Whether the Badgers win the national championship this season or not, you can bet that Bronson Koenig will be prominently featured in the annual "One Shining Moment" highlight video.
Koenig — one of the two returning key players from Wisconsin's march to the national title game a season ago — took an inbounds pass with two seconds left on the clock and nailed an arching corner 3-pointer to give the Badgers a 66-63 buzzer-beating win over Xavier and a ticket to the Sweet Sixteen on Sunday night in St. Louis.
Koenig's game-winning triple was one of a handful of heroic plays made in the final minute by the Badgers, who after trailing by nine with six and a half minutes to play, outscored Xavier, 17-5, over the final six minutes to pull off the upset victory. It was another Koenig 3 — he had six on the night — that tied the game at 63 with 18 seconds left. That shot was followed up by Zak Showalter drawing a charge on Xavier's Edmond Sumner to not only prevent a try at a go-ahead basket by the Musketeers but give the ball back to the Badgers with five seconds left, making Koenig's game-winner possible.
A closely contested game the whole way through was tied at 49 when Nigel Hayes made just his second bucket of the game just past the midway point of the second half. From there, though, Xavier blitzed out on a 9-0 run to create the biggest gap of separation that either team had on the evening. Wisconsin chipped away, Ethan Happ and Koenig combining on four made free throws to cut the lead to six, and then a Happ steal turned into a Showalter layup to make it a four-point game inside of five minutes to play. Happ laid one in with about two minutes to go, but when Hayes split a pair of free throws, the second of which could have tied the game, it looked like a glaring missed opportunity. Even after a stop, Happ was bodying down low and fell out of bounds, the nearest official surprising observers by calling Happ out of bounds rather than a foul on Xavier. Sumner turned that turnover into a bucket that put the Musketeers up three, but that's when Koenig hit the first of his last-minute triples.
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Xavier was one of the top-scoring teams in college basketball this season, averaging more than 81 points a game. But in typical Wisconsin fashion, the Badgers slowed things down and held the Musketeers to almost 20 points below that average. Xavier shot just 40.7 percent from the field, Wisconsin shooting 42.4 percent. Neither team shot particularly well from 3-point range, the Badgers going 8-for-27 and the Musketeers going 5-for-16.
Koenig's 20 points led all scorers, all six of his made field goals coming from behind the 3-point line. The six triples were a career high. Happ finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Vitto Brown scored 12 points. The Badgers won despite a lackluster performance from the All-Big Ten First Team selection Hayes, who scored just six points on 2-for-10 shooting and 0-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.
This is Wisconsin's third straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen following back-to-back Final Four runs and fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last six seasons. The accomplishment is an incredible one for Greg Gard, who coached his first game as the Badgers' permanent head coach just a week and a half ago at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. The marvelous turnaround this season continues. On Jan. 12, following a loss to Northwestern, Wisconsin was 9-9 and 1-4 in conference play. But the Badgers rattled off seven straight wins and wins in 11 of 12 games, turning themselves into an NCAA tournament lock. Now they're making noise in the Big Dance and with a win over the No. 2 seed in the East Region will play No. 6 seed Notre Dame next weekend for a trip to their third consecutive Elite Eight.