Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s basketball: Badgers showcase potential during Battle 4 Atlantis, nearly edge out No. 3 Kansas

Backed by stellar performances from Essegian, Hepburn, Wahl, Gard’s group notches two victories in the Bahamas
Justin Mielke

Two-tenths of a second. That’s all that separated the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team from upsetting the defending national champion and third-ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday.

Yes, the red and white suffered heartbreak but with wins against the scrappy University of Dayton Flyers and flashy University of Southern California Trojans, Wisconsin exhibited our traditional grit and tenacity on both sides of the hardwood throughout the tournament.

With contests on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, faithful Badger fans certainly enjoyed some holiday hoops. Let’s unpack the fun.



Despite UW’s starting unit accounting for just 19 of the team’s 43 total tallies, Wisconsin executed when it mattered most. The Badgers escaped, 43-42, but three storylines encapsulated the Wednesday afternoon showdown.

Men’s Basketball: Badgers survive second half surge against Green Bay, beat Phoenix 56-45

Electric Essegian:

In just under four minutes of first-half action, true freshman Connor Essegian nailed two 3-pointers, a mid-range jump shot and three looks from the charity stripe. His 11 early points allowed the Badgers to challenge Dayton’s early offensive onslaught and ignited UW’s 10-3 run prior to halftime.

Without nearly half of its scoring output from a season ago, Wisconsin’s 125th team in school history needed a bucket-getter. With an offensive skill set and demeanor comparable to the Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro, UW discovered its future star.

Hustle plays:

Junior Carter Gilmore — the 6-foot-7-inch forward from Hartland, Wisconsin — did not scratch the scoresheet on Wednesday. He did, however, make one of the most momentum-shifting plays of the entire match.

With 35 seconds to spare before halftime, Gilmore dove onto the floor to secure a held ball, allowing Head Coach Greg Gard to call timeout. Contributor to UW’s second unit Isaac Lindsey drilled a three and extended the Wisconsin advantage to nine before break.

Football: Wisconsin ushers in Luke Fickell era with celebration at Camp Randall Stadium

Sophomore Markus Ilver had grit his in teeth as well. Following a miscue from UW forward Tyler Wahl, Ilver plunged onto the floor to seal an extra possession in the second half. Roughly ten seconds later, he hit on an open 3-point shot from the top of the key.

Sure, Gard’s team did not throw down an alley-oop, float through the air or shoot from Curry-land, but these efforts fueled both the team and Wisconsites who made the trek to the Caribbean.

Playing to strengths down the stretch:

If one simply scanned the box score, they may assume that Wahl played poorly. Sure, four personal fouls, three turnovers and a 12.5% clip from the field appears subpar. Fortunately, statistics do not completely define basketball.

UW’s do-it-all forward remained scoreless until the 4:38 mark of the second half, but his lone bucket rocked the gym and personified Wisconsin hoops. Wahl backed down Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II, spun right, pump-faked and banked home one layup to break a 39-39 tie.

Some wins are just plain ugly, and the Badgers overcame an abysmal — and I mean abysmal — offensive display Wednesday through a much-needed bench boost, grittiness and composure during crunch time.


Heartbreak. Disbelief. Perplexity. You pick the noun.

At least one of these feelings floated around Wisconsin living rooms after Kansas guard Bobby Pettiford delivered a miraculous game-winner with 0.2 seconds to spare.

Ironically, the near-buzzer beater was not the most surprising event of Thursday’s bout. Wisconsin’s 15-point comeback, especially against the all-mighty Jayhawks, shocked all but one of the nation’s 50 states.

How the madness unfolded:

After Kansas sophomore K.J. Adams Jr. threw down a ferocious slam off an alley-oop feed from guard Dajuan Harris Jr., the momentum flowed entirely in the Jayhawks’ direction. Its lead ballooned to 15, and UW needed a spark.

Powered by three outside looks from Essegian, Gard’s group orchestrated a 22-7 scoring run over the next eight minutes of play. Kansas forward Jalen Wilson and guard Kevin McCullar Jr. recaptured the crimson and blue’s advantage, though, and it appeared as if Bill Self’s squad secured its sixth victory of the season.

With 3:22 on the game clock, Wahl put the state on his back. The 6-foot-9-inch senior scored nine straight points off an array of wheeling-and-dealing post moves — in the blink of an eye, Wisconsin transformed an eight-point deficit to a three-point advantage.

In typical Kansas fashion, McCullar knotted the contest at 63 with a three-pointer from the left wing, forcing overtime in Atlantis.

Men’s Basketball: Badgers win ‘Brew City Battle’ against Stanford Cardinal

Wahl continued to thrive through isolation situations during the extra period, but one moment overshadowed his Jordan-esque performance.

The play:

The Jayhawks, victors of the 2021-2022 National Championship, know a thing or two about winning. Wilson’s 29 points certainly benefited Kansas, but Pettiford stole the show.

With roughly five seconds remaining, a blanketed Wilson kicked it out to 6-foot-10-inch sophomore Zach Clemence, who shot 37% from downtown during his senior year of high school at Sunrise Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas.

Clemence missed wide right, inviting Wilson and Wahl to battle for the board with 2.1 ticks to spare. Pettiford, who dove from the three-point stripe to the paint, caught the tipped ball and finished an acrobatic, behind-the-head layup with 0.2 remaining.

Kansas survived, 69-68, but Wahl and the Badgers played with conviction and spirit.


Before Friday’s contest, Badger guard Chucky Hepburn boasted a dismal 5-33 mark over his previous three games. It was only a matter of time before the preseason All-Big Ten team member erupted, and boy, did he ever.

The 6-foot-2-inch sophomore set the tone early with back-to-back threes, a pair of dimes and a swipe. He added another long-range jumper with 8:15 to go before intermission, but the Badgers entered the half down two.

With close to a minute to go, Hepburn floated a teardrop over the Trojans’ 6’6’’ Kobe Johnson and 6’11’’ Joshua Morgan, stretching the Badger advantage to five.

The play of the game, though, transpired roughly 45 seconds later. Drew Peterson, USC’s versatile 6’9’’ point guard, struggled establishing full control after receiving a dribble handoff from guard Boogie Ellis. Hepburn scooped up Peterson’s errant dribble, drove to the cup and banked it home, virtually sealing UW’s 64-59 victory.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *