BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig played much of the second half with four fouls apiece, but Wisconsin’s defense held to knock off top-seeded Villanova 65-62 Saturday afternoon.
It’s the fourth time in seven years the Wildcats have lost in the round of 32 while being seeded No. 1 or No. 2. Previous early exits came in 2015 (No. 1 seed), 2014 (No. 2 seed), and 2010 (No. 2 seed).
The Badgers turned the ball over 14 times. but shot 53.1 percent from the field as part of a complete effort against a Wildcat team that struggled from the field early on. They converted on just 30 percent of their shots in the first half. Wisconsin had double-digit efforts from four players in the win, led by Nigel Hayes’ 19 points and eight rebounds.
A problem for much of the regular season, Wisconsin struggled at the free throw line against Villanova (6-of-18, 43.8 percent), but they’ve now reached the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year. Wisconsin faces the winner between (5)Virginia and (4)Florida.
WASHINGTON — The Wisconsin men’s basketball team took advantage of a weary Northwestern squad to pick up a 76-48 win Saturday in a Big Ten tournament semifinal game.
The Wildcats had just come off a late night battle with Maryland, and the fatigue showed all game long. The Badgers’ defense was suffocating at times, forcing 12 turnovers, converting those miscues into 11 points. But the Northwestern defense was strong at times, too, forcing Wisconsin into 29 three-point attempts on the day. But the Badgers took advantage, knocking down 12 (41.4 percent) of them.
Nigel Hayes was the high point man, delivering 18 for the Badgers, along with 10 rebounds. Ethan Happ finished with 16 points and eight boards as a complement to Wisconsin’s outside shooting. The Badgers got 22 of their points in the paint, as compared with the Wildcats’ 16.
Wisconsin advances to the Big Ten tournament finale where they’ll meet Michigan Sunday at 2 p.m. CT. The Wolverines will be playing their fourth game in as many days — a factor that would seem to benefit the Badgers, given the result against Northwestern. It’s Wisconsin’s third appearance in the conference title game in the last five years.