Photo: Wisconsin Badgers
BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Mike Lucas had a front-row seat as eighth-seeded Wisconsin knocked off ninth-seeded Virginia Tech, 84-74, to advance in the East Region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday. Here is what he saw from courtside.
BK3 AND GHOST OF JON BRYANT PAST
Zak Showalter was amused to hear Bronson Koenig fretting over his shooting mechanics at halftime. "He was saying, 'Man, I've just got to flick my wrists and they'll go in,'" recounted Showalter, who was smiling because Koenig went on to set the school record for 3-pointers in a game with eight (8-of-17). The previous mark was seven and it was shared by 11 different players, including Jon Bryant who had seven triples against Fresno State in the 2000 NCAA Tournament opener, the first step in a Final Four run (Tracy Webster also had seven in a 1994 second-round loss to Missouri). Koenig finished with a career-high 28 points against the Hokies.
IVERSON'S RESILIENCY WAS INSPIRING
On Feb. 16, Khalil Iverson had 10 points and four rebounds in a loss at Michigan, the Big Ten equivalent of Virginia Tech in playing style. However, over his next six appearances combined, Iverson scored just 11 points (3-of-10 FGs) and became an after-thought in the rotation. He played 4 minutes against Iowa, 9 against Minnesota and 3 against Indiana before returning to Ohio because of a family tragedy, the death of two cousins. After scoring 11 points and pulling down seven rebounds in 21 minutes against Virginia Tech, most of his heavy lifting coming in the first half, Iverson said that he had dedicated the game to his cousins. "It definitely cleared my mind a little bit," Iverson confided.
THE SKINNY ON VILLANOVA
The Wildcats didn't look anything like the defending national champions and the overall No. 1 seed when they missed their first eight shots against Mount St. Mary's and trailed 5-0 at the first media timeout. They didn't take their first lead until 1:22 remaining in the first half. And they trailed after the first possession following intermission before going on a 21-6 run to eliminate any thoughts of a No. 16 seed pulling off the unthinkable. Donte Divincenzo came off the bench to lead the Cats in scoring with 21 points (9-of-15 FGs) and 13 rebounds. Josh Hart, a national player of the year candidate, took only five shots and had 11 points. Kris Jenkins was completely off his game (2-of-13 FGs, 0-of-6 from the arc).
"My first thoughts?" said UW assistant Howard Moore, who has the scouting report on Nova. "It's like a mirror-image of us in the sense of, they're a very disciplined team, veteran-led. The tempo is very comparable. Both teams play at the same pace. It's going to be a pace where we can do what we do, grind it out, and make it a game. They don't get rattled. They don't get too high. They don't get too low. Their proficient in both ends. Hart is a phenomenal player. Jalen Brunson is probably one of the best point guards in the country as far as finding his opportunities and opportunities for teammates. They only go seven deep. But they can do a lot with those seven guys."