(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

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.

(22) Baylor 70, Wisconsin 65: Last word

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.

What’s Next

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.

Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan now officially a member of the college basketball Hall of Fame

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan took his place among the best in college basketball Sunday night, joining a star-studded group as part of the 2017 National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame class.

The winningest coach in program history, Ryan took the Badgers to the NCAA tournament all 14 years he was in Madison, including a pair of Final Fours. That was on top of the success he had in turning UW-Platteville into a Division III power in the late 1980s and 1990s, winning four national championships.

Ryan retired in December 2015, leaving the program to his long-time assistant Greg Gard, who was in attendance with his team, including nine players that played for Ryan.

In addition to Ryan, the 2017 class included Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan, Duke’s Jay Williams, Indiana’s Scott May, Gonzaga’s John Stockton, Creighton’s Paul Silas and Purdue’s Rick Mount.

Here is a sampling of what Ryan discussed with hosts Fran Fraschilla and Doug Gottlieb at the Midland Theatre in downtown Kansas City.

What growing up in Chester, Penn., taught him:

“Without a doubt being able to handle yourself but not always [being] physical. Be able to handle yourself mentally. Know where to pick your fights. Where you need to stand up. Where you need to make sure you don’t back down. Because Chester will challenge anybody when they’re young into being somebody who can deal with things in life. I really owe a lot to Chester.”

Wisconsin’s ability to maintain excellence unlike it ever had before:

“One thing I always did was that every assistant coach that I hired was a teacher…What I realized was that the most important thing is, are you developing the players on and off the court. And I want to hire teachers. People that know the game, can instruct the game, can disseminate information to the players. That’s what I tried to do with the staff.

“Everybody that worked in my office was a team player. I never used the term about [having] all the oars in the water [rowing as one]. It’s very popular right now, but that’s absolutely, positively the reason that we were steady, successful and not trying to do things that we couldn’t. We were who we were. The guys bought into it. And I would rather take a guy that had a lot of questions rather than the guys who had a lot of answers. And we did a lot of nice things with the guys that wanted to get better and learn.”

On Greg Gard’s ascension to the top spot:

“It’s Greg Gard’s team for a reason. He paid his dues. He was very loyal. And I watched him go through things in his life knowing he could handle the big stage. Not everybody can handle the things that are going on now … But I knew he would do it the right way. And he will continue to do that with the staff that he has.

“I’ve had some very good assistant coaches that have done very well in the game, but Greg was a guy who stayed, stayed, had some opportunities but in my mind, and as Coach Alvarez knows, in my mind, he was the guy that I really wanted to see take the program over. And fortunately it worked.”

How his patented swing offense came to be:

“When I was an assistant coach at Wisconsin [in the 1970s] for Bill Cofield, who gave me my first opportunity to coach in college — and I’ll be forever thankful — we would do live scouting reports … let me tell you the coaches I scouted. Jud Heathcote, Johnny Moore, Lou Henson, Bobby Knight, Lee Rose and then Gene Keady, who were great teachers, great coaches. I’m doing these scouting reports and I’m getting all these different offenses, no tape, no film. And there were certain things that I liked from each one.

“In the swing, I put together a motion offense, four out, one in, and I looked at it one day in practice. We had a window [high] up in the [practice facility] at UW-Platteville, I’m looking at it and we’re changing sides of the floor. Every coach says change sides of the floor, move the ball and bodies. It looked like a swing going back and forth. About two or three swings. So that’s why I named it the swing.”

Going to his first Division I Final Four in 2014 just months after his dad, Butch, passed away:

“That was really tough, because he had passed away at the end of August (2013). He had always said, ‘You’re going to have your team here [at the Final Four] one day.’ I said, ‘Well, dad, that would be great. But isn’t this fun, you and I getting to bond at the Final Four?’ And then he passes away six months later and we beat Arizona to go to the Final Four.

