Wisconsin 81, Western Kentucky 80: Last shots

MADISON – Wisconsin got back in the win column with an 81-80 victory over Western Kentucky University on Wednesday night at the Kohl Center in controversial fashion.

Twenty last shots for the 20 3-pointers attempted by Wisconsin on Wednesday night against Western Kentucky

1. Wisconsin (5-7) has struggled to close out games this season. They’ve been close in contests against Xavier, Baylor, UCLA, and Temple but haven’t found a way to win those games. In the victory over Penn State there was more a feeling that the Nittany Lions simply ran out of time rather than Wisconsin put them to bed.

2. It’s tough to say that the Badgers put the Hilltoppers away in this one, but a win counts all the same.

3. The Hilltoppers tied the game at 80-80 on a floater from Darius Thompson with 2.0 seconds remaining on the clock. Thompson took the ball and went the length of the floor before advancing into the lane and getting the ball over the out stretched arms of Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson.

4. Following that basket, the officials went to the monitor to check what the clock should read. On the floor, it stopped at 0.9 seconds remaining, but upon review 1.1 seconds were added. Once that was settled, Wisconsin called a timeout to set up an inbounds play. The Badgers needed to go the length of the floor in order to attempt to win the game in regulation.

5. The play called wasn’t one that’s commonly seen. Wisconsin guard Brevin Pritzl took the ball out of bounds with the ability to run the baseline due to Thompson’s made basket on the other side of the timeout. Guard Brad Davison’s job on the play was to set a screen on the man guarding Pritzl, or so it seemed.

6. “My job was to let him run me over,” Davison said. “Then it would be a foul on him. Really good play call by coach and it worked perfectly. We’ll take it.”

7. “I just did my job and ran back-to-back [along the baseline] and made sure that he got hit,” said Pritzl of the inbounds play.

8. Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury wasn’t pleased with how the end of the game played out, to say the least. His postgame press conference was easily the most entertaining of the season in any game involving the Badgers.

9. “Everybody will talk about that last play but there’s plenty of plays that could have happened before that. That last play gets magnified,” said Stansbury following the game. “I think if you check the film, the guy setting the screen is out-of-bounds. His foot’s out of bounds. That automatically makes him an illegal screener. But again, that play will get magnified. That play didn’t beat us.”

10. Stansbury’s team showed resiliency throughout the night. The Hilltoppers currently have only seven scholarship players available, and eight players were dressed on Wednesday night.

11. “I’m going to say this as nice as I can, again. I’m not going to put the blame on one play. But, as it turns out, it was an important play, it was an obvious play. If he’s out-of-bounds he’s an illegal screener, and he’s out-of-bounds. That’s just where that is. If it’s one of those plays, we’re supposed to go to the monitor last two minutes to look at things. To me, that’s an important thing to go to the monitor for. [The referees] said he couldn’t go. What else is more important for to go to the monitor for late in the game?”

12. Upon further review, at least on Twitter, it did not seem as if Stansbury had a gripe, although it was a very close play.

twitter.com/TJhoeft14

13. The controversial ending will certainly overshadow some parts of the game. Wisconsin had multiple opportunities to thwart the comeback hopes of WKU. They held double-digit leads in both halves only to see the Hilltoppers come all the way back to either tie or take the lead. In the first half, Wisconsin was up 29-20 with 6:24 left. The Hilltoppers closed out the half on an 18-5 run to take a 38-34 lead into the locker room.

14. In the second half, the Badgers held a 65-54 lead with 9:08 remaining following a made free throw by forward Ethan Happ. Over the next 4:20 WKU went on a 17-6 run to tie the game 71-71 with 4:48 remaining. Wisconsin had the opportunity to make the end of the game rather uneventful, but lacked the killer instinct needed to do so. That’s something common among young teams, which Wisconsin certainly qualifies as.

15 .The Badgers had their best game of the season on the offensive end to date. They shot the ball incredibly well from the outside, knocking down 12-of-20 3-pointers on the evening. Pritzl and forward Aleem Ford combined to go 8-of-10 from behind the arc. Davison and guard T.J. Schlundt each hit two 3-pointers as well. When looking at the box score, this area jumps out as the clear reason as to why Wisconsin was able to come away victorious against WKU.

16. By shooting 60% from behind the arc Wisconsin was well above their season average in that area. They have been rather pedestrian from 3-point range throughout the season, entering the night shooting 33% as a team. Some say 3-point shooting is contagious and it definitely seemed that was for Wisconsin.

17. It’s very rare for a team to perform better from deep than at the free throw line, but that’s exactly what Wisconsin did. The Badgers finished the night 13-of-23 on free throws, which computes to 56.5%.

18. Happ was part of the reason the free throw percentage is that low. He finished the night 3-of-8 shooting at the free throw line. Happ finished with 17 points, four rebounds, and six assists for Wisconsin. He was 7-of-12 shooting from the floor.

19. Happ and Pritzl were the leading scorers for Wisconsin, they each had 17 points on the night. Davison chipped in 16 and Ford finished with 14 to push Wisconsin to four players in double-digits.

20. The Badgers are out of game action until December 23 when UW-Green Bay comes to Madison, Wis.