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RECAP: Wisconsin suffers worst loss of year in 73-63 overtime defeat to Nebraska

With the game in their hands, the Badgers let it slip once again.

The Wisconsin Badgers continued their struggles of closing out games, losing to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a 73-63 overtime defeat where they held a 17-point lead in the second half.

The Badgers started off strong, benefitting from good ball movement and hot starts from Connor Essegian and Max Klesmit, who combined for 20 points in the first half on 7/9 shooting, including 4/6 from three.

As a result, Wisconsin had a healthy 35-24 lead heading into halftime, which increased to a 17-point lead when Chucky Hepburn hit a three at the 17:31 mark of the second half to provide the Badgers with a 43-26 advantage.

However, it all came crashing from there as the Badgers gave up 35 points the rest of the way, while scoring just 18, failing to put away the Cornhuskers, despite the fierce deficit.

So, what went wrong?

Connor Essegian went cold in the second half, shooting just 2/9, despite seeing good looks from three.

Max Klesmit, who had been hot in the first half with some good looks, made just 1/4 of his attempts, while Wisconsin’s big men were afterthoughts, as Steven Crowl was out-physicaled by Blaise Keita, and Tyler Wahl didn’t have a single field goal during the entire second half.

On the other side, Nebraska caught fire from three, shooting 7/13 after hitting only 1/8 attempts in the first half, spearheaded by guard Keisei Tominaga, who hit four of those attempts and scored 13 second-half points.

Tominaga took advantage of switches, hitting a three on Connor Essegian, while burying another look off of a screen.

Sam Griesel went to work as well, complimenting Tominaga with 12 second-half points, while Blaise Keita fought for three offensive rebounds, out-muscling Crowl on the glass.

The free-throw disparity played a huge role, as the Badgers converted 4/6 of their shots from the line, while the Cornhuskers earned 23 attempts, making 15 of them.

Once again, it was an ugly offensive performance for the Badgers, who significantly struggle to compile success on that end for 40 minutes, as they finished shooting 36% from the field and 29% from three.

But, as always with the Badgers, the game came down to the last minute, where the ball was in Chucky Hepburn’s hands with the match on the line.

On the final possession, Hepburn had 15 seconds to operate and elected to dribble out the clock before firing a deep stepback three-pointer that rimmed out, allowing Nebraska to carry their momentum to overtime, where Wisconsin flopped offensively, scoring just two points on 1/8 shooting through the entire period.

Hepburn’s late-game shooting has been questionable all season, and head coach Greg Gard has pleaded for his guard to drive at the end of games, creating better opportunities as Wisconsin looks to space the floor.

That hasn’t come to fruition, as Hepburn has taken tough, contested jumpers in each of Wisconsin’s last three games in the final minutes.

That needs to change if Wisconsin wants to continue their winning ways in close games, but more importantly, the Badgers need to string together 40 good minutes of basketball.

They did so against Penn State offensively for the first time in a while, but reverted back to their struggles on Saturday.

With a March Madness bid on the line, this loss was arguably the worst loss of the year for Wisconsin, who needs to rally over the final stretch of games, which includes a bout against No. 1 Purdue, to give themselves a chance of getting into the tournament.