LAS VEGAS – Wisconsin’s season of frustration and missed opportunities ended in style in the NIT semifinals.
The Badgers missed their last 10 shots, remained scoreless in the final 9 minutes and 5 seconds, scored just 13 points in the second half and watched North Texas en route to a 56-54 victory Tuesday night at Orleans Arena 12-point halftime deficit overcame .
UW’s final possession ended after a time-out with 5.8 seconds left when Tyler Wahl turned over a pass to Steven Crowl. Wahl had missed two free throws by 49.1 seconds and UW down, 56-54.
The loss ended a disappointing season for the Badgers, who ended 20-15.
BOX RESULT: North Texas 56, Wisconsin 54
Head coach Greg Gard and his staff expect most key players to return next season. They also hope senior Tyler Wahl will take advantage of his COVID exception and return for a fifth season like Brad Davison did last season.
The staff have already contacted several players who entered the transfer portal.
Chucky Hepburn led UW by 15 points in the first half. Connor Essegian and Wahl finished with 12 each. Steven Crowl added 10.
Essegian hit a three at 9:06 left to put UW 54:46 ahead, but the mean green dominated the stretch.
Moulaye Sissoko (seven points) hit the winner’s basket via Wahl with 2:09 to go.
Senior Guards Tylor Perry (17.3 ppg, 41.9% three-point shooting) and Kai Huntsberry (12.0 ppg, 31.3 three-point shooting) scored 16 and 12 points, respectively, for North Texas.
Junior guard Rubin Jones leveled the game with a basket in the lane, ending the game with 12 points.
The Mean Green entered the No. 1 game nationally for scoring defense, allowing just 55.7 points per game. They kept nine opponents under the 50-point mark and had teams limited to just 30.1% three-point shooting.
The Badgers, who had shot just 24.0% from three-point range in their last five games, came out red hot.
With Hepburn hitting his first 5 three-pointers, the Badgers were 6 of 11 from three-point range and 11 of 18 overall while building a 32-21 lead with 8:15 at the half.
UW finished the first half with 7/17 from three-point range (41.7) and led 41-29. However, they hit just 1 of 8 threes and 6 of 25 shots overall in the second half and withered.
Hepburn opened the scoring with a three just 24 seconds into the game and kept firing. He gave UW a 10-3 lead with his second three, a 24-16 lead with his third, a 29-21 lead with his fourth, and a 32-21 lead with his fifth three by halftime.
Perry and Huntsberry kept North Texas relatively close — 41-29 — by scoring 14 and eight points, respectively.
North Texas played with more tenacity on defense to open the second half and UW started turning the ball around.
The Badgers had four turnovers in the first 4:51 of the half, one more than in the entire first half.
North Texas opened the half by hitting their first 3 threes to reduce UW’s lead to 47-42. Crowl responded with a basket on the lane to calm the Badgers and take the lead to 49-42 with 14:24 left. Essegian hit with a drive to take the lead to 51-42, but Sissoko hit inside and Jones followed with a basket inside after a UW turnover, leaving the lead at 51-46 with 11:09.
The lead was still five when Essegian caught a pass from Carter Gilmore and buried a three with 9:06 left.
That ended a run of five goalless possessions for UW and increased their lead to 54-46. However, UW missed his next four shots and Crowl lost the ball near the basket. That allowed North Texas to pull within 54-50 and the Badgers called a timeout with 5:35 left.
A Max Klesmit turnover in the inbound resulted in a foul on Hepburn and two shots for Huntsberry. He hit both free throws to reduce UW’s lead to 54-52 with 5:31.
The Badgers missed their next three shots and then Hebpurn lost the ball out of bounds on a 3:04 left drive.
Jones scored against Essegian by 2:46 to level a 54-54 tie; Essegian fired a three-pointer in the air; and Sissoko hit inside over choice for a 56-54 lead in North Texas with 2:09 left.
The Badgers, who missed their last eight shots, called a timeout with 2:02 left.
North Texas missed twice and Wahl was fouled with 49.1 seconds left. Wahl missed both free throws and was two points behind.
Essegian came up with a steal, Wahl saw his shot go inside and UW called a time-out with 5.8 seconds left after Klesmit spotted the loose ball.
Wahl got the ball inside but tried to feed Crowl on the other side of the lane. Crowl couldn’t handle the pass and time ran out.
UW’s season ended one win short of the NIT title game as its offense failed again.
BRACKET:Updated NIT Tournament Matchups
MORE ABOUT NORTH TEXAS:Here are 5 things to know about Mean Green, the best defensive team in the country
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This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin falls to North Texas in the NIT semifinals
Source : sports.yahoo.com