Survive and advance
He provided both Friday night, hitting a game-winning shot to send the Badgers into the NCAA tournament’s second round with a 61-59 overtime win against Florida State. The flashy game Hughes learned growing up in New York City didn’t always play well before the folks in Madison, especially coach Bo Ryan.
“Coming out of high school I was pretty flashy, always wanting to try to make the crowd say ‘Ooh’ and ‘Ahh,’” said Hughes, who often found himself benched next to Ryan after being yanked from the game as a freshman.
“I had to make the good play. If I didn’t make the good play, guess where I was at? Right next to him again.”
Ryan’s message got through, and No. 12 seed Wisconsin
(20-12) will play fourth-seeded Xavier (26-7) today in the West Regional.
While the Musketeers advanced by coasting to a 77-59 win over Portland State, the No. 12 seed Badgers took a much more difficult route, rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit and then completing the upset on Hughes’ shot.
Hughes drove the lane, pivoted one direction and, then with his back toward the basket spun the other way and lofted a shot over the Seminoles that banked in with 2 seconds remaining.
“I can see as a coach if a person’s out there trying to be flashy and it’s not getting done, then you say ‘Don’t be flashy,’” he said. “The key is if you can make it happen, then results are still what it’s all about.”
Experience helps, too, and Wisconsin is loaded.
The Badgers have a knack for advancing past the first round. Playing in its 11th straight tournament, Wisconsin has been knocked out after the first game only three times.
“Year in, year out, as faces change, their identity stays the same,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “It’s very admirable.”
Miller, a former Wisconsin assistant, is building a similar reputation. Xavier is playing in its fourth consecutive tournament and reached the Elite Eight a year ago. The Musketeers have played in eight of the last nine tournaments and during that run and only made two first-round exits.
Although the Musketeers have a much-higher seed, Miller expects a much closer game than Xavier had in the opening round.
“There’s not a lot of separation between teams,” Miller said.
The Musketeers got the high seed despite losing in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals, largely because of a tough nonconference schedule. The Musketeers had wins over Missouri and Memphis—two teams still alive in the tournament—but lost to Duke and Butler.
“It’s amazing when you go through tough Novembers and Decembers how your team is more prepared for the rigors of conference play,” Miller said. “We’re not always going to win every one of them, but I think the philosophy is sound in trying to be a team that can advance in this tournament.”
Xavier’s working to dispel any notion that the A-10 power can’t compete.
“Coach has never ducked anybody,” senior guard B.J. Raymond “We have played some of the toughest games and some of the toughest opponents that we were able to.”