Wisconsin squeaks out an NIT quarterfinal victory over Oregon to keep the season alive #Wisconsin #squeaks #NIT #quarterfinal #victory #Oregon #season #alive #englishheadline


Viva Las Vegas.

A season that has been laden with an inordinate number of games decided in the final minute and dotted with frustrating losses will end in Las Vegas for Wisconsin coach Greg Gard and his players.

With guards Max Klesmit, Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian hitting critical three-pointers, the Badgers wiped out a six-point deficit in the final 3 minutes 14 seconds to stun host Oregon, 61-58, in the quarterfinals of the NIT in Eugene, Oregon, on Tuesday night.

“Just really proud of this group,” Gard said after his team improved to 13-7 this season in games decided by five points or fewer. “It’s not been perfect. It’s not been pretty at times, but one thing that can never be denied is their perseverance and their unwillingness to quit.

“There is no give in this group and no flinching no matter what the score is. We have been in so many of these games this year that their willpower to continue to battle possession by possession has served them well.”

The victory wasn’t secured until Oregon’s Quincy Guerrier missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer but the Badgers (20-14) advanced to the NIT semifinals Tuesday in Las Vegas. They play at 6 p.m. CDT against second-seeded North Texas (29-7), which surprised top-seeded Oklahoma State, 65-59, in overtime earlier Tuesday night.

Box score:Wisconsin 61, Oregon 58

Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn puts up a shot while covered by Oregon guard Tyrone Williams on Tuesday night at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.

Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn puts up a shot while covered by Oregon guard Tyrone Williams on Tuesday night at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon.

“Being in this situation earlier in the year – for the majority of the season – really paid dividends and helped us win this game,” Klesmit said. “It felt like every time we came to the huddle everyone was really calm and relaxed. It was really positive with everybody coming together and having the same goal. We weren’t losing this game.”

Essegian, 2 of 17 from three-point range in the previous three games and 0 of 2 to that point against Oregon, hit a three-pointer from the right corner to cut Oregon’s lead to 54-51 and start UW’s 13-4 closing run.

“He has a shooter’s mentality,” Gard said. “And you have to have a short memory if you missed the last one or the last 10.”

Klesmit, 1 of 4 from three-point range at the time, buried a three-pointer from the right wing to give UW a 56-55 lead with 1:41 left.

Then after Oregon took a 57-56 lead, UW’s offense was discombobulated and Gard called a timeout with13 seconds on the shot clock and 1:06 left in the game.

Oregon’s Dana Altman switched from man to a 1-3-1 zone.

The Badgers recognized the switch and Tyler Wahl fired a gorgeous pass from near the left corner to Hepburn on the right wing.

Just 1 of 4 from three-point range and 3 of 14 overall, Hepburn hit the three-pointer for a 59-57 lead with 54 seconds left.

“We had something called against the man,” Gard said. “Then obviously Tyler made a good read. Chucky got in his sight line across the court and (Wahl) put it right on target. That is as good a look as you’re going to get. And Chucky knocked it down.”

With UW clinging to a 59-58 lead, Klesmit hit two pressure free throws with 2.2 seconds left to push the lead to 61-58 and the Badgers held on when Guerrier’s three-pointer missed.

Klesmit, who scored all seven of his points in the final 2:11 of UW’s victory over Liberty in the second round, scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half against Oregon. He added four rebounds and two assists.

Hepburn hit just 4 of 15 shots but added 12 points, three steals and two rebounds. Essegian finished with nine points, five rebounds and an assist.

Steven Crowl, who hit a combined 5 of 8 three-pointers and 19 of 25 shots overall in UW’s first two NIT games, was hampered by foul trouble Tuesday. He hit just 4 of 10 shots but contributed nine points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

Wahl, like many of his teammates, was bothered by Oregon’s length near the basket. He hit just 1 of 9 shots but finished with five points, seven rebounds and six assists. He had assists on Crowl’s basket in the lane which forged a 55-55 tie and on the three-pointers by Klesmit and Hepburn.

“I think Tyler does a really good job of impacting the game in other areas, some that don’t even show up in the box score,” Klesmit said. “The guy plays his heart out every game. He lays everything on the lane for his teammates.

“He made the right play for all three guys that he assisted on at the end.”

Jordan Davis gave UW six points and eight rebounds and Carter Gilmore contributed two points, three rebounds and three assists.

Oregon forward Quincy Guerrier and guard Keeshawn Barthelemy foul Wisconsin guard Max Klesmit in the final minute Tuesday night.

Oregon forward Quincy Guerrier and guard Keeshawn Barthelemy foul Wisconsin guard Max Klesmit in the final minute Tuesday night.

The Badgers missed 14 of 22 shots at the rim, saw eight of their shots blocked and shot just 33.3% (21 of 63) overall.

They prevailed by hitting 12 of 13 free throws, by hitting their final 3 three-pointers after opening the half just 2 of 11 and by committing just two turnovers in the second half after committing eight in the first 20 minutes.

The Ducks played their third consecutive game without injured starters N’Faly Dante (13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Will Richardson (12.2 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Jermaine Couisnard (12.8 ppg).

Guerrier (8.9 ppg, 35.5% three-point shooter) and guard Keeshawn Barthelemy (9.1 ppg, 36.3% three-point shooter) scored 14 and 15 points, respectively, for the Ducks.

The Ducks led by as many as seven points in the second half but they made just made just 4 of 12 free throws and couldn’t get stops at the end as UW hit 5 of its last 6 shots.

“We played hard, did some good things,” Altman said. “Just a real disappointing way to lose when you don’t execute down the stretch, and you don’t hit free throws.”

The Badgers, by contrast, hit their free throws and executed with the game on the line.

“We’ve had different guys start to step up more and more,” Gard said. “I think what we’re finding is some guys that are comfortable in trying to make game-deciding plays, winning plays.”

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: WIsconsin beats Oregon to move to NIT semifinal vs. North Texas

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