MADISON — What a wild finish and comeback win for the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers.
Down by as much as 12 at one point in the second half, Wisconsin fought back, gained the lead and ultimately held on for a 79–75 victory over NC State on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.
Redshirt senior forward Ethan Happ tallied his seventh double-double in as many games, recording a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds in the win.
Complementing Happ on the evening, D’Mitrik Trice scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half—shooting 4-of-5 from three-point range overall for the game. The redshirt sophomore guard also contributed six assists in the win for Wisconsin (6–1).
As a whole, UW shot 49.1 percent for the game but hit 62.1 percent (18 of 29) in the final 20 minutes. However, NC State (6–1) out-rebounded Wisconsin 36-30 and had 15 second-chance points along with 32 in the paint.
The Wolfpack connected on 47 percent of their shots for the game and led for nearly 32 minutes of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge contest, including holding a 36–29 lead at halftime.
Guard Markell Johnson scored a game-high 21 points on nine of 17 shooting with five assists in the loss.
Happ scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half, but only connected on three of 11 shots while only making one of four from the free-throw line in that frame. Despite the double-double, the AP preseason All-American hit only eight of 18 attempts from the field and three of eight from the free throw line overall.
In the first half, Wisconsin as a team only shot 35.7 percent from the field and committed seven turnovers. Greg Gard’s squad hit on five of 10 from three-point range in the first 20 minutes, but only hit five of 18 two-point attempts.
NC State extended the lead to a dozen after a Torin Dorn jumper to make it a 41–29 advantage at the 19:01 mark of the second half. Dorn scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting for the evening for the Wolfpack.
UW chipped away at the deficit back down to single digits, though at times during the latter half, when Wisconsin cut the lead to three or less, NC State answered with buckets of their own.
A C.J. Bryce (18 points, seven rebounds) layup at the 12:59 mark put the Wolfpack back up 10 at 57–47, but again Wisconsin fought back. Trevor Anderson scored five consecutive points as part of a 10–2 UW run to bring the contest within two.
Again NC State pushed out the lead on a 6–0 run to make it 65–57 with 7:34 remaining, but Wisconsin charged back with a 7–0 spree with contributions from a Trice three-pointer, Happ layup and Kobe King jumper. That made it 65–64 with just under five-and-a-half minutes left in the contest.
King played nearly 30 minutes off the bench, contributing five points, six rebounds and two assists.
Wisconsin fought back to within one point two other times before taking a 72–71 lead on a Happ jumper with 2:19 remaining. Bryce hit a jumper of his own to let NC State retake the advantage with 106 seconds left, but Trice hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 73—73 at the 1:20 mark.
UW did not shoot well from the charity stripe on Tuesday, only hitting 12 of 20 attempts (60 percent), but after a Badgers stop and foul on forward Wyatt Walker, Happ later hit one of two to give Wisconsin a 74–73 lead with 76 seconds remaining.
Trice extended the lead to three on a clutch jumper with seconds ticking off the shot clock, making it 76–73 with 20 seconds remaining.
After a Brad Davison charge, one of four drawn by the sophomore guard, Trice again only connected on only one of two free throws the next time down the court after a Braxton Beverly foul.
A Johnson layup brought the game back within two points with 11 seconds left, but Davison—who finished the game with 12 points plus two rebounds and two assists—drained both shots from the free throw line to cap the scoring for the evening with eight seconds remaining.
Redshirt sophomore forward Aleem Ford also scored 12 points for Wisconsin after connecting on four of seven shots from three-point range. Nine of those dozen came in the second half.
Wisconsin will travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes Friday night.