Badgers hold off Hokies
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sophomore Khalil Iverson, playing less than a week after learning two of his cousins were shot to death, provided the emotional lift.
Senior Bronson Koenig provided the marksmanship from long distance.
Senior Nigel Hayes hit a string of pressure free throws in the second half with the outcome in doubt.
That trio helped eighth-seeded Wisconsin grind out an 84-74 victory over ninth-seeded Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA East Regional on Thursday night at KeyBank Center.
UW (26-9) advanced to face No. 1 Villanova (32-3) in the second round Saturday, with the start time to be announced. The defending national champion Wildcats overcame a sluggish start to win going away, 76-56, over No. 16 Mount St. Mary's earlier Thursday.
Virginia Tech finished the season 22-11.
Koenig hit 3 of 8 three-pointers and contributed 11 points in the first half to help UW build a four-point lead. He was on fire in the second half when he hit 5 of 9 three-pointers and finished with 28 points.
Iverson contributed eight points, five rebounds and an assist in the opening half. He finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists in his best all-around performance of the season. Iverson hit 7 of 10 free-throw attempts
Hayes recorded a double-double with 16 point and 10 rebounds. He added three assists and hit his last eight free-throw attempts to finish 8 of 9.
Ethan Happ overcame first-half foul trouble to finish with 10 points and eight rebounds.
UW finished 19 of 25 from the line (76.0%). The Badgers shot 43.3% in building a four-point halftime lead and shot 53.8% from three-point range (7 of 13) and 50% overall (14 of 28) after halftime.
Forward Zach LeDay scored 17 of his 23 points after halftime to lead the Hokies, who had four players score in double figures and hit 21 of 26 free throws.
The teams reversed roles in the first 20 minutes, with UW relying on three-points shots against Virginia Tech's zone and the Hokies trying to get into the lane with dribble penetration.
UW hit 6 of 18 three-pointers but only 12 of 32 shots overall (37.5%), yet grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and was able to build a 34-30 lead at the break.
UW did that without Happ for the final 10:13 of the half after the redshirt sophomore picked up his second foul while gambling to steal an entry pass.
Iverson gave UW a spark off the bench in the first half with eight points, five rebounds and an assist in 11 minutes of action.
He provided instant energy when he came in with 14:58 left in the half and UW trailing, 8-6. Iverson scored five of his points to help UW build a 20-14 lead with 9:04 left in the half.
UW's biggest lead was 28-21 when Zak Showalter (six points) buried a three-pointer with 4:04 left. He closed the scoring for UW by hitting 1 of 2 free throws after grabbing a rebound of a miss by Koenig and drawing a foul.
That allowed UW to take a 34-30 lead into the break.
Happ showed he was ready to play by scoring on a drive just 18 seconds into the second half.
Showalter picked up his third foul with 15:09 left and went to the bench with UW holding a 44-37 lead.
The game remained close and Virginia Tech closed within 72-71 with 3:55 left on two free throws by guard Justin Robinson.
Hayes hit two free throws to push the lead to 74-71 and UW then forced a shot-clock violation with 2:57 left. Hayes then converted a three-point play for a 77-73 lead with 2:07 left by hitting his eighth consecutive free throw.
After a Virginia Tech miss, Happ scored on a put-back for a 79-73 lead with 1:23 left.
Koenig's two free throws with 36.7 seconds left – after a tip-out by the active Hayes – gave UW an 81-74 with 36.7 seconds left.
Onto the second round to face the defending champions.
Last updated: 11:18 pm Thursday, March 16, 2017