Wisconsin Basketball: Top ten games in the last decade
The Wisconsin Badgers have been on both sides of triumph and heartbreak in recent memory. We count down the best Badgers victories in the last ten years.
There have been many ups and downs, great moments and heartbreaks, and a lot of proud accomplishments over the last ten years for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team.
Here at Badger of Honor, along with some help from our readers, we came up with ten greatest games over the past decade. Criteria for this decision process included the level of competition, magnitude of what was at stake, player performances, game-deciding moments, amongst others.
In what was not an easy process or decision, but we are proud to present to you our top ten games over the last ten years:
10. NCAA Tournament – March 20, 2009: No. 12 Wisconsin 61, No. 5 Florida State 59 (OT)
The Badgers currently hold one of the longest active streaks in the country, making the NCAA Tournament 18 consecutive times, with number 19 sure to be on its way this year. During the 2008-09 season, Wisconsin was in jeopardy of having this streak broken, enduring their highest losing total during this span, which included a six-game losing streak in the middle of the Big Ten schedule.
Wisconsin survived the troubles and landed a number 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, drawing the feisty Florida State Seminoles in the first round all the way in Boise, Idaho.
Facing a 12-point halftime deficit, the Badgers turned on their offense and stormed back into the game, with Badgers point guard Trevon Hughes leading the charge. A tall order already facing the 25-win Seminoles, Hughes spent the entire week in preparation of guarding the dynamic and now-NBA point guard Toney Douglas. While Douglas got his, scoring almost half of his team’s points (26), Hughes had the last laugh, winning the game on a spinning layup to propel the Badgers into the next round and secure the upset.
The video of Hughes’ game winning shot has since been taken off the internet for unknown reasons- it could be because it was eight years ago, but if you were able to witness it in real time, the memory will live on forever. You can also see a snippet of the shot in the 2009 edition of “One Shining Moment” at the 2:21 mark.
Wisconsin went on to lose to No. 4 Xavier in the round of 32.
9. NCAA Tournament – March 22, 2014: No. 2 Wisconsin 85, No. 7 Oregon 77
The Badgers began the 2013-14 campaign with 16 straight wins and despite a rough patch in the middle of the season were able to grab a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After an easy 40-point opening round victory over American University, Wisconsin faced an explosive and athletic Oregon Ducks team in the second round and got all they could handle.
In a game that started out how everyone anticipated, the Ducks were clicking on all cylinders- controlling the game with fast tempo and transition baskets. Despite a nice offensive performance from the Badgers, they found themselves with a 12-point deficit, giving up 49 points in the first 20 minutes.
Facing another explosive guard in Joseph Young, the Badgers were able to prevent any further support from the rest of the Oregon roster in the second half and used a balanced scoring attack to claw back. A Ben Brust three pointer late in the game pushed the Badgers ahead for good and sent the Badgers to the Sweet 16 en route to their first Final Four since 2000.
Wisconsin would also go on to defeat the Ducks exactly one year later in the second round.
8. January 15, 2012: Wisconsin 64, No. 2 Indiana 59
The Badgers have owned the series with Indiana for a long time, even when the Hoosiers are heavily favored. During the 2012-13 season, the Hoosiers hovered around the top of the college basketball world for a majority of the season, earning a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and many accolades throughout the year.
In the fourth game of the Big Ten slate, the Badgers and Hoosiers squared off in Bloomington both undefeated and battling for first place in the early conference season. Indiana was filled with NBA talent with the likes of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, along with college stars Yogi Ferrell and Christian Watford. Also keep in mind, Badgers players Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky were both still coming off the bench.
Ryan Evans led a balanced attack for Wisconsin, scoring 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds to propel the team to a five-point victory using their slow, methodical style under Bo Ryan to keep tabs on the Hoosiers’ high-paced offense. The win made it 11 straight for the Badgers over the Hoosiers, and although Tom Crean’s squad has notched a few wins since then, this win in 2012 proved that the Badgers have had the upper hand in the series for quite some time.
7. NCAA Tournament – March 29, 2014: No. 2 Wisconsin 64, No. 1 Arizona 63 (OT)
During the Badgers’ back-to-back Final Four runs, both times they needed to get through a highly skilled Arizona Wildcats team. In their first go-around, many figured the Wildcats to be too much for the inexperienced Badgers.
