NCAA Tournament – (11) Iowa State 54, (3) Wisconsin 49: Last word
MILWAUKEE — Third-seeded Wisconsin’s season came to a screeching halt Sunday night at Fiserv Forum with a 54-49 loss to 11th-seeded Iowa State, sending the Cyclones on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Player of the Game: Gabe Kalscheur
Though he visited Madison several times during his recruitment in high school, the Minnesota transfer said after the game that he was never a fan of Wisconsin and he certainly played that way. Guarded by Johnny Davis for much of the game, Kalscheur got the better of the Big Ten Player of the Year. After never making more than four baskets or scoring more than 15 points against Wisconsin while with the Gophers, he finished with a game-high 22 points (10-for-19 on FGs).
“I was just locked in,” Kalscheur said. “I never liked Wisconsin, to be honest. I have family from there, but I’m a Minnesota-raised man. It gives me a little more edge to play, exactly. It was a Big Ten team, but also Wisconsin. It fueled my fire, for sure.”
The senior probably could have had more points if not for a few chase down blocks from Davis after Kalscheur had gotten to the rim.
“He did a really good job of using screens to free himself and then back-door cuts as well, he had a couple of those,” Davis said. “I would say he does a really good job of coming off screens and being ready to shoot the ball.”
Over a three-minute stretch in the final 10 minutes of the game he had a pair of baskets and an assist that helped Iowa State go from leading by four points to 10 points, which with Wisconsin’s offensive woes, was more than enough to get the win.
The good: The defense
Kalscheur definitely got his but the rest of his teammates struggled against Wisconsin’s defense. His 10 baskets accounted for half of Iowa State’s makes in the game as they shot 10-for-39 otherwise. Coach Greg Gard said that numbers-wise, it might have been their best performance of the year. The Badgers had a season-high seven blocks, had six steals, forced 14 turnovers and gave up just .783 points per possession. Wisconsin didn’t allow the Cyclones to make a shot in the final 4:16 of the game, giving its own offense plenty of chances to win the game.
The not so good: The offense
The Badgers season is done because they had their worst overall shooting performance since Feb. 20, 2020 and their worst three-point shooting effort since Nov. 26, 2019. It’s probably not as simple as that (see below regarding turnovers) but it certainly is the biggest reason. Wisconsin hit just 29.8 percent of their shots from the field and an ugly 9.1 percent from beyond the arc. Only a late Jordan Davis 3-pointer saved them from having the worst outside shooting night in at least the last 12 seasons.
“They play a really good pressure defense,” said Johnny Davis, who led the Badgers with 17 points but was just 4-for-16 from the field. “They did a really good job of taking away passing lanes. I just think that we just straight up missed shots and didn’t share the ball the way we were supposed to.
“That’s the game of basketball. Sometimes you make shots, sometimes you miss shots and it was one of those days for us.”
With the way Iowa State was packing the paint, including trapping the post players, it left open shooters on the outside.
“We couldn’t hit water from the boat,” Gard quipped.
You certainly have to give Iowa State some credit, but the issue with this team all year was the inability to consistently hit shots. Usually they were able to overcome that with Johnny Davis’ heroics, a big night from one of their other two main weapons — Davison and Tyler Wahl — or just simply limiting their mistakes. None of that happened against the Cyclones.
Stat of the Game: 17
That’s how many turnovers Wisconsin had in the game, which was four more than the team’s season-high. Coming in the Badgers led the country in fewest turnovers per game at 8.4. They had that by halftime and things didn’t get better after the break, especially with their top two points guards not available. Johnny Davis accounted for four of those, while all the starters had at least two.
“You’ve got to knock down some shots,” coach Greg Gard said. “You can’t you can’t go 2-for-22 and turn it over 17 times. That’s a pretty lethal combination.”
In Case You Missed It
— Wisconsin lost Hepburn with 4:37 left in the first half to an ugly looking ankle injury. It left the talented freshman writhing in pain and unable to put any weight on his left foot when he was helped off the floor. Hepburn did return to the bench in the second half on crutches and wearing what appeared to be a walking boot.
“He’s in a lot of pain,” Gard said. “We’ll make sure he’s in good hands and get him healthy, get it figured out exactly and get him healthy.”
Iowa State promptly went on an 8-0 run when Hepburn went down and Wisconsin never truly recovered.
“Chucky’s a great player, a great point guard,” Tyler Wahl said. “He’s another piece that really holds us together. Seeing him go down hurts us, but we tried to rally together and you could definitely feel his presence not out there.”
Gard was forced to use Davison, freshman Isaac Lindsey and even Johnny Davis at the point guard spot. Turnovers were already an issue when Hepburn was in the lineup but the offense struggled even more without him.
“He’s a big leader, a big foundation of what we try to do, so when we lost him, we had to kind of make audibles on the runs,” Davison said. “It was kind of like next man up mentality. We gave full effort, just turned the ball over a few too many times and missed a few too many shots.”
— Johnny Davis was likely playing his final game in a Wisconsin uniform. Though he didn’t play at the level he wanted to towards the end of the season, he’s considered a potential lottery pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. But when asked about his future Sunday night, the La Crosse product didn’t reveal his intentions.
“I didn’t want the season to end this way,” Davis said. “For right now, I just want to cherish these past two years I’ve had at Wisconsin and finish school this semester and just — you know, I just want to stay in the moment for right now.”
— Davison did play in final game for the Badgers. He leaves as the school’s career leader in 3-pointers and games played, while also being in the top 10 in points, assists, steals and free throws made. In his five years, the Badgers won a pair of Big Ten titles and made the NCAA Tournament three times.
“He’s been a coach’s dream,” said Gard, who had to compose himself being continuing. “He’s given everything and more than we’ve ever asked for. You always know that he’s going to give you everything every day. His teammates follow that lead. He’s been a leader in our locker room since pretty much the day he walked in as a freshman or shortly thereafter and he’s helped set and maintain a terrific culture of how we have to do things every day, how you go about your everyday life, and he’s taken a lot of flack for things over the course of his career, but when you really know him, you know who he is as a person.”
Davison has consistently said he does not want to be remembered solely as a basketball player and reiterated that Sunday night when asked what he hopes his legacy will be.
“Just somebody who gave their heart and soul to try to be a great teammate and a great leader and a great friend and brother, that tried to do everything he could to help his team win,” an emotional Davison said. “I love the game of basketball but I know I’m not defined by my performance or wins or losses. I know where my identity lies. That’s what scripture says about me, but that’s also what my teammates think about me and my coaches and my family and my friends. So I’m content, but with that being said, I just hope people remember me as a great teammate, great leader and great friend.”
— The TV broadcast said freshman guard Lorne Bowman had left the program, but that is not true according to Wisconsin. Officials have said since mid-February that he’s been dealing with a non-COVID illness.
“Yeah, we’re hopeful,” Gard said when asked if they were expecting Bowman to return. “He’s working with our medical staff, doing all his school stuff right now virtually. He’s back home in Detroit. We’ve been talking to him. The staff was FaceTiming with him yesterday. He’s in a good place.”
This is the second time Bowman has left school to attend to a medical issue. He left in mid-October of 2020 and didn’t return until last June. The 6-foot-2 Bowman played in 22 games and served as Hepburn’s backup while averaging 3.0 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. He figured to play a large role next season with Davison gone and Johnny Davis likely gone.
— After its 2-for-22 performance on Sunday, the Badgers finished the season shooting 30.6 percent from beyond the arc. That is the second-worst percentage in school history since the 3-pointer was introduced to the college game in 1986. Only the 1997-98 team (29.7 percent) shot it worse from deep.