Cinderella apparently couldn’t score a ticket for Wisconsin’s opening-round NCAA Tournament game.
Sure, No. 14 Colgate made it to Fiserv Forum Friday night.
And the Raiders, who entered the tournament riding a 15-game winning streak, battled UW for 30-plus minutes before the Badgers turned up the heat defensively and then let Johnny Davis fill the role of closer.
Davis scored UW’s final 14 points and finished with a game-high 25 and the Badgers held Colgate to two field goals and a total of eight points over the final 10 minutes 39 seconds to rally for a 67-60 victory in front of a raucous crowd .
“Colgate’s a terrific team,” UW coach Greg Gard said. “Saw that from watching all the film that we were able to look at through the week. Credit to our guys, I thought defensively the middle part of the second half on we got really good…
“Terrific win. Any win in this tournament’s obviously terrific and look forward to moving on to Sunday.”
The Badgers (25-7) advance to face No. 11 Iowa State (21-12) at 5:10 pm Sunday. The game is to be on TNT.
BOX SCORE: Wisconsin 67, Colgate 60
RELATED: Racine native Tyrese Hunter leads Iowa State to second round
Freshman guard Tyrese Hunter, a graduate of Racine St. Catherine’s High School, hit 7 of 11 three-pointers and finished with 23 points in the Cyclones’ 59-54 victory over No. 11 LSU earlier Friday. Former Penn State standout Izaiah Brockington added 19 points for the Cyclones.
By the time UW took the Fiserv Forum court, No. 2 Kentucky, two fifth-seeded teams (Iowa and Connecticut) and No. 6 Alabama had been usted from the tournament.
“As far as upsets go, it’s March Madness,” junior forward Tyler Wahl said. “Nothing’s promised after this one game. Everyone’s fighting for 40 more minutes.”
The Badgers came out cold, trailed by seven points early and trailed for a combined 19:59 overall. They took the lead for good, 53-52, with 9:09 left on a banked three-pointer by Steven Crowl. Crowl finished 1 of 3 from three-point range and contributed five points and five rebounds.
“That was a big shot by Steve,” said Davis, who added eight rebounds.
UW then relied on defense and Davis, who hit just 3 of 11 shots in the first half but hit 5 of 9 shots after halftime.
Wahl, who contributed 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block, kept the ball alive in the lane after Crowl missed a three-pointer.
Davis corralled the loose ball, scored and was fouled. He hit the free throw for a 56-52 lead with 5:59 left.
“He’s done that all year in terms of key rebounds at big times,” Gard said of Wahl, who scored 11 points in the second half. “I thought he could have finished a little better in the paint, but we kept trying to play through him as much as we could just because of his versatility at passing and the pressure it puts on the defense.
“Obviously he’s got a nose for the ball and he’s hungry and he understands how important resetting those possessions when he does get those offensive rebounds are.”
Davis then scored on back-to-back possessions and added two free throws, each time pushing UW’s lead to six points.
When he buried a three-pointer after a Colgate turnover, UW’s lead was 65-56 with 1:27 left.
The Raiders were finished.
Why was Davis, who struggled to score early, so confident late in the game?
“My teammates and coaches,” he said. “Towards the end of the game, coach was calling plays for me and my teammates told me to keep shooting the ball.”
Chucky Hepburn (8.2 ppg) added eight points, six rebounds and five assists and Brad Davison finished with four points and four assists.
Chris Vogt (six points, two rebounds) and Ben Carlson (four points, three rebounds) came off the bench to spark UW.
After Colgate took a 52-48 lead on two free throws by Jeff Woodward with 10:40 left, the UW held the Raiders to 2-for-11 shooting and forced five turnovers.
“I think the first and most important thing is credit to Wisconsin,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “They played a lot of close games and I think we saw the result of all those close games tonight…
“I think Wisconsin amped up their defensive intensity a little bit more.”
Colgate entered the tournament No. 2 nationally in three-point accuracy (40.3%) and No. 7 in three-pointers made per game (9.9). The Raiders shot at least 40.0% from three-point range in 20 of 34 games, including six of at least 50.0%.
The Raiders hit just 4 of 12 attempts in the opening half but hit 6 of 10 attempts after halftime to finish 10 of 22 (45.5%).
Senior guard Nelly Cummings led Colgate with 20 points, but only six came after halftime. Senior guard Tucker Richardson (15 points) hit 4 three-pointers in the second half to keep UW from taking control until later and finished 5 of 10 overall from three-point range.
“We were really confident the whole game,” Cummings said. “But some shots didn’t fall down the stretch and they made some shots, so the result is what it is.”
The result was this: UW advanced to the second round and Colgate saw its winning streak end at 15 games.
Another tournament upset was averted thanks to UW’s defense and Davis’ ability to close.
“I would say he hates losing more than he likes winning,” Gard said. “I’ve always said he’s very competitive and that’s probably No. 1 on his skill set from him.
“I thought he got going pretty good in the second half there and fortunately took good shots, got to the foul line. He does what great players do, when the lights get bright, they step up.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism