Wisconsin hopes to avoid a three-game losing streak when it takes on 23rd-ranked UCLA in the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Tuesday. The Badgers started the season with two impressive wins before losing by 10 points to Xavier and seeing their furious rally come up short in a 70-65 setback against 24th-ranked Baylor in Monday’s semifinals.
“I saw some good things down the stretch. As they say, if you want to get out of a hole, stop digging,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard told reporters. “Happy with the battle and the willingness to put things on the line to get back in the game.” All-American candidate Ethan Happ notched his third double-double in four games for the Badgers, who will need more offensive depth against a UCLA team that is averaging 97 points over its last three contests. The Bruins had four players score at least 15 points in the 100-89 loss to Creighton in Monday’s semifinals but allowed the Bluejays to record 57 in the second half and shoot 49.3 percent overall. “Offensively, we clicked. That’s great,” UCLA junior guard Aaron Holiday, who scored 25 points, told reporters. “We just learned about playing hard defense.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
ABOUT WISCONSIN (2-2): The 6-10 Happ finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds against Baylor to raise his averages to 19 and 9.8, respectively, and is shooting 56.6 percent through the team’s first four contests. While freshman guard Brad Davison scored 13 points off the bench on Monday, the other four starters aside from Happ were just 5-for-24 from the floor. “We don’t have the luxury of guys who have been around a lot of games, like we have the last couple years,” Happ told reporters. “We need guys to realize it’s going to be a fight from the start.”
ABOUT UCLA (3-1): Holiday was 8-for-17 on Monday after shooting just 35.5 percent over the first three games of the season, while leading scorer Kris Wilkes, a 6-8 freshman, added 15 points against Creighton. Sophomore guard Prince Ali stepped up to score 18 points in the semifinals to match his total from the first three games and 7-foot senior Thomas Welsh, who is averaging a double-double (13.8 points, 11.8 rebounds), added 16. Freshman guard Jaylen Hands, who came in averaging 15.4 points, was held to four on 2-of-8 shooting.
1. Bruins coach Steve Alford needs one victory to reach 100 at the school in his fifth season after totaling 463 with four other programs.
2. Wisconsin sophomore G D’Mitrik Trice is 5-for-21 over his last two games after going 11-for-16 in the first two contests.
3. UCLA freshmen G LiAngelo Ball, F Cody Riley and F Jalen Hill did not make the trip after being arrested for shoplifting on the team’s trip to China.
PREDICTION: UCLA 82, Wisconsin 70