It was a game that went back and forth for almost the entire 40 minutes. The Wisconsin Badgers held off Liberty for a 75-71 win in front of a packed Kohl Center. Wisconsin now advances to the NIT bracket quarterfinals. Chucky Hepburn recorded a career-high 27 points. Steven Crowl added 14 points, while Tyler Wahl notched 16. Here are three takeaways from today’s win.
Wisconsin Has Dominated the Pain To Advance in the NIT Bracket
#Badgers 0-for-10 from 3-point range.
UW still shooting 57.9% from the field.
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) March 19, 2023
The Badgers were 1-15 from three in today’s game. That one make didn’t happen until the last few minutes, thanks to Max Klesmit. Wisconsin didn’t need it to advance in the NIT bracket, as they shot 54% from the game and made 20-24 free throws.
At one point, the Badgers scored 34 of their first 42 points from the paint. They got anything they wanted to all game and took advantage of it. The only reason Liberty stayed in this game was because they made eight threes. For a team that wants to be good in the paint and struggled in Big Ten play, they were able to finish at the rim and establish what they do best and want to do.
The Defense Stepped Up Late
We knew Darius McGhee would be a problem. McGhee ended up scoring 31 points. However, he was only 4-15 from three and had to take 25 shots to get his 31.
Back door cuts hurt the badgers throughout this matchup of the NIT Bracket. Multiple times when Wisconsin would come over to double team, Liberty would cut to the basket. The Flames also made nine of their first 11 shots in the second half.
Make no mistake about it; this was a good Liberty team that has won the fourth most games in the country over the last four seasons. Credit the Badgers’ defense for not breaking when they were bending and getting key stops when they needed it most.
This Team Is Taking Advantage Of Extra Games
It is not the Badger way to miss the NCAA Tournament. There is no doubt the players are upset about that. They could have easily folded in the towel. I would not have blamed them either. Greg Gard made it clear when he accepted the NIT bracket Invite that they would try and win this tournament, and nothing would change.
The players have taken advantage of this as well. After a career-high 36 points from Steven Crowl Tuesday against Bradley, Chucky Hepburn recorded a career-high today. These are two players Wisconsin needs for the rest of this season and next season. Both players were dominant today. That is momentum they can take with them over the summer. Wisconsin is taking advantage of playing extra games, and it’s beginning to pay off.
Up Next In the NIT Bracket
The Badgers will wait for the winner of Oregon and UCF. If Oregon wins, Wisconsin will travel to Eugene. If UCF wins, that game will be at the Kohl Center. The quarterfinal game of the NIT bracket will be either Tuesday or Wednesday.
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