Frank Kaminsky continued his explosive NCAA Tournament by hitting big shot after big shot as the Badgers stayed toe to toe with the Wildcats. Kaminsky put up 28 points and 11 rebounds and held his own against the Wildcats’ massive front court.
In a game that saw more than just the final score, the Badgers needed one more stop to successfully complete a day where Green Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in the crowd and what would have been head coach Bo Ryan’s father’s 90th birthday.
The Badgers grabbed a one-point lead late in the extra session, with one final chance for Arizona to win the game.
A Nick Johnson running jumper ended up being late and the Badgers were able to lift Bo Ryan to a much-deserved Final Four.
Much like the Oregon situation, the Badgers returned to the Final Four a year later- defeating Arizona again in the Elite Eight by a score of 85-77.
6. December 2, 2009 – Wisconsin 73, No. 6 Duke 69
There was a special buzz around the state of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison prior to the 2009 season when everyone saw the prestigious Duke Blue Devils early on in the schedule.
Fresh off a third place Maui Invitational finish, the Badgers had no time to rest up as they welcomed Duke to Madison in their next game. Trevon Hughes scored a career high 26 points and Wisconsin fought off a furious three-point barrage at the end of the game to get revenge on Duke, who beat them by 24 a few years prior.
It was also the first time the Big Ten was triumphant in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, with Wisconsin being the deciding factor as part of the last slate of matchups.
Despite 28 points from Duke star Kyle Singler and a three-point showcase from Andre Dawkins late in the game, the Badgers stayed calm and collected throughout.
“Their offense just beat our defense,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
The Blue Devils led the nation in field goal defense entering the matchup, but the Badgers were able to score points by taking care of the ball and controlling the glass despite shooting just 44 percent.
Since the Big Ten won their first challenge in 2009, the conference had not lost until this past meeting.
5. NCAA Tournament – March 20, 2016: No. 7 Wisconsin 66, No. 2 Xavier 63
In perhaps one of the biggest shots in Wisconsin basketball program history, Bronson Koenig capped off a ferocious comeback in the 2016 second round meeting between the Badgers and the Xavier Musketeers with a fadeaway buzzer-beating three to send the fans and those following the NCAA Tournament into a frenzy.
While Koenig’s buzzer beater was the shot shown around the world, the Badgers would not have been in that situation if it weren’t for his three pointer to tie the game seconds earlier.
“I just tried to channel my inner Steph Curry,” Koenig said, referring to the Golden State Warriors star.
Koenig had six three pointers in the game, as the Badgers did what they do best- shooting threes and securing timely defensive stops to climb back into a game that seemed to be out reach as Xavier shot up to a nine-point lead late in the second half.
Then, this happened.
So, you are probably thinking how are there four more games that top this one? Well, lucky for us Badgers fans, it only gets better.
4. February 12, 2011: No. 13 Wisconsin 71, No. 1 Ohio State 67
The Badgers have had their fair share of wins over top ranked teams, both in the regular season and postseason, yet there was something about this 2011 game that just made it that much more special.
For starters, the Ohio State Buckeyes entered the matchup 24-0 with a roster that consisted of Jared Sullinger and William Buford, with the stingy Aaron Craft off the bench.
The Buckeyes went up 47-32 with 13 minutes remaining in the game as it looked they were about to coast to another victory to make it 25 straight. That is when Jordan Taylor decided to take things into his own hands.
Taylor, who scored 27 on the day, scored ten of Badgers’ next 15 points, including eight straight, to tie the game, using a 15-0 run in a span of under four minutes to make it interesting again. From there, it went back and forth until a Taylor three pointer (again) put the Badgers up five and for good. Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half and connected on 5-8 from behind the arc to lead the Badgers to the huge upset.
It was the Badgers’ first win versus a No. 1 team since 1962, which was also against Ohio State. This most recent win was also the same season that the Badgers’ football team knocked off then-number one Ohio State as well, which also ended in a rush to the field by the students.
Ohio State got their revenge later in the season as the No. 1 team, crushing the Badgers by 28 in Columbus.
3. December 29, 2007: Wisconsin 67, No. 9 Texas 66
“Bo Ryan is a thief!”
Those were the words of the television broadcast after the unranked Wisconsin Badgers somehow pulled off the major upset in Austin, Texas without their starting point guard.
A common theme in every big upset, the Badgers hung around the Longhorns the whole game- a team that had three players go to the NBA- and capitalized on some rare miscues down the stretch.