“That was a tough interview with [the late] Craig Sager afterwards … [Butch] wasn’t there. But he was there. I felt his presence. And then to do it again [in 2015], I think I was a little more relaxed the second time. Little more in tune with everything. The experience of the Final Four, I wish everybody could have the opportunity.”

LISTEN: Bo Ryan on “The Joe & Ebo Show”

Wisconsin falls to Melbourne United on late 3-pointer

MELBOURNE, Australia — The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team faced its first test of adversity on the international trip, falling 90-89 to Melbourne United Saturday night on a late 3-point shot.

The Badgers were 3-0 on their foreign exhibition tour, seemingly on their way to a fourth win after grabbing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. But Melbourne’s Jerry Evans sank a 3-pointer from the corner with 2.4 seconds left to leave Wisconsin in shock.

“We were in situations throughout the game that we haven’t been in,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard told UWBadgers.com. “End of game and quarter situations, foul trouble we had to deal with. We did a lot of learning, which is exactly why you come on trips like this, to put yourself in some adverse situations and see how guys react on the fly.”

Wisconsin rallied from a 14-point second quarter deficit by scoring on 11 of its first 12 possessions to start the second half. That included scoring 32 points on 17 possessions in the third quarter.

It’s been a youth movement for the Badgers, who were led in the loss by 19 points from D’Mitrik Trice, 18 points from Kobe King, followed by Ethan Happ with 14.

“You have to learn from wins and losses,” Happ said after the loss. “The biggest thing is, we need to slow down when they’re making their run. We need to slow down on both ends where we need to hone in and get a stop or we need to hone in and get a bucket at the rim. We need to play inside-out down the stretch and make more plays.”

The Badgers failed to make it a two-possession game down the stretch. Their final two possessions included a shot clock violation and a partially blocked shot from Brevin Pritzl, for what would have been the winning basket.

The five-game tour concludes Tuesday against the Sydney Kings at 2:30 a.m. CT.

Wisconsin will face Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge

MADISON — For a third time in six years Wisconsin will face Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The conferences made that announcement Thursday morning, setting the stage for the 19th year of the event that pits two of the best basketball conferences in the country against one another every November.

The Badgers and Cavaliers met in the 2012 and 2013 Challenge, with each team winning on the other’s home court.

This game will take place in Charlottesville and will feature the first meeting between Wisconsin coach Greg Gard and Virginia coach Tony Bennett. The two served on the same staff in Madison in 2002 and 2003 as assistants under former coach Bo Ryan before Bennett, a Wisconsin native, left to take an assistant job at Washington State.

When Ryan announced the 2015-’16 season would be his last, many pointed to Bennett, who has been at Virginia since 2009 and has won two ACC titles, as a possible successor. That didn’t materialize as Gard would eventually get the job after serving in an interim basis following Ryan’s abrupt departure in December of 2015.

Wisconsin is 9-9 all-time in the Challenge, including winning three of their last four. Virginia, meanwhile, owns the third-best record among ACC teams at 11-6.

Wisconsin snaps a two-game losing streak with a 71-60 win over Maryland

MADISON — No. 11 Wisconsin turned a six-point halftime deficit into a much needed double-digit win on Sunday, snapping a two-game losing streak by beating No. 23 Maryland 71-60 at the Kohl Center.

“I thought guys, especially in the second half, answered the bell, so to speak,” coach Greg Gard said of his team’s effort.

After managing to hit just 28 percent of their shots in the first half, the Badgers saw Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ shoot a combined 9 of 15 after the break on their way to making 51.5 percent from the field in the second half. Add in the fact they turned the ball over just once in the final 20 minutes and limited Maryland to just eight made field goals, and it was clear why they were successful.

“That was more like (who) this team is,” Gard said.

Hayes, two days after saying he needed to be more assertive and step his game up, did just that, scoring a game-high 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds — his second double-double in Big Ten play. Nine of his points came at the free throw line, an indication of his aggressiveness.

