NCAA tournament first round: Badgers 47, Pittsburgh 43

NCAA tournament first round: Badgers 47, Pittsburgh 43

March 18, ScottTrade Center in St. Louis

Season record: 21-12

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ST. LOUIS – The members of the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team could only imagine what the outside world was saying about what happened Friday night at the Scottrade Center.

“I guarantee Twitter is probably complaining about Wisconsin basketball,” junior guard Zak Showalter said after the Badgers’ 47-43 victory over Pittsburgh in an NCAA tournament first-round game. “But, hey, we’re advancing, that’s all that matters.”

Redshirt freshman Ethan Happ scored 12 of his game-high 15 points after halftime to help UW win despite finishing with its lowest point total of the season to date.

Junior forward Nigel Hayes added 12 points to help the seventh-seeded Badgers (21-12) move one step closer to their fifth appearance in the Sweet 16 in the last six seasons. UW will meet Xavier (28-5), a No. 2 seed in the East Region, in a round of 32 game on Sunday at approximately 7:45 p.m. The game will be broadcast on TNT.

UW moved on despite trailing for much of the game, including by double digits in the first half. The final margin matched the Badgers’ largest lead of the game.

How were the Badgers able to turn what would have been an ugly loss into a win that was, well, ugly? By showing the requisite toughness required to beat an opponent that has built a reputation for being gritty and physical.

“In reality – and coaches don’t want to admit it – that’s what basketball boils down to,” Badgers assistant coach Lamont Paris said. “Yeah, sure, if you shoot 70 percent from the field, you’re going to win even if you don’t do some of those other things. But if you do those things every single game, you’re mainly going to end up on top unless you have a putrid day from the field.”

UW’s offensive performance against the Panthers (21-12) qualifies as putrid.

The Badgers shot 32.1 percent overall from the field and 21.1 percent from 3-point range. It took 15 minutes, 33 seconds into the game before UW reached even double figures on the scoreboard.

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