If someone had told you that Wisconsin would shoot 8 of 28 from beyond the arc, get almost no offensive contributions from Josh Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz, and that North Carolina would attempt 24 free throws, what would you think?
Well, it wouldn't sound good. But Wisconsin remained resilient and simply did not give up. This was a game that I fully expected the Badgers to lose practically the moment it was announced. And ultimately, Wisconsin lost...but not before making UNC sweat it out in the final minute.
Wisconsin controlled the tempo throughout the game, keeping it a low-scoring affair on the road against a team that was stacked from top to bottom. UNC dictated the physicality, and as a result, they went to the charity stripe. A lot. Wisconsin shot just 6 free throws; UNC went to the line for 24 attempts (making 19). Jordan Taylor was the only Wisconsin player to attempt a free throw (and he missed 3 FT attempts from the stripe, which proved rather devastating down the stretch). UNC went in the bonus with 9 minutes remaining in the 2nd, and Wisconsin put them in the double bonus trying to foul to get the ball back.
And in the end, Wisconsin was down 6 with four seconds to go. Ben Brust let loose a three from half-court at the final buzzer...and banked it in. Wisconsin, at 6-1, returns to Madison to take on rival Marquette.
Despite getting slaughtered on the boards (39 to 26 in favor of UNC), Wisconsin made it a 3-point final thanks to 14 UNC turnovers (to just 4 for Wisconsin) and 5 more made three-point attempts (Wisconsin shooters finished 8 of 28 from beyond the arc; UNC went 3 of 9). However, Wisconsin jacked up far more attempts from outside and missed most of them; the iron was far from kind to the Badgers on...well, just about everything. Jordan Taylor missed 3 of his 6 free throw attempts and made just 6 of his 20 shot attempts, finishing with 18 points. Jared Berggren actually had a pleasant game, as he was 6 of 12 shooting and finished with 14 points.
Josh Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz attempted 6 shots between them, with 4 shots from beyond the arc. Everything that they attempted missed, and the only thing that Bruesewitz contributed to the offense were a pair of offensive rebounds. Wisconsin thus turned to its unproven options and got results; Berggren finished with 14 points and Ryan Evans with 10.
It was questionable whether Harrison Barnes would play for North Carolina, as he injured his ankle in UNC's upset at the hands of UNLV, but Barnes did take the court. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Barnes would not go away, leading UNC with 20 points. John Henson had 17 boards and 5 blocks, but Berggren tested UNC's All-American candidate and Henson's day was far from easy. Kendall Marshall didn't make one of his shots from the floor and all 4 of his points came from the free throw line. Tyler Zeller finished with 12 points and was 6 of 6 from the free throw line, after struggling horrifically against UNLV (Zeller was 1 of 6 shooting from the floor and 3 of 5 from the free throw line).
For Wisconsin fans, it is disappointing that the Badgers lost. However, the Big Ten still won the Big Ten-ACC Challenge rather handily, and the Wisconsin Badgers went to one of the toughest arenas in the nation for visiting nonconference teams. They held on into the final seconds in the Dean Smith Center, where North Carolina has lost just twice to nonconference opponents since 2005 (Illinois in 2005-06, Texas in 2010-11).