Photo: Wisconsin Badgers
BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Marking March Madness' most exciting upset so far, Mike Lucas had a front-row seat as eighth-seeded Wisconsin up-ended No. 1 overall seed and defending national champion Villanova, 65-62, to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament on Saturday. Here is what he saw from courtside.
DOWN (57-50) BUT NOT OUT
After Donte DiVincenzo, who has a Mike Bruesewitz edginess and motor, nailed a 3-pointer to extend Villanova's lead to seven points, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard called a timeout with 5:16 left. "I didn't want it (the deficit) to get much further because I've seen them melt the clock," Gard explained. "We were fine and the players were positive about everything. We still had plenty of time. It's a three-possession game. But we had to get it done on the defensive end. We couldn't keep trading baskets."
Timing is everything.
"And it was a great timeout by coach Gard just to get us settled down," said UW assistant Howard Moore. "Our huddle was great as far as everyone said stuff that was positive, everyone talked about correcting the things that we weren't doing well. We talked about not giving up easy shots and working a little harder on the defensive end and just stringing out some stops."
The battle-tested Badgers responded to the urgency of the moment and championship pedigree of the opponent. "It was one stop at a time," said Ethan Happ. "Every bucket matters, every rebound matters, especially when you're down. You have to do the little things to get back into it. With that much time left, with how tough our defense can be, we knew that we definitely had a shot at it."
In most late-clock, late-game situations, the Badgers have dialed 24: Koenig's number. But when play resumed following a timeout with 20.3 seconds left, Koenig gave up the ball to Hayes. Happ drew his man (Eric Paschall) up the lane line and away from the rim and Hayes had an isolation on the right side of the floor with 6-foot-7 Mikal Bridges. "It's kind of a play we run all the time, just a side isolation," said Hayes, who beat Bridges off the bounce, head-faked an inside spin and reversed a left-handed shot off the glass for the tie-breaking score. "I didn't know what move I was actually going to do before I caught the ball. I just went and did a fake spin and got to my left hand," said Hayes, who had seen clips of Michael Jordan attacking the baseline with a stagger dribble and a fake spin, a move also popularized by Steve Smith. "I actually thought I missed it," Hayes confessed. "I felt I threw it a little too hard. Luckily it went in."
THE SKINNY ON FLORIDA
The Gators completely stifled Virginia, 65-39, in front of a home crowd in Orlando, Florida. The Cavaliers went nearly eight minutes without scoring, a stretch that started at the end of the first half and carried into the second. During that span, Florida scored 21 unanswered. Virginia made just 16-of-54 shots (.296), 1-of-15 from the 3-point line. Devin Robinson (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Justin Leon (14, 10) had double-doubles for the Gators, whose leading scorer KeVaughn Allen was held to just four points (2-of-10 FGs). Of note: Rick Barry's son, Canyon, is the second-leading scorer and shooting 88 percent (110-125) from the free throw line using the same underhand, granny-style technique of his old man. Also of note: The Gators lost their most physical low-post presence, 6-11, 255-pound center John Egbunu, to a torn ACL in February. Egbunu was averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds. He had 36 blocks in 24 games. Further noting: The Badgers won the last meeting against Florida, 59-53, at the Kohl Center. That was in 2013. They also played in 2012 with the Gators winning in a rout, 74-56, in Gainesville.