The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team isn’t ready to call it a season just yet.
The Badgers showed some grit down the stretch Sunday afternoon, pulling out a 75-71 victory over Liberty in a second-round National Invitation Tournament game at the Kohl Center.
Here are my initial thoughts on the game:
What I liked
Max Klesmit had a quiet day for the first 37-plus minutes of the game.
But the junior guard came to life down the stretch, scoring all seven of his points over the final 2 minutes, 11 seconds to help UW close out a tight game.
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Klesmit twice made shots to erase deficits, then sealed the win by draining two free throws with 6 seconds remaining.
UW has had trouble closing out games at times this season, but Klesmit made sure that wasn’t the case against the Flames.
• Speaking of quiet, Chucky Hepburn hadn’t had a big scoring game in over a month.
But he took over on Sunday, taking advantage of the smaller Flames by bullying his way to the rim. Hepburn finished with a career-high 27 points for the Badgers, who had 46 points in the paint and another 15 from the line.
What I didn’t like
Liberty isn’t an easy team to defend. Let’s get that out of the way right off the top.
But UW’s defense struggled to contain dribble penetration from Darius McGhee, who had a game-high 31 points.
It didn’t matter who was on McGhee, he’d wiggle his way to the paint and find a way to finish in traffic.
That said, kudos to UW for coming up big defensively on Liberty’s second-to-last possession. Carter Gilmore ended up on McGhee and did a great job of walling up and making McGhee take a tough shot, which missed.
• You want a player to have a little nasty in them. No problem with that.
But UW center Steven Crowl crossed the line late in the first half when he lost his cool and ended up being punished for it.
Crowl was mad at Liberty’s Shiloh Robinson after the two got tangled up in the post. Crowl snapped and delivered a forearm shiver to Robinson. He also said something as he was being pulled away from Robinson, resulting in a technical foul. A flagrant 1 foul was issued after a replay, meaning Liberty got four free throw attempts (it made three) and Crowl went from one foul to three fouls in a hurry.
The dumbest part about this whole sequence is that Crowl wasn’t exactly subtle about it: He did it right in front of official Brian McNutt.
What it means
UW advances to the quarterfinals. More postseason basketball is always a good thing for a team that needs experience in situations like this.
Props to the Kohl Center crowd, too. The fans filled the lower two bowls and brought the energy.
Fans praise Wisconsin men’s basketball’s effort in NIT win against Liberty
It takes a village
Klesmit super clutch. Crowl and Chucky really dominant. Respectable bench help. Got some D when it was needed most but must play better D next game. That McGhee guy was unreal. And the crowd was into it!
— Chris Davis (@cdavis20000) March 19, 2023
In the eye of the beholder
feel bad for the NIT haters – missed a top tier collegiate sporting event between 2 opponents that kept answering
These NIT games are a great stepping stone to next year
Excellent home atmosphere, hopefully those who think the KC depends on the students realize otherwise by now
— matt, at home: Volume 3 (@mtthffmn) March 19, 2023
Practice makes progress
The only way to get better at basketball is to play basketball
— Fred Ehle (@FredEhle) March 19, 2023
Great D by Gilmore vs. McGhee on the switch, tie up and free throws by Kamari also big. Bench did their job.
— Dennis Whitehead (@Badgerden1) March 19, 2023
Investment in the future
Liberty’s a really good team and that was a quality win. Fun to watch different competition outside the big ten. These two wins are going to pay dividends going into the off season
— Patrick Clark (@PatrickClark05) March 19, 2023
Taste of tournament life
This is a great oppurtunity for these younger guys to get comfortable in a tournament setting. If you look at teams in past years who have won the NIT it often bodes well for the following season. Xavier for example is now a 3-seed in the sweet 16
— Jack Swerdloff (@jack_swerdloff) March 19, 2023
Time and time again
Fans rip on carter Gilmore and he has has some inconsistent play at times, but the kid is tough and hustles. His iso d on McGee on a switch liberty wanted was solid d – maybe saved the game.
— MJC (@packerowner1958) March 19, 2023
Getting in on the action
Great game against a tough team. Fantastic participation from the fans! I think it helped down the stretch!
— mary regel (@mregel1) March 19, 2023
It’s certainly not worse
Winning the NIT is better than losing in round 1
— chris c (@ccnice1) March 19, 2023
Keep it moving
Crowl needs to look to pass out of the post more often. There were a couple of times when Essegian was wide open when his man showed a double-team, and Crowl didn’t even look to pass. Those guys behind the arc need to read that, too, and move to get more open on the double.
— Patrick Dopke (@PatDopke) March 19, 2023
Doctor knows best
I’m a physician who watched the first 30 minutes until I felt an aneurysm coming on😀. Go Badgers! I love it when Chucky has a good game. Glad we survived their sharpshooter.
— Carl Whalen, DO, PhD (@drcwhalen) March 19, 2023
Better late than never
This had what most recent brutal games haven’t – some luck! Liberty missed some very makeable shots at the end. Nice win, with some clutch FT shooting.
— Nick P Bassill (@NickPBassill) March 19, 2023
Staying in the fight
What a battle. Badgers made the big plays in the end this time. Excellent win.
— Scott L (@CCSO228) March 19, 2023
Finishing at Max power
Gutty win.. They made big plays down the stretch to advance. Chucky stepped up big time. Gotta love what they get out of Max.. 👍🏻👍🏻
— Paul Bergum (@paul_bergum) March 19, 2023
What’s not to like?
Badgers battled their butts off today against a good team. Crowd was into to it and a great defensive possession to end the game. Let’s Go!!
— Danny Zweifel (@wsd1988) March 19, 2023
More of the same
A quick view of the season in one game. Ups Downs with fun and drama all into one game. Glad they live on to fight another game
— mike kerry (@BadgerMike) March 19, 2023
A postseason one at that!
It’s a win!
— AZbrewergurl💙💛 (@AZbrewergurl) March 19, 2023
Not this season
Whew…can this team ever have an easy win? Love them!!
— Kristi Conway-Powers (@NoodlesP29) March 19, 2023
Stacking ’em up
Two in a row! Seemed like forever ago… But good effort. Badgers did what they should have done down low, and Liberty rode McGhee’s quickness which was a mismatch.
— Sam Malone (@Thee_SamMalone) March 19, 2023
Setting the tone
Badgers are a better team when Chucky attacks the basket. Great to see Tyler back in the groove in the second half. He was confident and willed his way to the rim and finished. Jordan, Carter, and Max with very clutch plays near the end. Max’s 3 and FT’s turned the tide for good.
— Austin Volden (@AVolden_89) March 19, 2023
No help at home
Gritty, gutty, ugly, but did what they had to do to get a win. Hepburn, great, Crowl great first half. What a shame that the refs appeared to be from Liberty’s conference. Need to shoot a lot better in the next game to have a chance. Great postseason experience for the young guys
— Doug Clemann (@DougClemann) March 19, 2023
From buzzer to buzzer
Great defense by the Badgers!! All game long. Much needed since we had maybe 1 three?? Good lesson for Crowl, but nice to see some emotion from him! Two in a row – how about that!!
— Mary Korn Erickson (@sixtiesfan) March 19, 2023
Max Klesmit = Clutch
— Brian Bruhn (@bcbruhn) March 19, 2023
No mutiny on the Badgers
They don’t quit. If the coach had lost the team, they would have.
— Bill Goman (@WibadgerfanBill) March 19, 2023
Contact Jim Polzin at firstname.lastname@example.org.