In their first game of the season, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team lost in heartbreaking fashion in overtime to the No. 20 St. Mary’s College Gaels on Tuesday.
No one knew what to expect from this year’s Wisconsin Badger squad. Many had completely counted them out after losing one of the best players to ever put on the cardinal and white. The team failed to earn even a single AP Top 25 vote.
But against a St. Mary’s team boasting one of the best point guards in the country, Greg Gard and the Badgers proved they have the ability to compete in 2020. A few mental errors down the stretch cost UW the game, but good showings from Nate Reuvers, Brad Davison and D’mitrik Trice should have fans ecstatic for the rest of the season.
Wisconsin started the game off able to do just about anything they wanted. A few jumpers from Davison and Aleem Ford, along with a few post ups for Reuvers got them off to a strong start. With a little over seven minutes left in the first half, the Badgers had built up an eight point lead.
But a St. Mary’s run was bound to come, and come it did. Within just two minutes, the lead was completely eliminated and Jordan Ford started to lock in. He went on a 10–1 run by himself and put Brad Davison in a spin-cycle in the process, driving the Gaels to a six-point advantage at the break.
Reuvers looked like the new face of the program all night. He came out of the locker room rolling and led the team in total scoring with 22 points during the contest. He also added four blocks on the night, which shouldn’t surprise anyone after averaging 1.8 per game last year.
He really kept Wisconsin in the game throughout the second half, whether it was down low or on the perimeter. After a D’mitrik Trice three brought them to within six with just under eight minutes left in the game, Reuvers scored five straight to make it just one.
A quick back-and-forth between Davison and Jordan Ford made it 52–52, and a jumper from Matthias Tass put St. Mary’s up two with 1:51 left. A missed three from Trice gave the Gaels a chance to seal it, but they couldn’t capitalize, and it led to an Aleem Ford drive to tie it back up.
That’s where things got tense. Reuvers blocked Ford, but St. Mary’s got the board and another crack at the win. With a low shot clock, Malik Fitts fired one up and out of bounds, giving the Badgers 13 seconds to find a winner.
They got the shot they wanted, but Aleem Ford pushed it too far and airballed. The Badgers headed into a dramatic overtime period in their season opener.
The first few minutes was a stalemate before ultimately winding down to a 63–60 Badger advantage with two minutes to go. After a pair of Fitts free throws, a costly Kobe King turnover put the ball in Fitts’s hands again, who took it inside for a one-point lead.
Gard called timeout, and Wisconsin worked it around, ultimately settling for a Nate Reuvers jumper that wouldn’t fall. Then came the mental mistakes. Down one, with 38 seconds left, Gard decided to trust his defense.
They held, forcing the Gaels to throw one up as the shot clock expired but somehow, inexplicably failed to secure the rebound. That’s when Wisconsin finally got to foul. They even got lucky when Kyle Bowen missed one of two from the line.
Unfortunately, a last-ditch half court heave from Aleem Ford was left short and the Badgers dropped their first of the season.
Despite the sour ending, it was a pretty solid start for a team still searching for an identity. Reuvers finished with 22 and Davison had 16 points of his own. This kind of output is exactly what this team will need going forward.
Next up, Eastern Illinois comes to the Kohl Center for the home opener this Friday at 8 p.m.