COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ethan Happ and his University of Wisconsin men’s basketball teammates didn’t know how to feel Sunday as they left the court and gathered in the visiting locker room at Value City Arena.
Disappointed? A little. Relieved? Absolutely.
It was also appropriate for Happ and Co. to feel some satisfaction following a 73-67 overtime victory over Ohio State once they let out a giant exhale and examined the big picture.
The victory — as crazy it was — clinched a double bye in the Big Ten tournament for the No. 21 Badgers, who are off until Friday and will head to the event at the United Center in Chicago as the No. 4 seed. UW likely will play fifth-seeded Maryland, unless the winner of the Rutgers-Nebraska first-round game upsets the Terrapins.
State Journal reporter Jim Polzin asked Badgers fans on Twitter what they thought of No. 21 Wisconsin's 73-67 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes…
To put itself in that position, the Badgers (22-9, 14-6 Big Ten) had to pick themselves up off the mat after blowing a 23-point lead during the second half against the Buckeyes.
“It’s going to be tough watching the film, that’s for sure, because there are going to be a lot of mistakes,” Happ said. “But the take-home message is we got what we came here to do, done. It is a little concerning that we kind of gave up that huge lead and we weren’t able to close, but we finished fourth in the Big Ten and that’s what we came in here to do.”
Had any of three results over the previous two days gone the other way, the Badgers would have been through to the Big Ten quarterfinal round regardless of whether or not they beat Ohio State. But victories by Maryland, Purdue and Michigan State meant the Badgers had to take care of business on their own.
They did it — the hard way.
“It’s never easy in this league,” UW coach Greg Gard said. “We made it harder than it needed to be.”
The 21st-ranked University of Wisconsin men's basketball team pulled out a 73-67 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in overtime on Sunday at…
First, the positives, starting with Khalil Iverson. The senior forward posted career highs with 22 points and 14 rebounds, his second double-double in four days after not recording any in the first 130 games of his UW career.
Iverson, who set the tone in overtime with baskets on back-to-back possessions, has now reached double figures in scoring five times in six games.
“I had a lot of confidence when I was getting the ball,” he said, “and just going at whoever was guarding me and finishing down low and playing through contact.”
Happ, meanwhile, flirted with a triple-double and finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. Sophomore guard Brad Davison added 14 points, including a pair of important free throws in the extra session.
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Another positive: For about 33 minutes, the Badgers looked pretty good against a team that, granted, was missing its best player. UW’s defense was terrific in the first half, and its offense was clicking after halftime with Happ and Iverson producing in the paint to open scoring opportunities for Davison and others on the perimeter.
When Davison scored underneath off a feed from Happ with 7 minutes, 14 seconds to play in the second half, UW led 58-36 and some Ohio State fans started heading toward the exits.
Then all hell broke loose.
“I feel like we just got too comfortable,” Iverson said. “Anything can obviously happen, and the worst possible thing happened. So we just have to learn from this and finish the game.”
An 11-0 run gave hope to the Buckeyes (18-13, 8-12), but UW still appeared to be in control after a pair of free throws by Iverson and a basket by Happ. At that point, the Badgers led 62-47 with 3:57 left.
Ohio State outscored UW 16-1 the rest of the way to force overtime. And even getting to the extra session required a few breaks for the Badgers, who survived a miss by senior guard C.J. Jackson with 1.3 seconds remaining and a desperation heave from senior Keyshawn Woods at the buzzer.
The Badgers tried to regroup in the huddle knowing they’d been outscored 27-5 over the final 6:45 of regulation. Ohio State deserved some credit for that surge — Jackson (22 points), Woods and Justin Ahrens played key roles — but some of the damage for UW was self-inflicted on both ends of the court.
The Badgers arrived at that moment having lost their previous three overtime games this season. Gard’s message? “It was, ‘All right, we survived that, let’s get back to being ourselves and see if we can win this next five minutes,’ ” he said.
Happ admitted he was exhausted and happy to see Iverson take over. The bouncy senior tipped in his own miss while being fouled to give UW the lead for good with 3:13 remaining. The next time down the court, Iverson finished with his left hand over Musa Jallow to make it 67-64 with 2:23 left.
Happ made 2 of 4 free throws over two possessions to give UW a 69-65 lead with 43.8 seconds remaining and, after Woods scored to cut the lead to two, Davison made two free throws with 25.9 seconds to restore the Badgers’ four-point cushion.
After Woods airballed a 3-pointer, sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice made two free throws with 12.9 seconds left to effectively seal a win that helped UW finish 7-3 in Big Ten road games.
Ohio State, which fell to 0-3 without suspended center Kaleb Wesson, went 1 of 5 from the field in overtime. The Buckeyes scored only four points in nine possessions in the extra session after producing 27 points in 12 possessions during their late rally.
The Badgers never trailed in the game, even though it probably felt like they were in a hole after collapsing late in regulation. Afterward, Gard touched on all the feelings — disappointment, relief, satisfaction — during his postgame news conference.
“As I told the guys,” Gard said, “we’ve got to be a lot better than that or we won’t dance long in this month.”