“We’re not the best outside shooting team, currently,” said Hayes, who was 0 of 2 from 3-point range on a team that made just 2 of their 12 shots from deep. “I tried to do my best to get to the rim, try to draw some fouls.”

Happ scored 20 points and added seven rebounds despite dealing with foul trouble in the second half.

But the biggest lift may have come in the form of Bronson Koenig. Wisconsin prepared like they wouldn’t have the senior guard for a second straight game due to a calf injury, but he ended up coming off the bench and played 31 minutes.

His first make, a 3-pointer, tied the game at 36 with 16:29 left. The next time down the court he hit a jumper to give the Badgers a 38-36 lead. He made two more shots later in the game and finished with nine points, all in the second half.

“It was great for him to get back in the flow of things,” senior Zak Showalter said of Koenig. “He’s had five days off so he was a little bit slow but it was good to see him come in and contribute.”

Koenig wasn’t the only one off the bench to help. Redshirt freshman Brevin Pritzl, who didn’t play a minute in the loss to Michigan on Thursday, gave the Badgers seven points and seven rebounds, including five on the offensive end, which led to six second-chance points for Wisconsin.

Maryland was paced by Melo Trimble’s 27 points, but the junior guard didn’t play in the final 4:32, with coach Mark Turgeon saying he was tired, pointing to five missed free throws during the game.

The win leaves Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) in a tie with Purdue atop the Big Ten with four games to play.

The Badgers next to contests are on the road, with a trip to Ohio State on Thursday and a visit to Michigan State on Sunday.

Notes:

— Former Wisconsin running back James White was honored during the game for his performance in Super Bowl LI. He caught a Super Bowl-record 14 passes and scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime to help the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons and win their second title in three years.

— Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was in attendance, sitting behind the Wisconsin bench. He was recognized during the game as well as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

— Former Wisconsin forward Duje Dukan, currently playing with the Chicago Bulls’ D-League team, was also at the game.

Gard: ‘I don’t know when (or) if’ Bronson Koenig will return

Wisconsin’s offense could certainly use a boost from a healthy Bronson Koenig, but it’s unclear whether the Badgers will get that when they host Maryland on Sunday.

The senior guard was held out of Thursday’s 64-58 loss at Michigan due to a calf injury suffered against Penn State on Jan. 24.

“I don’t know,” coach Greg Gard said when asked if Koenig would be available for the game against the Terrapins. “It’ll be day-to-day. It has been — and will be — in the medical staff’s hands. They’ll tell me what his status is each day.

“I don’t know when (or) if (he’ll return). I don’t know any more than I did before the game that he wasn’t going to play (Thursday night).”

In the five games after the injury, Koenig hit just 7 of 31 shots from 3-point range and was shooting under 30 percent overall — both figures a steep decline from his career numbers. And it just so happens the injury coincides with the Badgers dip in production on the offensive end.

After shooting under 40 percent in two of their first 20 games of the season with a healthy Koenig in the lineup, the Badgers have been under that figure in four straight games — the longest such streak for the program since the start of the 2003-2004 season. And after averaging more than 76 points per game to start the season, that number is down to 60.8 over the last six.

Koenig’s replacement on Thursday, true freshman D’Mitrik Trice, was up and down, handing out four assists with just two turnovers, but also shooting a dismal 2 of 15 from the field.

“He got himself in some positions where he had to take tough shots,” Gard said. “I’ll break it down shot-by-shot of what was good and what was not. I thought he got himself in trouble at times, too. But he also found himself open a few times, too, and you got to knock down shots when you have the opportunity.”

D’Mitrik Trice to get his first career start in place of an injured Bronson Koenig

Wisconsin will be without their starting point guard when they take on Michigan Thursday night.

The team announced that senior point guard Bronson Koenig will miss the game as he deals with a calf strain that has hampered him since first injuring it against Penn State on Jan. 24.

