Scoring drought dries up UW's NCAA hopes
The University of Wisconsin had scored on eight of 10 possessions and was riding a huge wave of momentum after Trevon Hughes drove the lane, spun and got the roll on a lay-up to give the Badgers a seven-point lead with 17 minutes left. The Badgers Express was rolling.
Then it blew a tire.
Wisconsin has been prone to offensive dry spells this season and its 7½-minute drought Sunday afternoon laid the foundation for a 60-49 loss to fourth-seeded Xavier at Taco Bell Arena that knocked the 12th-seeded Badgers out of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Musketeers improved to 27-7 and will face top-seeded Pittsburgh in an East Regional semifinal Thursday in Boston.
Two days after rallying from 12 points down against Florida State to score one of its greatest comeback victories, Wisconsin saw its season end.
“We can always wish that we were still playing, but that’s not the case right now,” said senior Marcus Landry, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. “We can always look back and say we could have done this better or we could have done that better, but we’re pretty happy just to get in (the tournament).
“We had it in our hearts to just go out there and fight.”
The Badgers (20-13) could leave the court with their heads held high. They held Atlantic 10 champion Xavier to 39.1 percent shooting and limited the Musketeers to seven offensive rebounds, five below their average, and just five second-chance points.
What the Badgers couldn’t do against the 16th-ranked Musketeers was put the ball in the basket.
UW’s 25 percent shooting in the second half equaled its worst effort for a half this season. Take away the first three minutes of the second half and they missed 15 of their final 20 shots.
It wasn’t pretty.
Trevon Hughes was 2 for 9 in the second half and 3 for 16 overall, although he finished with 17 points, thanks to his ability to penetrate and get to the line. Jason Bohannon was 1 for 8 in the second half and 2 for 12 overall.
Those two, who make up UW’s starting backcourt, combined to go 1 for 14 from three-point range.
“It’s a whole different story if guys knock down just a few shots,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “If we just shoot 35 percent we hold them under 40, and in those kinds of games you’re supposed to be able to get it done.”
After scoring 16 points in those 10 possessions, Wisconsin then totaled zero points in the next 10.
During that dry spell, the Badgers had two turnovers, including a shot-clock violation, and failed to finish on five decent looks in the paint. They also missed three threes.
Xavier, which provided more defensive help on Hughes and Landry in the second half, outscored Wisconsin 10-0 during that stretch. It took its first lead of the second half, 35-33, on a three by sophomore Dante Jackson with 12:14 to play.
Bohannon snapped the dry spell with a jumper from near the free-throw line with 9:56 to play to make it a one-point game. Landry attacked the basket the next possession and got the roll on a shot that gave UW a 37-36 lead with 9:12 left.
But Jackson sank two free throws to give Xavier a 38-37 advantage it would never relinquish, although Wisconsin was as close as three points, 44-41, after a dunk by Landry with 5:45 to play.
Two days earlier, Wisconsin managed to come back against the Seminoles’ defense, which ranked statistically better than a Xavier unit that limited foes to 38.9 percent shooting.
The only late-game magic for Wisconsin this time was a three-pointer by sophomore Tim Jarmusz with 2:29 left after he retrieved a ball that Landry had lost. The basket made it 49-44, but from there the Badgers scored just one more basket, and Xavier clinched the victory by hitting nine of 10 from the line in the final two minutes.
And so came to an end a roller coast ride of a season for Wisconsin that included the program’s longest losing streak in 11 years and too many blown leads to mention.
But the Badgers also won eight of their previous 11 games to reach the second round of the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in Ryan’s eight seasons.
Sunday was a bitter end to an otherwise sweet finish.
“We bounced back from a six-game losing streak and made a run and got our name called on selection Sunday,” senior Joe Krabbenhoft said. “We were proud of the fact that we did that. And then to come out and make a little noise here in Boise was a lot of fun and something I’ll never forget.”