Powered by their senior backcourt, ninth-seeded Wisconsin turned a 16-point halftime lead into an 85-62 rout of eighth-seeded North Carolina on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Player of the Game: Brad Davison
It took until his senior season but Wisconsin’s emotional leader finally has an NCAA Tournament win on his resume, and he had a lot to do with it. Davison was on fire from the field, scoring a season-high 29 points, which was also tied for the second-most by a UW player in the NCAA Tournament. He did it from inside the arc (5-for-8 on 2P) and outside (5-for-7 3P). Some of the 3-pointers came from NBA distance, as he helped the Badgers hold off any kind of North Carolina run in the second half. Davison also grabbed six rebounds and was perfect from the free throw line as Wisconsin improved to 5-1 in 8-9 matchups.
The good: A complete 40 minutes
Wisconsin’s lack of consistency was an issue all year and as recently as the Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers would play a good half or even a good 30 minutes but just never finish it off with a flurry. They did against the Tar Heels.
UW’s defense had some lapses to start the second half, but overall was fantastic in holding North Carolina to just 62 points, its third-fewest on the season. Everyone talked about the advantage the Tar Heels would have on the offensive glass, but the Badgers held them to 12 rebounds on that end and just 12 second-chance points all night. Overall, Wisconsin actually out rebounded North Carolina by three on the night.
On offense, Wisconsin shot it really well from deep, going 13-for-27, and are now shooting north of 44% from beyond the arc over the last four games. That helped the Badgers keep North Carolina out of transition, as did only turning the ball over seven times.
The Tar Heels got to within 12 a couple times in the second half but Wisconsin always had an answer, either with a bucket or a stop. It was, without a doubt, the most complete performance of the year.
The not so good: N/A
After what the second half of the season looked like for fans, just enjoy what you saw Friday night. You’ve got nothing to complain about.
Stat of the Game: 8
That’s how many blocks Wisconsin had in the game, including seven from Nate Reuvers (4) and Micah Potter (3). The Tar Heels front line was talked about all week and it was pretty evident the Badgers had heard enough. While Reuvers and Potter combined for 16 points, it was their work on defense and boxing out North Carolina’s huge lineup that stood out.
Wisconsin’s Brad Davison was 10-of-15 & scored 29 points in the Badgers’ win against the Tar Heels. Over the last 30 NCAA tourneys, only one other player hit at least two-thirds of his shots against UNC (min 15 attempts): Wisconsin's Sam Dekker was 10-for-15 against UNC in 2015.
— Davison and D’Mitrik Trice combined for 50 of Wisconsin’s points. The backcourt duo made 18 of the 30 shots they took. In total, the Badgers seniors — Reuvers, Potter, Aleem Ford, Davison and Trice — scored 75 of their 85 points.
— The stage was not too bright for Jonathan Davis. Playing in his first NCAA Tournament game the freshman scored six points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out six assists.
— With as big as North Carolina was the Badgers played Potter and Reuvers together for a little more that a quarter of the 40 minutes. Coach Greg Gard also brought freshman Steven Crowl off the bench for a bit. He played two minutes, which was more than in any game since December. He had one rebound.
— Wisconsin never trailed in the game and led for 37:15.
— The Badgers improved to 5-42 all-time at Mackey Arena, the normal home of Big Ten rival Purdue.
Wisconsin will now face top-seeded Baylor on Sunday at 1:40 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Bears rolled to a 79-55 win over 16th-seeded Hartford on Friday.
The two schools last played in the postseason in 2014 when the Badgers ripped apart the Baylor zone to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 69-52 win.