Badgers clinch Big Ten Tournament double-bye on Senior Night

Pritzl
UWBadgers.com

MADISON, Wis. — It really was Brevin Pritzl’s night.

The senior guard didn’t reach a career-high in points or do anything other than be himself: a sniper.

As the Badgers’ sole scholarship senior on Senior Night, the De Pere native finished with nine points on three three-pointers. The first two played a role in opening up Wisconsin’s 17-point lead over Northwestern in the first half. The third came as the Badgers tried to stave off the Wildcats’ run early in the second half.

“I was just having a good time,” Pritzl said. “My two-pointers were off today, but you just take what you get.”

On a night where Wisconsin wasn’t shooting lights-out from anywhere, Pritzl, who led the team in three-point percentage last season, stepped up in the 63-48 win at the Kohl Center on Wednesday night. And now, as he looks to recreate the magic from Wisconsin’s Sweet 16 appearances early on in his career in Madison, he’s leading them potentially to a conference title.

Although, there was one objective bigger than celebrating Pritzl on Wednesday and before focusing on a conference championship: clinching a Big Ten Tournament double-bye, just months after a 5-5 start had some questioning the future of the program. Now a win in the regular season finale on Saturday at Indiana gives the Badgers at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title.

“Who would have thought a few months ago we’d get to play for a Big Ten championship?” Gard asked after the game.

But for all of that to even be a scenario, Wisconsin (20-10, 13-6 Big Ten) couldn’t afford a slip-up against the conference’s worst team.

A quartet of early threes from Pritzl, Aleem Ford and D’Mitrik Trice made sure that wouldn’t be the case, despite the Wildcats closing the first half just trailing 34-28, after being down by as many as 17.

Wisconsin’s defense stepped up again out of the break, allowing only five points over the second half’s first eight minutes. Over the first eight minutes of each half combined, Northwestern (7-22, 2-17 Big Ten) scored only 14 points. The Wildcats’ second made basket of the second half came more than 11 minutes through the frame, when they were already trailing by 15 again.

“For the most part, we really locked down on that end,” said guard Brad Davison. “We love to always hit our shots, but when it comes down to it you play both ends of the floor and win games on both ends of the floor.”

Greg Gard’s squad joins Maryland and Michigan State as teams who don’t have to play until March 14 in Indianapolis. Illinois would join the trio with a win in either of its final two games.

“We’re not done yet,” Trice said. “We have one more to go. Tied for first is a great feeling, but we have to get back to the drawing board. Indiana’s going to play hard.”

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

PRITZL FOR THREE — AND AGAIN: On his Senior Night — no, really, he’s the only scholarship senior on this year’s roster — Pritzl was feeling it early, knocking down two three-pointers in the game’s first two minutes. The second one was the prettiest, a stepback fadeaway over the Northwestern defender.

POTTER JOINS THE PRITZL PARTY: The Badgers’ defense was the difference in the second half, only allowing five points over the frame’s first eight-plus minutes. But Micah Potter and Pritzl’s threes early on opened up the cushion for Wisconsin.

D IS KEY: Despite what felt like a frustrating first. half, the Badgers’ defense played above its recent average, allowing only 28 points in the first half after surrendering at least 65 in each of its last four home contests.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

When the Badgers were working in the opening 10 minutes, everything was working.

Including whatever this Nate Reuvers shot was.

Reuvers finished with a team-high 11 points. Northwestern’s Pete Nance had a game-high 14.

Also, watch this.

TWEET OF THE GAME

Wisconsin’s Senior Day celebrations also included walk-on Michael Ballard and former Badger Rashard Griffith.

https://twitter.com/BadgerMBB/status/1235387460756045824

SOUND SMART

Badgers head coach Greg Gard now has 100 career wins as he wraps up his fifth season in Madison. Wisconsin has won at least 20 games in four of his five seasons, and at least 22 in three of them — a mark this Badgers team can meet next week in the Big Ten Tournament.

“I’m just happy for all of the people who have been a part of it,” Gard said. “I haven’t done this by myself. It’s been our team.”

HE SAID IT

“When you have good players who are veteran guys and are well coached… when you put all that together, you’re going to have something pretty good.” – Northwestern head coach Chris Collins, on Wisconsin after playing the Badgers for the first time this season 

UP NEXT

There’s one more game on the regular season schedule, and it could be monumental for Gard and the program. If Wisconsin beats Indiana on the road on Saturday, the Badgers win at least a share of the 2019-20 Big Ten regular season title. Wisconsin hasn’t finished atop the conference since Bo Ryan’s last full season in 2015.

Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on ESPN.

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