After an amazing season in which they seemed to defy all the odds, the Wisconsin Badgers fell to the Iowa State Cyclones in March Madness’ round of 32, 54-49.
It was a hard fought effort from the Badgers, featuring Johnny Davis was the leading scorer with 17 points on 4/16 from the field and 9/11 from the free throw line. The story of the game was their inability to knock down a shot from behind the arc. UW shot an astonishing 2-23 from 3-point range, with Davis shooting 0-7.
It was not just a struggle from deep. The Badgers shot a measly 29.8% from the field, shooting 14-47 in the team’s lowest scoring performance of the season. The offensive collapse led to a scoreless run early in the second half that lasted almost eight minutes and allowed Iowa State to extend their lead to eight. The lack of scoring costed the Badgers the game and ultimately their season.
The tide of the game shifted when true freshman point guard Chucky Hepburn went down with an ankle injury late in the first half. Up to this point, the Badgers were 8-17 from the field. The offense immediately became sloppy in Hepburn’s absence and converted just six of their next 30 field goal attempts.
UW also turned the ball over 17 times — the team’s highest total in the last three seasons. Without Hepburn, the Badgers had nobody to facilitate the offense as Lorne Bowman has been out with a non-Covid illness. Head coach Greg Gard tried to replace him with a combination of Jahcobi Neath and Jordan Davis, but the two put up just four points in 33 combined minutes.
Defensively, the Badgers just couldn’t seem to stop the Cyclones’ senior guard Gabe Kalscheur. He finished with a game-high 22 points, shooting 10-19 from the field, with 14 coming in the second half to put the UW season away. Wisconsin was also battling foul trouble all throughout the second half, as every starter aside from Hepburn finished with at least three fouls.
Both Tyler Wahl and Brad Davison had four fouls, preventing them from playing with their usual physicality in the final few minutes. The defense played well as a whole, holding Iowa State to just 34% from the floor, but the effort on defense was not enough with the challenges the team faced on the other end of the court.
One of the biggest moments of the game came on a basket that never happened with eight minutes left in the second half. After back-to-back successful trips offensively, the Badgers returned down the floor with a chance to cut the lead to two and continue the momentum.
As a shot from Brad Davison rolled around the rim, center Steven Crowl tapped the ball in while it was still over the basket, and the play was ruled a basket interference. The shot appeared to be going in anyways, and the Cyclones went on to hit two straight baskets after to extend the lead back to eight. After this, the Badgers failed to regain the momentum for the remainder of the game.
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In the final game of his college career, Brad Davison scored 12 points on 3-7 shooting from the field. It looked as if Davison would catch fire early on, but he never seemed to get his shot clicking. He played his heart out as usual, despite being in foul trouble late in the game.
It was the same situation for junior forward Tyler Wahl, who was expected to make a big impact on tonight’s game due to Iowa State’s lack of an elite interior defender. Two fouls early on limited his first half playing time, and he scored just eight points on 3-6 from the field. Iowa State’s defense did an incredible job of preventing two of the Badgers’ most consistent scoring options from having substantial impact on the game.
It truly was a disappointing end to what was such an exciting season. For a team that was predicted to finished in 10th in the Big Ten, Wisconsin went above and beyond what anyone thought possible for them.
The emergence of Johnny Davis as a superstar, the hustle and consistency of Tyler Wahl and Brad Davison and the growth before our eyes of Chucky Hepburn made this season one of the most exhilarating rides in recent memory. With this being the last game for both Johnny Davis and Brad Davison, the Badgers look to come back next season with a new look and an even better result.