3 things that stood out from Wisconsin men’s basketball’s loss to Kansas

NASSAU, Bahamas — The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team overcame a 15-point deficit in the second half to tie No. 3 Kansas with just over eight minutes remaining.

Kansas regained the lead and pulled back ahead by eight points with 3:40 left, but Badgers senior Tyler Wahl went on a 9-0 run to put them up by one point with less than a minute to play. UW got a key stop on the defensive end and freshman Connor Essegian sank a pair of free throws to give the Badgers some more breathing room.

On the following possession, Kansas’ Zach Clemence missed a 3-point attempt to tie the game, but Kevin McCullar bailed out the Jayhawks by nailing a second-chance 3-pointer to force overtime.

Kansas struck first in the extra period with Dajuan Harris giving the Jayhawks a lead, but Wahl responded with a layup of his own, while drawing a foul and hitting the free throw for a 3-point play. Harris scored again and Wahl responded again.

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Trailing by one point, the Jayhawks had the ball with 20 seconds to go. Clemence missed at a 3-pointer but a combination of not blocking out or chasing the rebound on UW’s end allowed Kansas’ Bobby Pettiford to rush to the glass and score with less than a second to go.

It was a valiant effort for the Badgers (4-1) who ultimately fell 69-68 in overtime to the Jayhawks (6-0) Thursday at Imperial Arena.

“You make two plays at the end of regulation and overtime that basically gave us the win,” Kansas Coach Bill Self said. “We were not the best team today. We made some plays that allowed us to win.”

It was a game of mismatched Offensive performances for UW. The Badgers could barely connect on shots in the first half, but utilized their defense to prevent the Jayhawks, who took a 33-20 lead into the half, from running away with the game.

Then it started clicking for UW as they shot 48.3% in the second half to battle back and keep things interesting. Both teams struggled in overtime with the Badgers shooting 28.6% in the extra period and Kansas at 33.3%.

Kansas crushed UW on the boards 50-35, including 14 Offensive rebounds that translated into 11 second-chance points for the Jayhawks.

Wahl scored 14 of the last 16 points for UW to lead the team with 23. Essegian and Max Klesmit added 17 and 13, respectively.

Wisconsin senior Tyler Wahl finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Badgers’ 69-68 overtime loss to No. 3 Kansas Thursday in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Tim Aylen, Bahamas Visual Services via AP

Kansas’ Jalen Wilson led all players with 29 points as Kansas shot 38.7%

“We’re not into moral victories,” UW Coach Greg Gard said. “But this group showed me a lot today. We also learned that we have a lot of things that we can continue to get better at. These are the types of experiences you want early in the year. You obviously want different results, but the resolve and the grit and the willingness to keep battling and come back and play better in the second half … we just need to continue to put larger chunks of time together playing at a high level.”

The Badgers will play in the third-place game against USC at noon Friday.

Here are three things that stood out:

Kansas pulls away in the first half

UW’s defense held strong, holding Kansas to just 2-for-16 shooting until after the second media timeout of the game. The Jayhawks offense woke up after that with Gradey Dick hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to kick off the run.

Wilson and Kevin McCullar went a combined 7-for-17 to help the Jayhawks build their 13-point lead at the half. Wilson led the team with 10 points, followed by McCullar and Dick with nine points each. The closest Badgers in the first half were Essegian and Klesmit, both with six points before the half.

The Jayhawks were held to an uncharacteristic 37.5%, but limited UW to 30.8% in the first half.

“We did a lot of good things to get a lead at halftime,” Self said. “We did a lot of bad things to relinquish the lead. They did a lot of good things in both halves.”

Essegian impresses once again

Kansas was running away with the game in the second half when Essegian hit a clutch 3-pointer to cut the Jayhawks’ lead to eight points with 14:25 remaining. That play immediately followed a defensive play in which the freshman drew a foul on Harris.

Essegian grabbed a Steal and Drew a foul to give UW a chance on the Offensive end. They forced Kansas’ KJ Adams to lose control of the ball on the next defensive possession, forcing another turnover on Kansas.

They hit back-to-back shots — a 3-pointer and a jumper — to pull Wisconsin within just one point with 8:55 left in regulation. Essegian’s pass to Carter Gilmore in the paint gave UW its first lead of the second half at 52-50.

Essegian grabbed a major defensive rebound with 23.9 left in regulation and then hit a pair of free throws to give UW a 63-60 lead in the final minute of regulation.

“I was just out there just playing,” Essegian said. “For those (3-pointers) to go in, it was exciting. At the same time, we just really needed to claw back. We needed something to get going and that’s just kind of what happened. It was good energy to get us going.”

Hepburn continues to struggle

Chucky Hepburn may have scored earlier than he did in Wednesday’s win over Dayton, but his so-called “off day” has now extended through three games.

He tried to lift the ball up for a final shot at winning in overtime, but the buzzer sounded as it fell short. It was similar to a shot Hepburn made to beat Purdue last season.

Hepburn added his first two points nine minutes into the game, but would only add four more by the end of overtime. He shot 2-for-9 from the field, while hitting his only 3-point attempt of the day. They also led the Badgers with three of their six turnovers — many of which were uncharacteristic for the sophomore.

Hepburn has now shot 5-for-28 since UW’s win over UW-Green Bay on Nov. 15.


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