Wisconsin fought its way back from a deficit twice in the second half, coming back from being down 51-41 to take a 53-52 lead and forcing overtime after being down 68-56 with 5:24 to go. The Badgers’ final push was tremendous, as Zak Showalter (10 points), Ethan Happ (four points) and Bronson Koenig (three points) were responsible for Wisconsin’s last 17 points over the last eight minutes in regulation.
In particular Showalter was the spark that Wisconsin needed in order to force overtime, as his 3-pointer to tie the game at 72 with four seconds remaining was his only perimeter attempt of the night. Despite the importance of that shot, the senior was able to generate looks for himself around the basket and was solid on the defensive side of the floor in order to get some points in transition.
Wisconsin shot 28-for-55 (50.9 percent) from the field and 7-for-17 (41.2 percent) from three, as the Badgers had all five starters score in double figures. Averaging 1.17 points per possession against the nation’s third most efficient defense, Nigel Hayes led the way with 22 points (7-for-11 shooting), while Happ (21, 9-for-14), Showalter (14, 4-for-6), Koenig 13 (4-for-13) and Vitto Brown (10, 3-for-6) all contributed. Unfortunately UW’s bench provided no scoring punch, as Khalil Iverson’s three points were the only points from the reserves.
Although Wisconsin was able to receive balance scoring among its starters, the Badgers couldn’t protect the ball against Florida’s aggressive defense. The Gators forced Wisconsin into 15 turnovers and, to make matters worse, Florida cashed Wisconsin’s mistakes into 20 points.
When Wisconsin was able to protect the ball, the Badgers found a way of moving it effectively in order to set up quality shots and finished with an assist on half of their made buckets. Creating good ball movement against Florida’s defense allowed the Badgers to create a balance, as Wisconsin finished with 34 points in the paint.
Happ and Hayes were able to do most of their damage inside, with the senior able to find ways of drawing fouls to attempt a team-high 14 free throws. Unfortunately Hayes didn’t hit his 59.2 percent season free throw average by only making seven of his attempts. Overall Wisconsin shot 20-for-30 (66.6 percent) from the free throw line.
Entered the game scoring a combined 11 points over Florida’s first two games, KeVaughn Allen torched Wisconsin’s defense with a season-high 35 points and was the only Gators player to score more than eight points.
Chris Chiozza was one of those players who finished the game with eight points but his final three points made him the hero. On Chiozza’s last shot, he was able to catch the inbounds pass in motion, allowing him to gain enough separation to attempt a clean three without any Badgers defender providing much interference. Overall Florida shot 28-for-62 (45.2 percent) from the field and 8-for-22 (36.4 percent) from three.
Wisconsin’s defense was able to make life tough on Florida’s offense at the beginning and prevented the Gators from establishing an offensive flow. But when Hayes went to the bench with two fouls with 4:25 remaining, Wisconsin’s 27-20 lead evaporated with the Gators going 3-for-7 from the field and UW’s defense making ill-advised fouls on a pair of Allen 3-point attempts.
Happ was guilty of the first foul with a second left on the shot clock and Brown on Florida’s last offensive possession, as UW’s senior fell for a shot fake with one second remaining on the game clock. Allen sunk all six free throws to put Florida up by two at halftime, and it appeared those free points was what Allen needed to get out of his shooting slump. Allen had nine points on 4-for-12 shooting from the field prior to the fouls, but the sophomore scored 17 of Florida’s 38 second-half points on an impressive 6-for-8 shooting from the field.
With Allen generating an offensive rhythm in the second half, Wisconsin couldn’t afford Florida to generate second-chance opportunities if it wanted to have a chance to win. But with Florida building its lead back up, the Badgers struggled to consistently limit second chances. While UW won the rebounding battle 36-34, Florida finished the game with 13 offensive rebounds and seven second-chance points.
Like they have done at many points throughout their careers, Wisconsin’s seniors failed to quit and were able to fight their way back into the game. After Showalter’s impressive 3-pointer to extend the game, the Badgers seized momentum to build a lead as large as five points in overtime, leading 78-73 with 1:40 to go and up 80-75 with 1:08 remaining. Unfortunately UW failed to string together a successful defensive stop.
The Badgers kept trading baskets with the Gators over the final 1:40, as Wisconsin went 6-for-8 from the free throw line over that stretch (Happ and Hayes each missed a free throw) and missed its only shot attempt when Iverson couldn’t convert what appeared to be an easy two points in transition. Canyon Barry was able to block Iverson from behind after Barry made two free throws to cut Wisconsin’s lead to 81-79.
Wisconsin certainly had its chances of winning but either didn’t make enough plays down the stretch or made mental errors at the end of the first half to allow Florida to start taking control of the game. To be fair, Wisconsin’s seniors were able to respond whenever Florida appeared to start pulling away.
Down 12 with 5:24 to go, Wisconsin made one final push when Showalter made a layup and him and his teammates started getting defensive stops. Over the final 6:12, the Badgers held the Gators without a field goal (0-for-5), 5-for-8 from the free throw line and three turnovers to erase the deficit. Florida finished with 12 turnovers (five coming off UW steals) that led to 14 Wisconsin points.
Game MVP: Zak Showalter
Hayes certainly showed his value to the team in the first half with the Badgers losing their lead when he checked out in the first half, but it was Showalter who provided the spark to get the game into overtime. Showalter found ways of creating scoring opportunities for himself late in the game, as 12 of his 14 points came in the final 20 minutes.
With Koenig dealing with cramps at the end of the game, it was fair to wonder who was going to take the shot in hopes of sending the game into overtime. Showalter was able to step up and made a difficult shot over Chiozza. Overall Showalter finished the game with seven rebounds (six defensive), two assists to two turnovers and was responsible for four of Wisconsin’s eight steals.