Does anyone still think Wisconsin will finish near the bottom of the Big Ten this season?
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard learned a lot about his team against No. 3-ranked Kansas in Thursday’s Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals in Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Unranked UW, picked ninth in the Big Ten preseason poll, trailed 15 points at the start of the second half and eight at the end of regulation before battling to force overtime against the defending national champion .
Wisconsin took its final lead of the game on a field goal from Tyler Wahl, but reserve guard Bobby Pettiford caught a loose fly ball after a missed three-pointer and scored at the buzzer to give the Jayhawks a stunning 69-68 win.
The score of the box: Kansas 69, Wisconsin 68 (OT)
Related: Badgers struggle to score but beat Dayton in Battle 4 Atlantis
“We’re not into moral victories,” Gard said, “but this group showed me a lot today. We also learned that we have a lot of things we can continue to improve in.
“And those are the kinds of experiences you want at the start of the year. Obviously you want different results, but the determination and the courage and the will to keep fighting and coming back. … We just have to be able to put more time together. play at a high level.”
Kansas (6-0) extended its winning streak to 17 games, dating back to last season when the Jayhawks won the national title.
“We weren’t the best team today,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But we made a few plays and we got the win.”
UW (4-1) plays in the third-place game at noon Friday against USC. The Trojans (4-2) suffered a 73-66 overtime loss to No. 22 Tennessee in the second semifinal.
Wahl carried UW late in regulation and into overtime and finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Connor Essegian shot 6 of 12 and added 17 points, but failed to block Pettiford on the final possession. Max Klesmit added 13 for UW.
Starters Chucky Hepburn (six points) and Steven Crowl (four points) combined to make just 4 of 15 shots.
Jalen Wilson scored 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Kevin McCullar added 18 points for Kansas.
UW trailed by 13 points at halftime, 15 at the start of the second half and eight with 3:38 left in regulation.
The Gard team fought back and had chances to win at the end of regulation time and in overtime, but Kansas survived both times grabbing offensive rebounds and scoring.
Zach Clemence rebounded his missed three-pointer and passed out to McCullar, who hit a tying three-pointer with 12 seconds left in regulation. Replays showed Clemence’s right foot going out of bounds before he returned the ball.
However, Hepburn could have recovered the loose ball before it went out of bounds and then missed a jumper on UW’s subsequent possession.
“We have to get that last rebound back,” Gard said.
The Badgers failed to score on their first four possessions in overtime, with three misses and one turnover.
Trailing 65-63, UW called a timeout with 2:03 to go.
Wahl drove into the lane and missed but grabbed the rebound and scored and was fouled with 1:35 left. He hit the free throw to give UW a 66-65 lead.
Wilson was fouled with 1:15 remaining and made both free throws for a 67-66 lead.
Wahl missed a three-point shot, but he got a steal and UW called a timeout with 26 seconds left on the shot clock and 26.5 on the game clock.
Wahl scored from the hallway with 20 seconds left to give UW the lead, 68-67.
Timeout Kansas with 16.3 seconds left.
“That’s the type of player he is,” Gard said of Wahl. “He’s one of the best players in our league and the country. … He came back and made some big plays for us down the stretch. We’re not in that position with two opportunities on the final possession to grab this one, if not for him.
“I thought we had other guys on the pitch who helped us fight back. He’s one of them, but other guys stepped in and created energy for us as well.”
UW played terrific defense on final possession and forced a missed Clemence three-pointer, but Wahl, with Wilson on his back, was unable to secure the rebound.
The ball deflected from Wahl’s hands and appeared to be heading out of bounds. However, Pettiford sprinted beyond the three-point line on the left wing and snuck inside Essegian under the basket. When the ball went free, Pettiford caught it and scored on a reverse face-off to beat the buzzer and crush UW.
The shot was the only one Pettiford took, in 19 minutes.
“Once he shot it,” he said, “I just ran full speed, the ball fell into my hands and I just threw something and he went in. … It was a bit of luck and skill at the same time.”
For all the Badgers did well, including rallying to force overtime, they allowed 11 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds.
The Jayhawks got three points on the rebound at the end of regulation time and the game-winning field goal at the end of overtime.
“The last regulation game and overtime will be on them,” Gard said, “but there are so many plays under 69 possessions, so many things that if we could have done better here or there, we would have had a different result…
“A lot of things that we’ve done well defensively, but (also) things going through this strip and learning (should) help propel us forward.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Edged by No. 3 Kansas in Battle 4 Atlantis Semifinals
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