New York City | They don’t get much more exciting than this. Unfortunately for Wisconsin they don’t get much more heartbreaking either. The Badger men’s basketball team’s spectacular season came to an end Friday night (actually Saturday morning) at Madison Square Garden, losing to Florida 84-83 in overtime. It was the second straight season Wisconsin’s run ended in the Sweet 16.
The Badgers mounted an impressive late comeback. Down eight points with 1:45 remaining in regulation, Florida’s offense went cold. UW senior Bronson Koenig hit a three-pointer. Ethan Happ made a layup. And Zak Showalter made a rediculous running three pointer to tie the game at 72. Immediately after hitting the shot, Showalter looked over to where Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sitting and did the Discount Double-Check belt move to celebrate.
Wisconsin had a five point lead with 1 minute 33 seconds remaining in OT. But Nigel Hayes missed four crutial free throws in OT that could have put the game away, and Florida reserve guard Chris Chiozza made the Badgers pay. Chiozza hit a running three pointer at the buzzer, almost exactly the same way Showalter did. This time it ended the game as the Gators beat the Badgers by one point.
“Obviously, a very gut-wrenching game,” said UW coach Greg Gard, whose team finished 27-10. “But as I told the team, the last 45 minutes are going to sting and hurt for quite awhile as we move forward and appreciate these seniors that have helped push us forward, this program forward, and it’s in good hands and a good position as they exit. This is a tough way for them to go out.”
Wisconsin finished just 20 of 30 from the free throw line. Hayes, who was spectacular much of March, was just 7 of 14 from the line.
“If I make one or two of those free throws in overtime,” Hayes said, “nothing else matters.”
Hayes finished with a team-high 22 points. Ethan Happ added 21. Zak Showalter scored 14 points. Bronson Koenig added 13.
UW senior Vitto Brown fouled out with 7:10 left in regulation and finished with 10 points.
Florida guard KeVaughn Allen, the Gators’ leading scorer at 13.4 points entering the game, finished with a game-high 35 points. He hit 4 of 12 three-pointers and 11 of 24 shots overall.