Last season, a young, untested Wisconsin squad nearly pulled off what would have been quite the upset against visiting Xavier in the 2017 Gavitt Tip Off Games. The No. 15 ranked Musketeers held on for an 80-70 victory in Madison, snapping UW’s 13-game home non-conference win streak.
At the time, the Badgers took comfort in a moral victory, in the midst of replacing four starters from last season’s Sweet 16 squad.
“For November 16th, to have this kind of test for us, I thought was good,” head coach Greg Gard said. “Regardless of how it turned out, we’ll be able to learn a lot … Areas we needed to get better at, areas we needed to take steps forward in, we would only know that for the standpoint of how we were going to get tested.”
However, Wisconsin would lose their next two games and begin the season with a 4-7 start, unable to defeat a power-six opponent until Penn State on Dec. 4.
UW used an 8-1 run to tied the game at 64 with 4:01 remaining.
“When it was tied up 64-64, I don’t think I’ve been in a louder arena,” J.P. Macura said (20 points). “I think the guys on this team did a great job staying together, sticking together.”
XU senior guard Trevon Bluiett rose to the occasion in the waning moments. Bluiett scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, including consecutive 3-pointers with just over a minute remaining to silence a hostile Kohl Center crowd.
“It was a really intense game,” Brad Davison said. “I think it’s definitely a good game for us young guys to get some experience going into the season.”
Ethan Happ led Wisconsin with 21 points. Brevin Pritzl added 13, while Davison contributed 12 off the bench.
Last season’s loss sets up a rubber match for the Badgers, who defeated Xavier in the the 2015 NCAA Tournament Round of 32.
Former UW guard Bronson Koenig hit a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to shock the 2-seed Musketeers.
“Excited as the state of Wisconsin was a couple years ago, there were some heartbroken kids in (our) locker room laying on the floor,” former XU head coach Chris Mack said after Xavier’s win in the rematch.
Wisconsin (1-0) and Xavier (2-0) each own a 3-3 record in the all-time series. The Badgers are looking for their first-ever win in the Gavitt Games, while the Musketeers hold a 2-0 mark in the Big East-Big Ten crossover series.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 5:30 p.m. CST
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Badger Radio Network
Vegas Line: Wisconsin – 1.5