On Wis­con­sin!

Badgers oust top-seeded Vil­lanova

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Tom With­ers

buf­falo, n.y.» When the sea­son ended sud­denly and shock­ingly, much ear­lier than Vil­lanova ex­pected, Kris Jenk­ins bent over in dis­be­lief near mid­court.

There would be no game-win­ning shot, no confetti-filled cel­e­bra­tion, no more games. The de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons — and No. 1 over­all seed — are done. On Wis­con­sin. After two rel­a­tively rou­tine days, mad­ness re­turned to the NCAA Tour­na­ment on Satur­day as top-seeded Vil­lanova was bounced from the brack­ets and the East re­gion 65-62 by No. 8 seed Wis­con­sin, which added an­other ma­jor up­set to its ré­sumé and stormed into the Sweet 16 for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

Nigel Hayes scored 19 points, drop­ping a layup in traf­fic with 11.4 sec­onds left, and Bron­son Koenig shook off foul trou­ble and added 17 for the tour­na­ment-tough­ened Badgers (27-9), who will play next week at New York’s Madi­son Square Gar­den after knock­ing off a Vil­lanova team that never found its trac­tion in snowy Buf­falo.

“Seeds don’t mat­ter,” Wis­con­sin coach Greg Gard said. “I told these guys I don’t care where we’re seeded. We have to win six games. Let’s start with

«FROM 1C these two this week­end.” Mis­sion ac­com­plished. Se­nior Josh Hart scored 19 to lead the Wild­cats, but the guard was bot­tled up and stripped by Wis­con­sin’s Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown on a drive in the fi­nal sec­onds. Brown then split two free throws with 4 sec­onds left, but Vil­lanova strug­gled to cor­ral the re­bound and then couldn’t get off a fi­nal shot.

It was a bit­ter end­ing for the Wild­cats, who were try­ing to be the first team to re­peat as cham­pi­ons since 2007. But start­ing with an unim­pres­sive per­for­mance against No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s in its opener Thurs­day, Vil­lanova looked vul­ner­a­ble and in­stead be­came the first No. 1 seed to be sent home.

“To me, there’s no dis­honor in los­ing in this tour­na­ment,” said coach Jay Wright, whose team lost as a No. 2 in Buf­falo three years ago. “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.”

When the horn sounded, Wis­con­sin’s red-clad fans erupted in cel­e­bra­tion and the Badgers stormed the court after tak­ing down a No. 1 seed for the third time in four years. Wis­con­sin beat Ari­zona in 2014, Ken­tucky in 2015 and now can add Vil­lanova to its list.

Flushed with pride, Gard hugged his wife and chil­dren as the Badgers’ pep band played their hearts out. A few min­utes later, Wis­con­sin’s play­ers doused each other with wa­ter and tore a few signs off the walls in KeyBank Cen­ter for sou­venirs.

Hayes has been part of all those pre­vi­ous up­sets by Wis­con­sin.

“All of those games we’ve been the un­der­dog,” he said. “You have all types of rank­ing sys­tems, sta­tis­tics. The thing with all those al­go­rithms is they can’t cal­cu­late heart, will to win, tough­ness, de­sire. And that’s the thing we have.”

Vil­lanova came into the NCAAs on a roll after win­ning the Big East Tour­na­ment and was ex­pected to at least es­cape the East, but had their hopes busted and will have to rel­ish those mo­ments from last year when they won their first ti­tle since 1985.

Wright was con­cerned about Wis­con­sin, call­ing them a “great num­ber eight” seed and com­pared them to But­ler, which beat Vil­lanova twice dur­ing the sea­son. As it turned out, the Badgers were more than that, as savvy se­niors Koenig and Hayes made sev­eral key plays in the clos­ing min­utes as Wis­con­sin overcame a 5750 deficit.

Su­per sub fresh­man Donte DiVin­cenzo scored 15 and Jalen Brun­son added 11 for Vil­lanova. But the Wild­cats got lit­tle from Jenk­ins, the hero of last year’s ti­tle game when he drained a 3-pointer to beat North Carolina. Jenk­ins couldn’t shake a pro­longed shoot­ing slump and went just 2-of-9 and 4-of-22 in two games.

Jenk­ins and fel­low se­niors Hart and Dar­ryl Reynolds fin­ish their ca­reer 129-17 in four years, but the sting of their last loss might linger.

“We’re close on and off the court and that bond is never go­ing to be bro­ken,” Hart said.

Getty Im­ages North Amer­ica

Wis­con­sin’s Nigel Hayes drives to the bas­ket in the Badgers’ up­set win over Vil­lanova on Satur­day. Mad­die Meyer,

Wis­con­sin’s Zak Showal­ter goes up for a layup in the Badgers’ win over Vil­lanova Satur­day in Buf­falo. Mad­die Meyer, Getty Im­ages

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