College basketball fans were treated to a nail-biter Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, as No. 8 Wisconsin defeated defending champions and No. 1 overall seed Villanova 65-62 at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.
CBS Sports noted thousands of brackets went up in smoke:
NCAA March Madness noted the result continued a trend of early losses from top seeds:
In a tense, tightly contested game throughout, Wisconsin went on a 15-5 run to close out the matchup, scoring key buckets in the final seconds.
Senior forward Nigel Hayes hit a reverse layup for Wisconsin with 11.4 seconds remaining to put the Badgers up 64-62. Josh Hart, easily the best player for Villanova on the day, drove to the rack on the Wildcats' next possession, but Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown tied him up and stripped the ball. Brown hit one free throw after being fouled, and Villanova couldn't get a shot off on the ensuing inbound.
Here is Hayes' shot, per NCAA March Madness:
After his team struggled for much of the game against Mount St. Mary's (the 76-56 final scoreline doesn't tell the full story), Villanova head coach Jay Wright knew that a second-round matchup against Wisconsin—runner-up in the 2015 tournament—would be no reprieve.
"I can't believe you're an eight seed," Wright told Badgers head coach Greg Gard, per ESPN's Dana O'Neil.
Wisconsin stuck to its tried-and-true game plan, bleeding the clock on offense, playing hard-nosed defense and pounding the ball into the paint. The Badgers shot 53.1 percent from the floor, and Hayes paced the team with 19 points and eight rebounds. It was a fine display for Hayes, who was playing in his school-record 149th game.
Hart finished with 19 points for Villanova, while freshman Donte DiVincenzo supplemented him with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting
WKBW's Joe Buscaglia was impressed with Hart's finishing at the rim during the game, even though he couldn't come up with the needed basket in the final seconds:
Sporting News' Sam Vecenie praised DiVincenzo's ability:
Kris Jenkins' shooting woes were a major factor in Villanova's tournament struggles. Despite hitting the national title game-winner last season, Jenkins had none of that brilliant touch in Rounds 1 and 2, shooting 2-of-13 vs. Mount St. Mary's and 2-of-9 against Wisconsin.
Jenkins was dreadful in the first half, going 1-of-7 from the floor, forcing bad shots and showing little interest in driving to the hoop. CSN New England's Robert Snyder had no patience for Jenkins' shot selection:
Brown's shooting stroke for Wisconsin was as smooth as his singing voice, as he knocked down a trio of three-pointers on the way to 10 points, three boards and two assists.
Foul trouble hindered Wisconsin's efforts for much of the game, as did turnovers. Ethan Happ sat out a big chunk of the first half with two early fouls, and Bronson Koenig had four fouls. D'Mitrik Trice also had three fouls before the midway point of the first half.
A slow start and poor shooting characterized Villanova's early struggles against both Wisconsin and Mount St. Mary's, but the Wildcats did a better job of hanging around with the Badgers in the first half courtesy of plenty of second-chance points, eight Wisconsin turnovers and foul trouble for Happ and Trice.
Great anticipation defense from Hart led to two easy first-half points, as CBS Sports illustrated:
Villanova is a balanced scoring team, with four players who averaged double figures on the season, but DiVincenzo and Hart accounted for Villanova's first 17 points of the game and 19 of the team's 27 points at halftime. Despite shooting under 30 percent from the floor as a team, the Wildcats went into the break down only four.
After trailing for nearly the entire game, Villanova took a 39-37 lead with around 13 minutes to go on a nifty two from Jalen Brunson, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half. This came just after Koenig picked up his fourth foul.
Brunson made one of the more impressive plays of the game soon after with this high-flying layup, as NCAA March Madness showed:
ESPN's Jason Wilde exhorted Hayes to carry his team through adversity in the second half:
Hayes did his part, operating as an offensive fulcrum down low and making key plays on defense, but it wasn't enough to get Wisconsin back on top until Happ hit a runner to make it 59-58 with 2:29 left.
Koenig, who finished with 17 points, hit two key three-pointers late. His shooting stroke was especially silky, as he went 7-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-6 from downtown.
USA Today's Nicole Auerbach felt people should have a better way to defend Koenig by now:
Early fouls hindered Happ, but he still finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Wisconsin will go on to play the winner of No. 5 Virginia and No. 4 Florida. It won't have to travel far, as that contest will be in Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Badgers have plenty of talent and experience with Happ, Hayes and Koenig. They should be a tough out in the Sweet 16.
Hayes said he was channeling Michael Jordan's baseline moves for his game-winning bucket, per NBA TV:
While Wright apparently couldn't fathom why Wisconsin was an eight seed, Gard made sure to let his team know that the seed is just a number.
"Seeds don't matter," Gard said, per the Associated Press' Tom Withers (via the Chicago Tribune). "I told these guys I don't care where we're seeded. We have to win six games. Let's start with these two this weekend."
Wright has enjoyed plenty of success with Villanova, and while the early exit surely stings, he was philosophical in his post-game comments.
"To me, there's no dishonor in losing in this tournament," said Wright, per Withers. "We've lived through it. You are judged by how you play in this tournament and that's the reality of it. So, you have to accept it."