MILWAUKEE — With a roaring red and white crowd behind them, the third-seeded Wisconsin Badgers punched their ticket to the Round of 32 with a 67-60 win over 14th-seeded Colgate on Friday night.
Player of the Game: Johnny Davis
If Wisconsin is going to get the Johnny Davis from the second half of Friday night’s game, the Badgers will be extremely difficult to take out of this tournament. The All-American took over down the stretch, scoring the final 14 points to help his team into the second round. It was familiar to Davis’ final minutes in a win at Indiana when he had the last 13 points.
“I feel like I’ve done it before,” Davis said of finishing teams. “My teammates have a lot of confidence in me, so do the coaches, to be able to close the game out.”
After a 3-for-11 effort in the first half, where it appeared he was pressing a bit, the sophomore went 5-for-9 after the break, including 2-for-5 from deep. He finished with a game-high 25 points, eight rebounds and some goodbyes for the group of Colgate fans that made the trip.
“I’m speechless. I ain’t got no words to say,” guard Chucky Hepburn said of Davis’ game. “I just give him the ball, get out of the way. I said it before, I’m not going to say it again. I love playing with him. That’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with and I love this last journey with him.”
Davis was the biggest hero of the night, but Wahl wasn’t too far behind. The junior was extremely aggressive and took advantage of Colgate’s decision to rarely bring a double team on him when he was in the post. He wasn’t overly efficient — 15 points on a career-high 18 shots (seven makes) — but he also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, dished out four assists and had a couple of steals.
“Tyler Wahl is an extraordinary college basketball player in my mind,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “I think that a lot of guys on the team get a lot of credit for due reason, but he — we call them winning plays and Tyler Wahl makes a lot of winning plays.”
The not so good: Defensive intensity
Wisconsin allowed Colgate to get way too comfortable early in the second half and paid for it. The Raiders opened the half hitting six of their first seven 3-pointers.
“Stop being lazy on defense and nonfundamental,” Davis said of the issues. “That’s all it was.”
They ratcheted things up after the final 3 with 12:37 left. Davis, Wahl, Davison and Hepburn ran guys off the 3-point line and the Raiders would end up shooting just three more in the half – all misses.
For the game they went 10-for-22. Those 10 makes tied for the most Wisconsin had given up this year.
Stat of the Game: 7:07
Colgate led 52-48 with 10:40 left in the game after a Brad Woodward 3-point play. The next points for the Raiders came 7:07 later and trailing by six. That scoreless stretch included three turnovers and seven missed shots. It was as good of defense as Wisconsin has played all year and it’s a major reason they are still dancing.
Just a reminder. All the haters will have their day, maybe even Sunday. But the tournament is hard. And you need to enjoy the victories because what else is the point. Love you all again. Can’t wait to bet on more basketball tomorrow with everyone
— It’s impossible for you to have missed it, but just in case … Friday was essentially a home game for Wisconsin. Outside of a small section of Colgate fans, the rest of Fiserv Forum was packed with Badgers fans. It left an impression on Langel.
“We’ve been to a lot of great venues in this country,” Langel said. “Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Palestra, Rupp Arena, Fog Allen Field House. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an environment better than the one for college basketball tonight.”
Wisconsin definitely fed off the crowd and it helped the Badgers push through.
“It was really great,” Davis said. “I appreciate everybody that came out. There was no way we were going to take an upset in our home state, pretty much a home game. But we need to do it again on Sunday (against Iowa State).
— Steven Crowl didn’t have a huge game – five points, five rebounds – but his banked 3-pointer with 8:08 left gave the Badgers a lead they would not relinquish. It was part of the 10-0 run that helped Wisconsin take control of the game.
“I could tell from where I was standing the trajectory of the ball, it wasn’t going in,” Gard said. “I was like ‘nope, oh, good shot.’ I mean, bank shots, they all count the same.”
— Wisconsin’s bench has been maligned much of the year but Gard got some nice contributions from the group Friday. Chris Vogt had six points and two rebounds, while Ben Carlson gave them four points and three offensive rebounds in just 10 minutes of action. The Badgers were actually 11 points better than Colgate when Carlson was on the floor.
“I thought he did a good job,” Gard said of Carlson. “He was active on the glass, got us going a little bit offensively in the first half when we were too jump shot happy by getting on the glass and finishing some plays there and keeping possessions alive. I thought he did some really good things.”
— The Badgers forced 12 turnovers and turned that into 15 points. That was in stark contrast to Wisconsin’s five turnovers that Colgate managed to turn into just three points.
— Hepburn continues to play at a level much higher than a guy his age usually does. The freshman was under control the entire night. He had eight points, six rebounds and five assists, while not turning it over. And after a tough start trying to slow guard Nelly Cummings – he had 14 first-half points – Hepburn allowed the talented senior to score just six after the break.
“Cummings is a great player,” Hepburn said. “I love the way he plays. I let him get comfortable the first half and in the second half I told my team I was going to shut him down, so I did.”
— Wisconsin has now won 12 of their last 14 opening NCAA Tournament games and its 15 tournament wins since 2004 is the second-most among Big Ten teams.
Wisconsin will face 11th-seeded Iowa State on Sunday (5:10 p.m. tip). The Cyclones beat 6th-seeded LSU 59-54 on Saturday.