With a spot in the “Elite 8” on the line, the Wisconsin Badgers are wishing they had a do-over.
The Badgers led most of the night, but blew a three-point lead in the final 20 seconds and fell to Notre Dame 61-56 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Wisconsin turned the ball over 17 times, including ten in the second half and two in the final half-minute.
Ethan Happ had 14 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out in the final minute. Nigel Hayes and Zak Showalter added 11 points each, but it’s the turnovers that stand out.
The Badgers, who pride themselves on taking care of the ball, didn’t show it last night.
Hayes had a team-high six turnovers for the Badgers. And Bronson Koenig, who was the hero just one game earlier, hit just one of six three-pointers and three of 12 overall from the field to finish with eight points. He also turned the ball over in the final seconds, stripped by Demetrius Jackson near midcourt.
Two Irish free throws later and the Badgers were done.
Notre Dame shot just 24% from the field in the first half, but rebounded to shoot 57% in the second.
The Badgers should have been game planning for Sunday’s “Elite 8” game against North Carolina. Instead, they’ll be playing this one through their minds for a while.
Certainly, Greg Gard and his team can take pride in where they came from (9-9 after Jan. 12 loss at Northwestern) and where they finished. The Badgers closed out with a 13-4 record in their final 17 games to finish the season at 22-13.
Gard will have most of his roster back for next season, although he’ll have to wait to find out what forward Nigel Hayes is thinking. Hayes has talked in the past about his desire to play in the N-B-A, possibly after this season.
When asked after the game, Hayes said he didn’t want to talk about that right now. The Badger forward said he plans to evaluate several factors in making his decision.