Wisconsin advanced to the Sweet Sixteen on an unbelievable shot in the final seconds of a win over Xavier. Friday in the Sweet Sixteen, the final seconds weren't nearly as kind to the Badgers, though they were equally unbelievable.
Vitto Brown's tie-breaking 3-pointer gave Wisconsin a 56-53 lead with 28 seconds left, but Notre Dame came away with a pair of steals to fuel an 8-0 run over the game's final 19 seconds to stun with a 61-56 win to advance to the Elite Eight and leave the Badgers wondering what the heck just happened in Philadelphia.
The Badgers led by as many as nine in the second half, and their lead was eight with under 14 minutes left to play. But Notre Dame burst out on a 12-3 run from there to come within a point. And despite four straight points from Zak Showalter, the Fighting Irish grabbed a lead moments later. The shots started falling after a generally sleep-inducing game that featured little in the way of offensive production, with Brown and Nigel Hayes hitting 3s but Notre Dame answering. A Zach Auguste dunk tied the score at 51 with about two minutes to go, and an Ethan Happ layup gave the Badgers back the lead before he fouled out on the other end.
Auguste's ensuing free throws tied the game at 53 in the final minute before Brown's clutch tie-breaking triple. Demetrius Jackson answered immediately with a layup, then came the game's biggest play, with Hayes taking the inbounds pass and inexplicably tried to dribble between defenders, fumbling the ball away, leading to another Jackson layup, this one giving the Irish the lead with 14 seconds left. Bronson Koenig flew down the court and drove right to the hoop, passing on the Badgers' two timeouts and missing the layup. Notre Dame hit two more free throws to make it a three-point game, then Jackson stole the ball away from Koenig on Wisconsin's make-it-or-break-it possession and hit two more free throws to ice the game.
[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Badgers gear right here]
The result was a shocking one considering the Badgers had a lead with 19 seconds to go, but the final moments of the game were equally unexpected following a slog of a game that featured offensive ineptitude by both teams. Notre Dame scored just 19 first-half points and shot just 24.1 percent in the first half, but Wisconsin wasn't much better, shooting 34.6 percent from the field. By game's end, the Badgers raised their shooting percentage to 40.4 percent and the Irish were at 40 percent. The difference? Notre Dame shot 57.7 percent over the final 20 minutes.
Wisconsin had 17 turnovers in the game, while Notre Dame had 12.
Happ led the Badgers with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Hayes and Showalter each scored 11 points.
V.J. Beachem led all scorers with 19 points, with Jackson adding 16 points and Auguste recording a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Wisconsin's season came to a screeching halt with the loss, just its fourth in the last 17 games. Greg Gard's first season ended with a 22-13 overall record.