The Badgers are moving on to the Final Four!
Of the NIT.
But hey, once again clutch shooting in the final minutes led to another Badger win in a nailbiter against the Ducks.
The Wisconsin Badgers beat the Oregon Ducks 61-58 on Tuesday night in the NIT quarterfinals, extending their season at least another week.
After barely holding on to a 27-26 halftime lead, the Badgers were in for a tightly contested second half.
The team shot just 34.5% from the field in the sloppy first half, and they struggled to finish in the paint. The Badgers also committed 8 turnovers and made just 1 field goal in the final 8:32 of the half as well.
To make matters worse, the Ducks had 6 blocks in just the first half alone with 5 of them coming against Tyler Wahl.
The beginning of the second half wasn’t much better.
Through the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Badgers shot an atrocious 17% from the field combining for just 10 points. This led to a 45-37 deficit with 9:40 remaining in the half.
However, they managed to eventually regain the lead with 1:45 remaining following a Max Klesmit three point jumper.
Oregon forward Quincy Guerrier followed that up with a quick layup out of the timeout to take back the lead 57-56.
On the next possession, the Ducks came out of another timeout playing zone defense which confused the Badgers at first, however, a big cross-court assist from Tyler Wahl to Chucky Hepburn led to the biggest shot of the game as Hepburn sunk a massive three to give the Badgers a 59-57 lead with 0:58 remaining.
From there, the Badgers would ice the game at the free throw line and hold on for a 61-58 road win.
Max Klesmit finished with 18 points as the leading leading scorer and Hepburn provided 12 points on 4-15 shooting as well.
Once again, the Badgers shot the ball extremely well from the free throw line, knocking down 12 of 13. What was once a weakness has turned into a strength in the postseason with the team shooting almost 85% from the line.
This was the Badgers 20th game of the season decided by 5 or fewer points, and they extended their record in those games to 13-7 on the season, the most in D-1 hoops.
Although the Badgers shot just 33.3% from the field, the team managed to hang on through tough defense and big shots in the closing moments.
The Badgers also outrebounded the Ducks 44-35 which included 14 offensive rebounds. As typical, Crowl led all players with 10 rebounds. It wasn’t another dominant offensive performance from Steven Crowl, but Klesmit was there to pick up the offense in the second half and keep the Badgers season alive.
The team is now headed to Las Vegas for their first NIT semifinal appearance. They will play North Texas on March 28 in what should be a challenging game. North Texas is coming off wins against Alcorn State, Sam Houston, and Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State was the first team on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.
Through what was a difficult season, it is exciting seeing the Badgers once again closing out games the way they should’ve been able to towards the end of the regular season.
Following back-to-back wins against solid competition, the Badgers are more than capable of winning the NIT. And they should enter the semifinals with that mentality.
Let’s go to Vegas baby!