Roads to a downfall
Florida’s Chris Chiozza ended Wisconsin’s season in stunning fashion Friday night—with a runner from beyond the three-point line—after a full-speed dash off the inbound.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said UW senior Vitto Brown, who watched the play unfold from the bench because he had fouled out with 7 minutes 10 seconds left in regulation. “I watched it the whole time. I couldn’t even say anything. It was pretty much like our crowd—completely silent.
“It just didn’t seem like he just made a floater from the three-point line. Man.”
Yet in a game that took overtime to decide, one play didn’t determine the outcome, an 84-83 decision.
“Turnovers and free throws,” said senior guard Zak Showalter, who could barely move in the UW locker room after the loss. “I think that got us. I don’t even want to talk about them.”
They will be debated for weeks.
UW entered the Sweet 16 shooting 64.3 percent from the free-throw line.
The Badgers hit 19 of 25 attempts (76.0 percent) in a first-round victory over Virginia Tech and upset top-seeded Villanova in the second round despite making just 7 of 16 attempts (43.8 percent).
UW made just 20 of 30 (66.7 percent) against the Gators, including 9 of 14 in the overtime (64.3 percent).
Senior Nigel Hayes made his first two attempts in the overtime but then made only two of his final six attempts.
“We’ll definitely be able to look back—a couple weeks from now, a couple months from now, a couple years from now—and remember the good things that we did,” Hayes said. “But all you can focus on right now is: ‘What if?’
“If you could take just one play and change it, that’s really all you can think about right now.”
Brown couldn’t point a finger at Hayes or the missed free throws.
“I thought in the overtime period we did a pretty good job on defense,” he said. “It’s tough when you exert that much energy trying to make that comeback and then you have to be able to calm down at the free-throw line and knock them down. It’s hard to be mad at anybody for that.
“And at the end of the day, there were still some other mistakes we made in the overtime that could have helped us finish it off.”
UW entered the night with 53 turnovers in five postseason games, an average of 10.6 per game. That total included 10 in the victory over Villanova.
UW turned the ball over 16 times in the loss to Florida and the Gators turned those mistakes into 20 points. UW, by contrast, had 14 points off 12 Florida turnovers.
Three of UW’s turnovers came during a 9-0 Florida run in regulation when the Gators turned a 53-52 deficit into a 61-53 lead.
UW eventually overcame that deficit but playing from behind takes its toll.
“We made mistakes,” Hayes said.
Too many to overcome.
With UW holding an 81-79 lead after two free throws by Florida’s Canyon Barry, Hayes fired a long inbound pass to Khalil Iverson.
Iverson, who sneaked out behind the defense, caught the ball in the frontcourt and was heading in for a dunk.
Barry hustled back, however, surprised Iverson and blocked the shot.
That led to a tying lay-in by Chiozza with 24 seconds left.
Iverson acknowledged he didn’t know Barry was that close.
UW coach Greg Gard, asked whether Iverson should have pulled the ball out and held the ball, insisted the smart play was to score.
“You take the two points when you get it like that,” Gard said. “It’s too much time to try to dribble that out. Barry made a heck of a play.
“He (Iverson) needs to recognize he’s coming behind him, finish out in front of him, not try to dunk it.
“But you have to take the two points. There’s too much time to let that, to not take a clean look at the rim.”
UW committed a season-high 26 fouls and the Gators made 20 of 28 free-throw attempts.
In addition to Brown fouling out, Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig finished with four fouls.
“We got called for fouls a lot,” Koenig said. “Whether or not those are fouls, that’s not for any of us to decide. But we knew coming in that they were calling those more in the tournament. So we needed to play less with our hands. It was just unfortunate.”
Gard noted after the first two rounds of the tournament he thought the officials were calling games tighter than they had during the regular season.
He warned his players to move their feet and show their hands to avoid picking up ticky-tack fouls.
“I guess we’re just some hacks, man,” Brown joked. “I guess we’re just a bunch of hacks.
“We were used to it from the jump in this tournament. So going into this game it wasn’t like we were expecting anything different. I’m definitely not going to blame the (loss) on that.”
“We had plenty of opportunities in that game to put it away.”
Not again: Florida outscored UW, 9-3, in the final minute of the overtime. That conjured memories of UW’s Sweet 16 loss to Notre Dame last season, when the Irish outscored UW, 8-0 in the final 19 seconds.
“There is not a team in the country that wants to lose this way,” Happ said. “We just happened to do it back-to-back years. I don’t want to look forward (yet) but obviously, we’ve got to start closing out games better.”
The big picture: UW’s four seniors—Hayes, Koenig, Brown and Showalter—were asked to reflect on their four seasons with the program.
All four player talked proudly of the accomplishments on the court and person growth off the court.
“I was able to meet a lot great people,” Hayes said. “I was able to grow as an individual—as a basketball player and as a regular old guy, a college kid able to graduate from a great university.”
Koenig added: “It has been a huge part of my life and it has shaped me into the man I am today. And I’m very thankful for every aspect—not just basketball but everything.” by Taboola
Last updated: 11:39 pm Saturday, March 25, 2017