(23) UCLA 72, Wisconsin 70: Last word

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Aaron Holiday hit a layup with .8 seconds left to give No. 23 UCLA a 72-70 win over Wisconsin Tuesday night in the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Classic.

Player of the Game: Holiday

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It wasn’t an overwhelming effort for 40 minutes from the UCLA guard, but he took over down the stretch, scoring the Bruins final 10 points. That included a 3-pointer to give them a 70-67 lead and then the game-winner where he managed to just barely evade the reach of Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ at the rim.

“I said it since I saw him in high school. He’s my pitbull,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “You just turn him loose. And when you turn him loose, I’ve got all the confidence in the world…he’s pretty good at making those shots and those plays.”

The good: The energy

Wisconsin was lethargic to start the game against Baylor on Monday, and it clearly bothered coach Greg Gard. So much so that he suggested potential changes to the lineup could be coming and that’s exactly what happened. He moved freshman Brad Davison and redshirt freshman Aleem Ford into the starting lineup for sophomore Brevin Pritzl and junior Andy Van Vliet, respectively. And Gard got exactly what he was looking for, especially in terms of the kind of intensity his team showed from the opening tip.

“I thought we were pretty active defensively,” Gard said of the change. “I saw a lot of red jerseys diving on the floor. We were the first to the ball. We had faces on the ball as we like to call it.”

Davison scored 14 points and had two rebounds, while also taking four charges. He was one of four Badgers to play at least 33 minutes as Gard, like he said he would on Monday, played the guys that proved they were ready for the moment.

“We’ll continue to evaluate that,” Gard said of the lineup change. “It’s not set in stone. I don’t think I need to set it in stone. They understand you have to earn it to keep it.”

The not so good: Late game issues

In their first two losses of the season — to Xavier and Baylor — the Badgers were right there at the end of the game but couldn’t finish, playing some of their worst basketball in the final minutes. That was once again the case against UCLA. Wisconsin led by six with 3:29 to play, but the Badgers turned the ball over three times in the final eight possessions and scored just five points.

“We’re right there. I’m proud of our guys, how we’ve grown. We’ve been tested a lot of over the last three games,” said Gard of facing three straight ranked opponents. “Eventually, I think [we’ll have] a pretty good team, but it’s just a matter of [needing] to get over that hump and mature in areas to finish halves, finish possessions and finish out games in the way that you need to.”

Stat of the game: 23%

That’s Wisconsin’s 3-point percentage for the game, the third time in five games this year that the Badgers have shot worse than 31-percent from beyond the arc. And it came on a night when UCLA was red hot from deep, hitting 9 of 17 for the game, and going 7 for 9 in the second half alone.

It’s going to be tough for Wisconsin to win games when those two shooting percentages are so far apart.

What they said: The final play

Holdiay’s last-second layup was obviously the main topic after the game, including how Wisconsin played it.

Here’s a look at it from my seat inside the Sprint Center:

Here’s how Happ described it:

“Didn’t play it very well, I guess. Once Brad (Davison) poked it away, it kind of turned into a sporadic play for me. And I wasn’t sure if he was going to stay or not and then once I was matched with (Holiday) I wasn’t sitting down [in my stance] like I should have been.”

Here’s what Davison saw:

“I was supposed to go trap [Holiday]. I knocked it away and he got it. I was like oh, OK, then I had to get back [to my guy]. That was the goal. I was supposed to create some havoc. I think [poking it loose] kind of threw some things off, but [Holiday] is a great player and made a really good play. Have to give him credit.”

Davison on whether this kind of loss will help them down the road
Gard on if they can see the benefit of games like this

In Case You Missed It:

— Wisconsin had two freshmen — Davison and Ford — in its starting lineup for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

— Guard Kobe King came off the bench and had his most productive day of the season, scoring nine points in 17 minutes of action.

— Other than starting 0-1 in the 2015-16 season, this is the first time Wisconsin has been under .500 overall since Dec. 21, 2001. That was former coach Bo Ryan’s first year.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (2-3) will take on UW-Milwaukee (3-1) on Friday at the Kohl Center.

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