KANSAS CITY, Mo., — Manu Lecomte scored a game-high 24 points as Baylor advanced to the championship game of the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic with a 70-65 win over Wisconsin on Monday night.
Wisconsin’s player of the game: Brad Davison
“He’s a tough one.”
Those were the words of coach Greg Gard about his fiery freshman guard after he scored 13 points, including 10 after he returned from being knocked out of the game with what looked like a pretty serious shoulder injury midway through the second half. Davison went into the locker room unable to move his left arm but was back on the floor a little more than two minutes later. And he wasn’t just taking up space — he play really well, serving as the ignitor of a 21-4 run that cut Baylor’s 19-point lead down to two.
“I’m not surprised given the level of his competitiveness and how he battles,” Gard said of Davison’s return. “I had to ask [the training staff if he was OK to go] because I thought he’d be one of those guys that would try to sneak back in on me before I said it was OK.”
The good: The rally
Wisconsin has shown a willingness to fight this year. The Badgers did it after falling behind early to Xavier in each half and were at it again on Monday night. Obviously, Davison was the catalyst, but Ethan Happ was also a force, scoring 10 of his team-high 23 points in the run that took it from a 53-34 game to 57-55 with 2:15 left. Wisconsin, like the Xavier game, wasn’t able to finish in the end, but it’s clear this team can be scrappy.
The not so good: The need for the rally
As scrappy a bunch as Wisconsin can be, the Badgers don’t come out of the gates that way. Whether it’s personnel or something else, their play has been anemic for large stretches, especially the last two times out against ranked opponents. It may simply be a case of guys not being ready for the stage that Gard is putting them on, something he’s clearly aware of.
“The one benefit, I guess, of playing this type of schedule, we’re finding out real fast, against some pretty good teams and players, who’s ready for this and who’s not quite there yet,” Gard said afterward. “The guys that are ready, we have to continue to have those combinations on the floor. And the guys that are not, we’ve got to continue to work with them to have them take steps forward.”
Stat of the game: 5 of 24
That was the shooting performance from guys in Wisconsin’s starting lineup not named Ethan Happ. The quartet of D’Mitrik Trice, Brevin Pritzl, Khalil Iverson and Andy Van Vliet struggled from all over the floor, including a 2 of 10 effort from beyond the arc. That the Badgers still had a chance to win in the final few minutes despite those issues speaks clearly to the play of Davison and Aleem Ford, who combined for 23 points off the bench.
What they said: Potential lineup changes
The calls for the Badgers to make changes to their lineup and rotations were loud after the loss to Xavier and grew louder following Monday night’s result. Based on his comments after the game, Gard might be of the same mindset.
“I’ve learned some things about our guys through that 40 minutes of who I need to have on the floor,” Gard said of the loss to Baylor. “I’ll go back through the film and really look at what I thought I saw in the live action and make some decisions from there. I’m not ruling out that there could be changes.”
It’s unclear what changes Gard will make, but it’s possible a move into the starting lineup by Davison and/or Ford could help with the slow starts. It could also mean a little less pressure on Van Vliet and/or Pritzl to produce at such a high level.
In Case You Missed It
— Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was enshrined into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Kansas City, and was interviewed on the court prior to the Badgers game on Monday.
— Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez attended the enshrinement on Sunday and the game on Monday.
Wisconsin (2-2) will take on No. 23 UCLA (3-1) in the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Classic on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Kansas City. The Bruins fell to Creighton on Monday 100-89.