Longhorns’ guard A.J. Abrams, a 93 percent free throw shooter, made just one of two with 11 seconds left to give Texas a two-point lead. From there, Michael Flowers took over.
Not only did Flowers connect on the game winning three, but the awareness he had after the play, especially after making a big shot like that, to run up and steal the ball and throw it in the air before time expired makes his performance in this one a jack-of-all-trades.
The entire sequence happened so fast that you could tell the disbelief on the Longhorns fans. What makes it even more incredible, if possible, is that the Badgers won without starting point guard Trevon Hughes- who was a huge part of their offensive contributions. Flowers, normally a defensive guy, stepped up big when needed, scoring just seven points- three of which were probably the biggest of his career.
“I was laying for that steal all game and I finally got one on that inbounds pass,” said Flowers, who also had two steals. “I jumped and left my feet so I couldn’t come down and call timeout. I just threw it straight up in the air and hoped time ran out.”
Wisconsin finished the season 31-5. It is a safe assumption to say this could have been where it all began.
February 9, 2013: Wisconsin 65, No. 3 Michigan 62 (OT)
It was one of the few times during his tenure you saw head coach Bo Ryan celebrating during a game. Ben Brust’s half court heave as time expired in regulation sent not only the Kohl Center into a frenzy, but the bench as well- including Ryan.
Everything about that final play in regulation had some sort of meaning to it. Not to mention, this took place after Tim Hardaway Jr. broke the hearts (temporarily) of the Badgers faithful with a three pointer to take the lead with just three seconds left.
Mike Brusewitz overlooked a clapping Traevon Jackson and hit a running Brust right in the hands before Brust took a couple steps and fired off a prayer. There is not much more that needs to be said. We could watch this video for hours.
It would have been a shame and a waste had the Badgers not won in overtime, but Brust and company made sure of it- connecting on timely threes and coming up with one final stop on Trey Burke’s desperation attempt from downtown that went in and out. A mob of Badgers fans at half court ensued.
Michigan would have the last laugh as the Wolverines made it to the national championship that year, but this is a game no one will forget.
“It was awesome, something I’ll remember forever, and I’m sure a lot of people will,” Brust said of the game.
NCAA Tournament – April 4, 2015: No. 1 Wisconsin 71, No. 1 Kentucky 64
There was so much meaning behind the 2015 meeting between the Badgers and the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats that made that win probably the greatest ever in Wisconsin program history.
Wisconsin had not made a national championship since the 1940s, while Kentucky had been to five in the last 20 years. The Badgers were made up of a range of two and three start recruits, while the Wildcats started all five-star talent. All indications pointed to Kentucky as the best team in college basketball history, and although they may have been more talented and skilled than the Badgers- you could tell Wisconsin wanted that game more than ever.
One year earlier, Kentucky broke the hearts of Badgers fans when Aaron Harrison hit a game winning three over Josh Gasser to knock off Wisconsin in the Final Four. The eight-seeded Wildcats stormed the court right in front of their eyes and celebrated the win, and from there the narrative began throughout the entire next year: “Wisconsin wants another shot at Kentucky.”
Two games away from history, the Wildcats knew they would have their hands full against the veteran Badgers, and the beginning of the game had no dispute of that as both teams came out locked and loaded, scoring 36 points a piece to end the first half. With 20 minutes remaining, Badgers fans feared that the inevitable Kentucky run would occur in the second half and their depth, athleticism, and talent would be too much for the Badgers to keep pace with.
While we all know the result, this was true at some points in the second half as Kentucky ran their lead up to four points after trailing for majority of the first half of the second frame. It was starting to look like the Badgers were out of gas as Kentucky was grabbing every loose board and ball it seemed.
Despite the small deficit, the Badgers turned to old reliables Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, who combined for over half the team’s points and provided big shots and rebounding and the Badgers started getting hustle plays to fall their way down the stretch.
After a Bronson Koenig free throw to put the team up four with just over ten seconds left, an Aaron Harrison missed three-pointer fell into the hands of the Badgers and sent Koenig back to the line. That was the moment every one knew what was happening and reality started settling in for the Wildcats.
It was quite the difference in feelings for both teams than it was the year prior, as Badgers players stormed mid-court while Wildcats sulked and tugged at their jerseys.
Although Wisconsin still had one more game to play, at that very moment they were on top of the world.
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