and looking to start a new era of NCAA tournament appearances. 

Up first is a matchup with the Coppin State Eagles, a team from one of the worst conferences in D1 basketball. Will it be a nice way to ease in to the season or will the visitors put the Badgers to the test in a contrast of styles? 

Let’s dig in to the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

2017-18 Record: 15-18 (7-11 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (57-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Wisconsin will have 94.7 percent of its scoring from last season back and will see two young players return to the lineup after missing most of the 2017-18 season due to injury in guards D’Mitrick Trice and Kobe King. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 9.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.3 apg
G – Brad Davison – 12.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 8.6 ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.8 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.8 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 17.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.7 apg

Coppin State Eagles

2017-18 Record: 5-27 (5-11 MEAC)
Head Coach: Juan Dixon, 2nd season (5-27, 5-11 MEAC)
Notable: Guard Dejuan Clayton missed almost all of the 2017-18 season due to injury after being selected to the MEAC All-Rookie team in 2016-17. He averaged 12.4 points and 3.1 assists per game in his debut season and could be a huge X-factor for this team. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – Dejuan Clayton (So.) – 12.4 ppg, 3.1 apg (2016-17 due to injury)
G – Lucian Brownlee (Sr.) – 4.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Cedric Council (Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 apg
F – Lamar Morgan (Sr.) – 12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.4 apg
F – Chad Andrews-Fulton – 6.5ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.8 apg

Matchup to Watch: Chad Andrews-Fulton vs. Ethan Happ

The Eagles didn’t win a lot of games last season, but when they did it had a lot to do with Chad Andrews-Fulton and his play. In the five wins the Eagles had he averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. 

Ethan Happ is more than accustomed to battling high-level scorers down low and usually good at winning those battles. Happ has also been one of the most effective big men in college basketball for the past two years. Expect Happ to be able to frustrate Andrews-Fulton on defense and take him down low on the block. 

As long as Happ wins this battle in the first half this should be an easy win overall for Wisconsin. If not, the Badgers may make this closer than expected for far too long. 

Prediction: 

Wisconsin 84, Coppin State 55

This is your typical opener against a really bad mid-major program. Yes, Juan Dixon played at a high level at Maryland, but he hasn’t shown the ability to coach a team to success ever. That includes his lone stint as a women’s basketball coach in which his University of the District of Columbia team won just six games. 

Wisconsin has experience and athletic advantages it won’t have every game this season. Look for this to be an easy win for the Badgers and one in which they’ll get some rotational questions figured out. 

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