The Wisconsin Badgers overcame a late deficit and foul trouble to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row on Saturday.
Just as in the opener of the tournament, Wisconsin found foul trouble early and was forced to sit Ethan Happ for the final 11:49 of the first half after he picked up his second foul. And just as in the win over Virginia Tech, Wisconsin was able to hold its own without him, outscoring Villanova 19-15 heading into halftime.
Wisconsin was also able to weather the storm without Bronson Koenig in the second half. Koenig picked up his fourth foul with 13:41 remaining in the game and spent nearly eight minutes on the bench. While Wisconsin did not hold an advantage with him out, Villanova only outscored the Badgers 17-13 over that span.
Koenig’s return to the game came at the perfect time, as Wisconsin was in the midst of a stretch of 2:42 without a field goal.
Moments later, Donte DiVincenzo hit a three-pointer to push Villanova out to its biggest lead of the game at 57-50.
Koenig and Nigel Hayes then did as they have done so many times before, combining to score 12 of the Badgers’ final 15 points as they ended the final 5:07 outscoring Villanova 15-5.
Koenig scored eight of his 17 points during Wisconsin’s final run. However, no basket was bigger than the one turned in by Hayes with the score tied at 62-62 and 11.4 seconds remaining.
NIGEL HAYES WITH THE GROWN MAN MOVES pic.twitter.com/J4Xz2asKir— Barstool Wisco (@BarstoolBadgers) March 18, 2017
Hayes danced along the baseline and put in a reverse layup surrounded by Wildcat defenders to put Wisconsin up for good, 64-62. Hayes, who said he actually thought he had missed the shot, scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half.
Josh Hart, who matched Hayes’ game-high of 19 for Villanova, took the inbounds pass and quickly moved upcourt, but was stripped by Vitto Brown just outside of the lane. Brown was then fouled and sent to the line with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Brown hit his first free throw—his only basket of the second half—giving him 10 for the game. Brown was unable to connect on the second and DiVincenzo grabbed the rebound for the Wildcats and was quickly met by Hayes and Brown. DiVincenzo was able to get a pass off to Jalen Brunson, but his final heave landed well short of the basket, allowing Wisconsin to prevail.
The Badgers have now defeated a No. 1 seed in three of the last four seasons after beating Arizona in 2014, Kentucky in 2015 and now Villanova.
Next, Wisconsin faces the fourth-seeded Florida Gators Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York for a chance to reach the Elite Eight. The Gators had their own four-year stretch of Sweet 16 and Elite 8 appearances from 2011-2014.