BUFFALO–Villanova’s record setting season has come to an end with a 65-62 loss to Wisconsin in the Second Round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
The Badgers were led by seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, who combined for 36 of the teams 65 points en route to the upset victory over the defending champs.
“We were within seven at that point in time,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard explained. “It wasn’t going to get much further and I was going to have to go back to [Koenig].”
After sitting for most of the second half due to foul trouble, Koenig re-entered the game with Wisconsin down by seven and promptly hit three of his final four shots, including two momentum-shifting threes. The senior guard finished with 17 points on 7-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-6 from deep.
“I knew when coach gave me the opportunity to get back in there, I was going to make something happen,” Koenig said. “So I’m just glad we pulled it out.”
Wisconsin’s five starters combined to score all but three of the team’s 65 points, which came from Khalil Iverson. Overall, the team shot 53 percent to Villanova’s 41 percent. Wisconsin’s defense came up large late in the game.
With the game tied at 62, Hayes got position in the low post and scored on a lay-up to give the Badgers a two point lead with only 11.4 seconds remaining. Josh Hart drove the ball to the rim, only to have it stripped by Vitto Brown, who contributed 10 points and three rebounds to the win. After Ethan Happ missed his second free throw, Donte DiVincenzo was unable to get off a shot in hopes of tying the game at the buzzer.
“Ethan set a screen to try to give me a little traffic to try the baseline,” Hayes explained. “Just went, did a fake spin, got to my left hand and fortunately the lay-up went in for us.”
Hayes played a team high 39 minutes, scoring 19 points and corralling eight rebounds. Happ contributed 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals to lead the defensive charge for the team.
For Villanova, Hart led the way with 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting and 8-for-10 from the free throw line. DiVincenzo contributed 15 points and six rebounds in the loss.
Kris Jenkins continued to struggle as he shot a disappointing 2-for-9 from the field, including two missed three point attempts, ending the tournament 0-for-8 from beyond the arc. He finished with six points and two rebounds.
The senior class of Hart, Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds will graduate as the winningest class in program history with 129 wins. They bow out with four straight Big East regular season titles and two tournament championships to go along with those victories. Although it’s tough to realize they will never play on the court together again, Hart recognizes the bond they’ve formed over these past four years.
“They’re my brothers for life regardless [of] what happened this year,” Hart said. “We’re close on and off the court, and that bond is never going to be broken.”
Once the feelings from the loss subside, it will be clear what their place is in Villanova history.
“Josh, Kris and Darryl are three of the greatest Villanova basketball players of all time,” head coach Jay Wright explained. “Their class is going to go down as the most successful class in Villanova history.”