After a narrow win over Dayton on Wednesday as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team Drew the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks in the semifinals of the tournament.
The Jayhawks came into the contest winners of 16-straight games dating back to last season, while the Badgers were hoping to pull off the upset to maintain their undefeated record this year.
In a back-and-forth game featuring several big runs by both teams, the Jayhawks won a nailbiter in overtime, 69-68.
Here is a look back at Wisconsin’s last-second loss on Thanksgiving.
Following an early three-point make by Kansas, the Badgers would get to work inside, with Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl combining to give UW a 4-3 lead at the first media timeout.
Following the timeout, Connor Essegian would give Wisconsin a quick layup off the bench on a beautiful feed from Tyler Wahl as the Jayhawks continued to struggle on offense. With the Badgers unable to generate much of anything on offense either, the two teams would take a 6-6 tie into the second media timeout.
Over the next few minutes, the two teams would find an answer on offense. Kansas forward Gradey Dick got the scoring started with a pair of three-point makes for the Jayhawks, and then Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian would combine to add five points for the Badgers to make it a 14-11 lead for Kansas.
After a free throw by Max Klemsit, back-to-back Threes by Jalen Wilson and Kevin McCullar of Kansas within 30 seconds would force Greg Gard to take a timeout, as the Jayhawks had an 8-point advantage with just under eight minutes left to play in the first half.
Klemsit would help the Badgers respond with a corner three, but Kansas would continue to add to their lead over the next few minutes, as the Badgers missed 7-of-8 shot attempts. By the next media timeout, the Jayhawks had a 26-15 edge.
Makes by Isaac Lindsey, Max Klesmit, and Tyler Wahl would help trim the deficit, but a late three by Gradey Dick would give Kansas a 33-20 lead at halftime.
The Badgers would find some success on offense in the early moments of the second half. Wisconsin went inside with Chucky Hepburn, Steven Crowl, and Tyler Wahl providing a spark and a 6-3 scoring margin to begin the half.
A three-pointer by Jalen Wilson of Kansas and a two-minute scoring drought by the Badgers shortly thereafter though would maintain a 13-point advantage in favor of the Jayhawks with 15:52 remaining.
Coming out of the brief break, Connor Essegian responded with back-to-back Threes to gain some momentum, and then a Breakaway layup by Max Klemsit on a Steal would make it an 8-point game with just under 13 minutes left.
After free throw makes by Tyler Wahl and Chucky Hepburn, as well as a putback by Carter Gilmore, Wisconsin was within three points at 10:30 on the clock.
Five points by Connor Essegian would further fuel the Badgers’ comeback bid before Max Klesmit tied the game up with a huge three-pointer to make it 48-48 at the eight-minute mark.
Free throws by both teams would keep the score up, but the Badgers grab a lead on a layup by Carter Gilmore off a pretty feed from Connor Essegian.
Jalen Wilson would connect on two straight baskets to re-establish a lead for Kansas with five minutes remaining, and then Kevin McCullar drilled a corner three to give the Jayhawks a 10-0 run and a 60-52 lead with 3:38 left to play.
Coming out of the final media timeout, Tyler Wahl absolutely took over for Wisconsin. The senior forward made four straight baskets to give the Badgers a 61-60 lead with 49 seconds on the clock.
After a pair of Connor Essegian free throws to extend the Wisconsin lead to 63-60, Kevin McCullar would connect on a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to tie the game up and send it to overtime.
In OT, Tyler Wahl would come up with a huge three-point play at the 1:35 mark to give Wisconsin a narrow lead. The Jayhawks would regain a one-point lead with Jalen Wilson sinking a pair of free throws, but the Badgers had the ball with 26 seconds left.
From there, Tyler Wahl would snatch the lead back with a layup, but the Jayhawks would get a remarkable putback by Bobby Pettiford at the buzzer to win it 69-68.
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Players of note
- Connor Essegian (Wisconsin)
Stats: 17 points (6-of-12 shooting), five rebounds, and an assist in 31 minutes
With points once again hard to come by, the true freshman came up big for the Badgers. Coming off the bench, Essegian played key minutes for Wisconsin and spearheaded a 12-2 run in the second half while finishing second on the team with 17 points.
The young guard played well on both ends of the court and came down with multiple rebounds and an impressive steal in the second half that came as the team was generating some momentum. Essegian continues to be the top scoring threat for Greg Gard and the Badgers this season.
Stats: 13 points (4-of-6 shooting), one rebound, and two assists in 43 minutes
A day after coming up with a game-sealing block to beat Dayton, Klesmit put together another strong showing against Kansas. The Wofford transfer was gritty on both ends of the court and was extremely efficient on offense making 2-of-3 attempts from deep.
Stats: 23 points (8-of-19 shooting), 10 rebounds, and two assists in 35 minutes
Tyler Wahl had himself a day on Thursday. The senior forward put the team on his back late in regulation with a personal scoring run to send it to overtime after being down by eight. In the end, Wahl finished with 23 points and was 7-of-8 from the free throw line with three steals and another double-double.
Stats: 29 points (9-of-20 shooting), and 14 rebounds in 40 minutes
Jalen Wilson was the best player on the court. Wilson led all scorers with 29 points and also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. In a game where Kansas needed points, Wilson consistently provided the scoring.
The first half was eerily similar to how the Badgers had played all year long. Defensively, Wisconsin was great, holding the Jayhawks to 1-of-13 shooting to begin the game, and only allowing 69 total points with overtime to a Kansas team that averaged 80 points per game.
However, the Badgers struggled to score in the first half, specifically missing several opportunities near the hoop. Despite their shooting woes early on, Wisconsin made a crucial 12-2 run in the second half that swung the momentum of the game. Connor Essegian and Max Klesmit made big shots to help tie the game up after being in a 13-point hole at halftime. The run was powered by their defense, forcing five turnovers in four minutes of action, and holding the Jayhawks scoreless for over two minutes.
In the end, Tyler Wahl came up big down the stretch when the Badgers needed him as well. While Kansas came up with a miraculous finish to avoid the upset, Wisconsin played well against the reigning national Champions and that is notable. The Badgers were down by as many as 13 at one point and showed some impressive fight to not only take it to overtime but hold a lead with seconds remaining.
Wisconsin proved that they can play with anyone on Thursday.
Photos of the game
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With the loss, Wisconsin will play at noon on Friday in the third-place game. The Badgers will take on the loser of USC and Tennessee, with the game aired on ESPN2.
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