University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (14-16, 7-10 Big Ten) took down Northwestern (15-14, 6-11 Big Ten) 70-64 in Evanston for their third consecutive win.
While the Badgers had the lead for almost the entirety of the game, Northwestern kept it close throughout. At 65-64, Brevin Pritzl drained a three-pointer to give Wisconsin a two-possession lead with just 29 seconds remaining.
Emotions ran high for the Wildcats after the game as the Northwestern seniors exited the Welsh-Ryan Arena for the last time after a disappointing loss. The three seniors, including star guard Bryant McIntosh, represent a part of Northwestern history that brought the program their first NCAA Tournament appearance and win last season.
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On the Badgers side of the court, though, the team was elated to gain a hard-earned victory on the road.
Ethan Happ led the team in scoring going seven for 12 with 19 points and seven rebounds. But the players around Happ are what secured the win for Wisconsin.
Gaining a surprising amount of minutes, forward Andy Van Vliet was lights out from off the bench in this contest. Van Vliet scored 14 points on five for seven shooting, four of six from three, and two rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
This was the most minutes Van Vliet received all year, topping the 22 minutes he had game one versus South Carolina State. After seeing him in action early on, it seemed as if Coach Greg Gard opted to forgo the offensive upside of the 7-foot junior because Van Vliet had difficulty rebounding and playing defense early in the season.
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Looking forward, Wisconsin’s final game will be this Sunday at home versus Michigan State.
While a win against the Spartans would still be insufficient for an NCAA tournament bid, it would position Wisconsin with an outside shot to take home the Big Ten title as they would have beaten the top two teams in the conference. The Badgers also took down No. 9 Purdue last week at home.
In what was looking like a dismal season, Wisconsin has proven in their most recent games the future is bright in Madison. Whether it be this season or next, a return to March Madness no longer seems like a distant goal for Wisconsin.