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Villanova stunned by 65-62 loss to Wisconsin in NCAA Tournament

  • Villanova guard Jalen Brunson (1), guard Donte DiVincenzo (10) and forward Kris Jenkins (2) leave the court after their loss to Wisconsin in a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert

  • Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig (24) takes a three-point shot against Villanova guard Mikal Bridges (25) during the second half of a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. Wisconsin won, 65-62. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert

  • Villanova guard Jalen Brunson (1) follows through on a final shot as Wisconsin players celebrate the end of their second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert

  • Villanova guard Josh Hart, center, drives to the basket against Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ, left, and forward Vitto Brown, right, with three seconds remaining in the second half of a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert

  • Villanova guard Jalen Brunson leaves the court as Wisconsin players celebrate behind him following an upset victory over the top-seeded Wildcats in Buffalo, N.Y., on Saturday. The Badgers won, 65-62. AP

  • Villanova guard Josh Hart (right) looks to drive to the basket past Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes during the second half of a second-round NCAA Tournament game Saturday in Buffalo, N.Y. The Badgers won, 65-62. AP

  • Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes (10) takes a jump shot against Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds (45) during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert

  • Fans greet Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig (24) after a victory over Villanova in a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert

  • Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds (45) dives for a loose ball against Wisconsin forward Alex Illikainen (25) and guard Zak Showalter (3) during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. Wisconsin won, 65-62. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert

  • Villanova coach Jay Wright and guard Josh Hart talk during the second half of a second-round game against Wisconsin in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. Wisconsin won p65-62. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) Bill Wippert



Associated Press
Saturday, March 18, 2017

BUFFALO, N.Y. – When the season ended suddenly and shockingly, much earlier than Villanova expected, Kris Jenkins bent over in disbelief near mid-court.

There would be no game-winning shot, no confetti-filled celebration, no more games. The defending champions – and No. 1 overall seed – are done.

On Wisconsin.

After two relatively routine days, madness returned to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday as top-seeded Villanova was bounced from the brackets and the East Region with a 65-62 loss to No. 8 seed Wisconsin, which added another major upset to its resume and stormed into the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year.

Nigel Hayes scored 19 points, dropping a layup in traffic with 11.4 seconds left, and Bronson Koenig shook off foul trouble and added 17 for the tournament-toughened Badgers (27-9), who will play next week at New York’s Madison Square Garden after knocking off a Villanova team that never found its traction in snowy Buffalo.

“Seeds don’t matter,” Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard said. “I told these guys, I don’t care where we’re seeded. We have to win six games. Let’s start with these two this weekend.”

Mission accomplished.

Senior Josh Hart scored 19 to lead the Wildcats, but the guard was bottled up and stripped by Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown on a drive in the final seconds. Brown then split two free throws with 4 seconds left, but Villanova struggled to corral the rebound and then couldn’t get off a final shot.

It was a bitter ending for the Wildcats, who were trying to be the first team to repeat as champions since 2007. But starting with an unimpressive performance against No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s in its opener Thursday, Villanova looked vulnerable and instead became the first No. 1 seed to be sent home.

“To me, there’s no dishonor in losing in this tournament,” said Coach Jay Wright, whose team lost as a No. 2 seed in Buffalo three years ago. “We’ve lived through it. You are judged by how you play in this tournament and that’s the reality of it. So, you have to accept it.”

When the horn sounded, Wisconsin’s red-clad fans erupted in celebration and the Badgers stormed the court after taking down a No. 1 seed for the third time in four years. Wisconsin beat Arizona in 2014, an unbeaten Kentucky team in 2015 and now can add Villanova to its list.

Flushed with pride, Gard hugged his wife and children as the Badgers’ pep band played their hearts out. A few minutes later, Wisconsin’s players doused each other with water and tore a few signs off the walls in KeyBank Center for souvenirs.

Hayes has been part of all those previous upsets by Wisconsin.

“All of those games we’ve been the underdog,” he said. “You have all types of ranking systems, statistics. The thing with all those algorithms is they can’t calculate heart, will to win, toughness, desire. And that’s the thing we have.”

Villanova came into the NCAAs on a roll after winning the Big East Tournament and was expected to at least escape the East but had their hopes busted and will have to relish those moments from last year when they won their first title since 1985.

Wright was concerned about Wisconsin, calling them a “great No. 8” seed and compared them to Butler, which beat Villanova twice during the season. As it turned out, the Badgers were more than that, as savvy seniors Koenig and Hayes made several key plays in the closing minutes as Wisconsin overcame a 57-50 deficit.

Super sub freshman Donte DiVincenzo scored 15 and Jalen Brunson added 11 for Villanova. But the Wildcats got little from Jenkins, the hero of last year’s title game when he drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat North Carolina. Jenkins couldn’t shake a prolonged shooting slump and went just 2 of 9 and 4 of 22 in two games.

Jenkins and fellow seniors Hart and Darryl Reynolds finish their career 129-17 in four years, but the sting of their last loss might linger.

“We’re close on and off the court and that bond is never going to be broken,” Hart said.

Under pressure

The Badgers have been at their best when it matters most.

Under Gard, Wisconsin improved to 39-1 when leading or tied with 5 minutes remaining, including 24-1 this season.

More pressure

With a crown comes expectations, sometimes unrealistic ones. Tabbed as the team to beat – well, at least one of them – Villanova’s players and coaches knew anything less than a return to the Final Four would be looked at as failure.

Maybe not fair, but Wright knows that’s the reality.

“You’re a one seed, you’re supposed to get to the Final Four, get out of your bracket,” he said. “That’s probably what we have to be to be a success. And as you know, we accept that, we’ll take it. We’re not going to define ourselves that way, but we do get it.”