LAS VEGAS – Because it lost a lead for a second straight night, Arkansas will be leaving Las Vegas without a win.
But despite dropping a 77-70 decision to No. 24 Wisconsin, Razorback head coach Mike Anderson saw reason for optimism with the trip out here for the Las Vegas Invitational.
"I was proud of our guys because they played with their hearts tonight," Anderson said. "We are going to win a lot of ballgames if we do that. We got better – from one day to the next day and we just have to continue to do that each day. I don't like losing, but I like getting better.
...We have to become a team that learns how to finish," Anderson added."That will take place, but I thought we grew up some today."
B.J. Young had 18 points to lead Arkansas (3-2) while Mardracus Wade added 13 points and Coty Clarke grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds.
"I thought Coty Clarke had a big second half for us," Anderson said. "He kept us in it and all we are is just a couple of plays away from turning that game to our favor. But good teams are not going to go away."
Clarke had a much better night than Friday when he played very limited minutes due to foul trouble and helped his team out-rebound the much bigger Badgers 20-14 in the second half.
"I just tried to do everything I could to battle their bigger guys and just go take those rebounds," Clarke said. "I just had to man up and go get them away from them."
The Razorbacks led 40-29 at halftime, but the Badgers went on a 16-5 run to tie the game 45-45 with 12:18 left in the game.
The Badgers led just 61-60 on Clarke's tip-in with 5:13 left, but Wisconsin scored the game's next seven points and cruised home.
"It's amazing for us to play the way we did in the first half, which was more typical of Razorback basketball," Anderson said. "That is what we look for in our team - a lot of fight defensively, getting after it and being disruptive and got to the free throw line while keeping Wisconsin off the free throw line.
"But that recipe you have to do for two halves, not just one," Anderson added. "In the second half, I just thought we didn't come out with that same intensity and energy. But I also think you have to give Wisconsin some credit. They made some subtle adjustments and then they started making some shots."
There was some excitement late when Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was give a technical foul with 33 seconds left and his team up nine points.
Clarke and Young combined to hit four free throws to cut it to 73-68, but Arkansas could get no closer.
"They didn't say anything," Ryan said of why he got the technical. "Usually they will say something. I don't know. I have no idea."
Sam Dekker led five Wisconsin players in double figures with 19 points while Ryan Evans added 12, Traevon Jackson and Mike Bruesewitz each had 11 and Jared Berggren chipped in 10.
The Badgers (4-2) – who lost 80-70 to No. 12 Creighton Friday night – shot 44 percent for the game but shot 66.7 percent in the second half.
"I think they just came out in the second half and ran their offense and got to their shooters and they were just a little more focused than us to start the second half," Wade said. "We didn't pressure like we did the first half. We kind of let up and they came back and got a little spurt and got their energy up. Our energy was done and we didn't match their intensity in the second half."
Young said Wisconsin made the better adjustments.
"I felt like we played hard, but we should have made some adjustment and there were just some key things down the stretch that we didn't do," Young said. "We have to go back and watch the tape and change some things."
They also cut their turnovers down from eight in the first half to just three in the second half and hit 18-of-23 free throws in the second half
"It was just get back to basics," Ryan said. "We needed to make sure we were getting looks at the basket, get back defensively, squeeze some angles off. There was absolutely nothing different said at halftime that wasn't said to start the game.
"It's just that when guys are as athletic and tenacious as Arkansas is and they start getting their way, you have got to break that streak – that streak of confidence that they had going," Ryan added. "The thing that helped us was halftime. Half time helped."
Ryan said he was happy to see the locker room at halftime.
"It was just being able to regroup and have a few reminders and then we hit some shots," Ryan continued. "Just like they were contagious in the first half, we did the same thing in the second half. Look at what we shot – we almost shot 70 percent in the second half."
Ryan felt his team held Young – who had 29 points on Friday – in check for the most part.
"He can score, he can get to the rim," Ryan said. "He is a scooter. There is not much that he can't slice through. We just tried to make him work (on offense) and make him work on defense."
Arkansas did cut down on the number of easy baskets in the lane that it gave up after giving up a plethora of them in a 83-68 loss to Arizona State on Friday night.
"I thought we were more active and moved our feet instead of just letting guys penetrate and get to the rim," Anderson said. "We made a little bit more attention to the details. But I think the biggest difference was our bench came out with energy and it became contagious."
Arkansas junior forward Marshawn Powell had his second straight subpar performance with eight points and three rebounds while Rashad Madden added eight points as well.
Powell also fouled out and only got to play 19 minutes.
"I think it is just timing with him," Anderson said. "He has just got to get his timing and he is getting nickel and dime fouls. He has got to get a lot smarter because we have to have him out on the floor. He gives us a guy that can give us a low post presence and he is the most experienced guy on our team."
Arkansas will host No. 4 Syracuse next Friday night at Bud Walton Arena.
"The games get bigger and the teams get better," Anderson said. "We are talking about one of the top five teams in the country in Syracuse so we have time to get back and get prepared for one of the biggest games in that arena in a long time. Hopefully our guys will continue to stay on task in terms of what we are working on to get better."
Mardracus Wade battles inside for a rebound.
Rashad Madden makes a move in the lane as Mike Bruesewitz defends.
Coty Clarke had 11 rebounds and gets a tough one here in traffic.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson shows frustration during Saturday's loss.
No. 24 Wisconsin 77, Arkansas 70
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