By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Reporter
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Johnny Davis offered a simple explanation for how Wisconsin stepped up the stretch to avoid a first-round upset.
“We just stopped being lazy on defense and not fundamental,” the All-America guard and Big Ten player of the year said. “That’s all it was.”
Davis scored Wisconsin’s last 14 points and finished with 25 as the Big Ten Badgers co-champion came from behind to beat Colgate 67-60 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.
The third-seeded Badgers (25-7) snapped Colgate’s 15-game winning streak and advanced to a second-round game on Sunday against No. 11 seed Iowa State (21-12 ). The Cyclones beat LSU 59-54 earlier Friday.
Wisconsin trailed by no less than five in the second half before going on a 10-0 run and keeping Colgate scoreless for over seven minutes. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard agreed with Davis’ candid assessment of what caused the turnaround.
“At least he’s honest,” Gard said.
Davis showed he was all the way back from the left ankle injury that knocked out the Big Ten Player of the Year from the Badgers’ regular season finale. Davis returned for the Big Ten tournament but shot 3 of 19 in a quarterfinal loss to Michigan State, which also advanced Friday night.
After shooting 3 of 11 in the first half, Davis caught fire when the Badgers needed him. Steven Crowl’s 3-pointer put Wisconsin ahead 53-52 with 8:08 to play.
From then on, Davis took over.
“It was a big shot from Steve,” Davis said. “I feel like I’ve done it before, but my teammates have a lot of faith in me – the coaches too – to finish a game.”
Davis’ teammates have seen him do this all season and struggle to describe his impact.
“I’m speechless,” Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn said. “I have no words to say. I just give him the ball and walk away.
Tyler Wahl added 15 points and nine rebounds for Wisconsin.
Nelly Cummings scored 20 points and Tucker Richardson had 15 for Colgate, who shot 10 of 22 from 3-point range to nearly topple Wisconsin.
Colgate entered the night second in the nation in 3-point percentage (.403) and 12th in 3-pointers per game (9.9). That long-range attack sizzled in the second half as the Raiders spooked the partisan crowd into a sea of red at Fiserv Forum, which sits about 80 miles east of the Wisconsin campus.
“I’ve been to a lot of great venues in this country: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Palestra, Rupp Arena, Phog Allen Fieldhouse,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better environment than a college basketball game tonight. That doesn’t usually happen in NCAA tournament play.
The 14th-seeded Raiders (23-12) made six of their first seven 3-pointers in the second half, with Richardson going 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the opening five minutes.
Colgate led 52-48 after Jeff Woodward converted a three-point play with 10:40 to go, but the Raiders wouldn’t score again until 3:33.
“Wisconsin upped their defensive intensity a little bit more,” Langel said. “Tucker escaped several times. They weren’t going to let him loose anymore. The game got a bit more physical, as you would expect of a Big Ten champion in the bowels of a close game.
Wisconsin: Davis didn’t score in the first 10 1/2 minutes but was huge when it counted. The Badgers will need him to continue showing that form in the second half if they want to make a deep run.
Colgate: The Raiders still haven’t won an NCAA tournament game, but they’re showing they can compete with anyone. They gave Tennessee all they could handle before falling 77-70 in 2019, and they blew a 14-point lead in an 85-68 loss to Arkansas last year.
Wisconsin will face Iowa State on Sunday for a spot in the Badgers’ first Sweet Sixteen since 2017.
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