“The medical staff made a decision (on Wednesday),” coach Greg Gard told UWBadgers.com “We knew it was unlikely he was going to play and then (we) made a final determination (Thursday) morning.”

In Koenig’s place will be true freshman D’Mitrik Trice, who is averaging 5.5 points and 1.6 assists per game.

“He’s ready for this moment,” Gard said. “I’ve said all along he’s wiser and older than his freshman year says in the program. It’s a great opportunity for him.”

Trice said Tuesday he was preparing like he was going to start, and he spent the entire week as the No. 1 point guard with Koenig sitting out.

“(I) just have to go out and do what I need to do to help my team win,” Trice said of his role. “Whether that’s pass the ball, come off screens and find open guys or knock down the 15-footer, hit an open 3 here and there and just direct the offense.”

Koenig had seen his performance drop off significantly since the injury, making just 7 of 31 shots from beyond the arc and shooting under 30 percent from the field overall.

“We know it’s huge loss,” senior Nigel Hayes said this week. “As I’ve always answered when another team loses a key player, other players will step up. That’s just what happens.

“We know what Bronson does. Bronson takes his shots. All that means is there are more shots for someone else, another opportunity for someone to step up.

“Trice has been playing well. Brevin (Pritzl) has been doing well. Gives more opportunities for Jordan (Hill) and those guys to step up and try and make something happen.”

Entering the day, No. 11 Wisconsin (21-4, 10-2) owns a 1/2 game lead in the Big Ten on Purdue and Maryland.

Koenig misses Tuesday practice with leg injury, expected to play vs Michigan

MADISON, Wis. — Following Sunday’s 66-59 loss to Northwestern, Wisconsin basketball coach Greg Gard noted that the left calf injury to senior guard Bronson Koenig was affecting his performance. That’s why he was given the night off from Tuesday’s practice.

This season, Koenig is averaging career highs in field goal percentage (.418) and points (13.4), not including his freshman year. But after suffering the leg injury Jan. 24 against Penn State, Koenig is just 14-of-55 (.254) from the field and averaging 8.8 points per game.

University of Wisconsin officials say the injury won’t keep him from playing in Thursday night’s contest at Michigan, however. But freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice is ready to step up if necessary.

“I’m preparing for that, definitely,” Trice said following Tuesday’s practice. “You never know with Bronson [Koenig] and whatever’s going on with him. I know I’m praying for him and things like that, but I’m definitely preparing with that mindset.”

Trice has been a source of confidence for coach Greg Gard this season, averaging 17.1 minutes per game, hitting 42.6 percent of his field goal attempts.

Koenig has not been available to speak with reporters this week to discuss the injury.

Badgers left off initial NCAA Tournament Top 16

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin Badgers basketball team will have some work to do from now until the official unveiling of the NCAA tournament field after failing to make the selection committee’s Top 16 list announced Saturday morning.

Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis unveiled the list, noting the first four teams left out were Creighton, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Cincinnati.

Reigning national champions Villanova take the top overall spot with a record of 23-2.

Top 16 teams by rank
1. Villanova
2. Kansas
3. Baylor
4. Gonzaga
5. North Carolina
6. Florida State
7. Louisville
8. Oregon
9. Arizona
10. Virginia
11. Florida
12. Kentucky
13. Butler
14. West Virginia
15. UCLA
16. Duke

First four out
1. Creighton
2. Purdue
3. Wisconsin
4. Cincinnati

Top 16 teams by region
East
1. Villanova (1)
2. Louisville (7)
3. Kentucky (12)
4. UCLA (15)

Midwest
1. Kansas (2)
2. Florida State (6)
3. Arizona (9)
4. Duke (16)

West
1. Baylor (3)
2. North Carolina (5)
3. Florida (11)
4. Butler (13)

South
1. Gonzaga (4)
2. Oregon (8)
3. Virginia (10)
4. West Virginia (14)