Heartbreak. It always ends in heartbreak…at least for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Whether it has been in the Final Four, the national championship game or the Elite 8, the ending has never been fun for UW basketball.
Add the Sweet 16 to that list of heartbreak for the Badgers, as they were downed 84-83 in overtime by the Florida Gators.
Even after UW came back from down 12 points, tying it up on Zak Showalter’s incredible one-footed three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining…it still ended in heartbreak for the Badgers.
Zak Showalter hit this shot to tie it.
Looked at Aaron Rodgers and did the double-check.
He is officially a legend. pic.twitter.com/MhBn62vmtI
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 25, 2017
However, Showalter’s late-game heroics were just the appetizer. That’s because Florida guard Chris Chiozza decided to go all buzzer beater for an 84-83 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers in overtime.
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) March 25, 2017
The Badgers appeared to just find enough to get the job done prior to that incredible shot. Senior Nigel Hayes knocked down a pair of free throws with four seconds left in the overtime period to put the Badgers up 83-81.
They were especially clutch considering Hayes, who finished with a team-high 22 points, was just 7 of 14 from the free throw line. However, UW would come to regret missing five free throws in overtime alone.
Wisconsin was just 20 of 30 from the charity stripe in the game, but made up for it by shooting a ridiculous 50.9 percent from the field and holding Florida to 45.2 percent from the field.
KeVaughn Allen propelled the Gators for much of this game, pouring in a NCAA tournament school record 35 points. He was the only Florida player in double figures on the night, and they needed every single point from Allen possible.
In fact, they could’ve used some more in regulation, as Allen’s hot shooting went cold late and nearly cost his team the game. Allen was bailed out thanks to a roster that was deep, with eight players scoring in total for the Gators.
Hayes had much more in the way of scoring help, as sophomore forward Ethan Happ had a quiet 21 points, six rebounds and four assists on the night. All five Badgers starters would finish in double digits, as Showalter (14), Koenig (13) and Brown (10) nearly were enough to get UW over the finish line.
Wisconsin owned much of the first 10 minutes of the game. It all came to a crashing halt though, and not coincidentally it was all about what was happening with Hayes.
The senior forward was on fire for most of the first half, putting up nine of his 22 points in the first stanza of the game. However, he picked up a second foul with 4:25 to play and with the Badgers leading 27-20.
Florida took advantage of Hayes being on the bench, going on a 14-5 run to end the half up 34-32. The Gators were aided by some big time mental mistakes by the Badgers as well.
UW had nine turnovers in the first half and twice needlessly fouled three-point shooters with the clock running out. Florida buried all six of those free throws and what was two-point Badgers advantage at 30-28 with 1:18 to play in the half became a two-point deficit instead.
Koenig was completely held in check in the first half, taking just three shots and putting up three points. However, Brown picked up his fellow senior with all 10 of his points in the first half to lead all UW scorers.
The second half seemed like it was a slow slide down the losers poll for the Badgers. UW came out hungry to start the half and quickly tied the game up on a Showalter jumper on the opening possession. But, Florida responded by putting up a 5-0 run and control the flow of the game from there.
After Happ made it 39-37 to Florida with a three-point play, Florida ripped off a 6-0 run and opened up a 45-37 lead with 16:24 to play in the game.
The Gators, led by Allen’s crazy shooting eventually pulled away by 12 points at 68-56 with 5:24 to play. From that point forward, it was all Wisconsin’s seniors willing the Badgers back bit, by bit.
Said seniors led a Badgers comeback that featured a 16-4 run to end regulation, including Showalter’s crazy shot to send the game in to overtime.
The rest they say is history, which is a good way to talk about this senior class. Brown, Hayes, Koenig and Showalter were part of 115 wins in the last four years, which is tied for the best four-year mark in school history.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg for this class’ long list of accomplishments, but it is also a season that ended the same way the last four did — finding heartbreaking ways to exit the NCAA tournament.
We’ll have to wait until November for more Badgers basketball, and it may take that long for the players and fans to get over this crazy loss.