UCLA beats Wisconsin with buzzer-beater
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Aaron Holiday dreamed about nights like Tuesday night.
He hit the game-winning layup as time expired to lift No. 23 UCLA past Wisconsin 72-70 in the consolation game of the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Tuesday night at Sprint Center.
“Playing basketball all my life, I dreamed of big moments and being there and making that play,” Holiday said. “I just tried to be aggressive. My coach gave me confidence giving me the ball. I was able to come up with the win.”
UCLA coach Steve Alford liked the way his players overcame some struggles against the Badgers.
“I’m really, really, really pleased with our basketball team,” Alford said. “We’ve been through a really difficult stretch, and we now have a win over a Big Ten team and an ACC team (Georgia Tech). We lost last night to a very good Big East team (Creighton).
“We’re growing. We grew some last night, and we carried that over to tonight.”
The final play was set up for Holiday to take the shot. Even though he lost control of the dribble, he still picked it up and gathered himself to drive to the hoop.
“I wanted the ball in Aaron’s hands,” Alford said. “We wanted to run a high-ball screen and see what developed.
“I knew he was going to get the shot he wanted. After a mishandle of the dribble, he was coming straight toward me, and I saw him look at the clock. Most guards would panic, but he knew he had time to get to the rim. It’s one thing to get it to the rim. It’s another to finish over length.”
The loss was a difficult one for Wisconsin to take. Coach Greg Gard, who questioned his team’s effort level in the first 30 minutes of a Monday loss to Baylor, said determination was not the problem.
“The effort was fine,” Gard said. “Now it’s the execution. We can’t turn the ball over in three of our last eight possessions and have only five points. You can’t close out games with that type of statistic down the stretch. It’s the execution we have to keep working on. Part of that is maturity.”
Holiday led the Bruins with 18 points. He was joined in double figures by Gyorgy Goloman and Thomas Welsh with 11 points each, and Jaylen Hands and Prince Ali with 10 each.
UCLA (4-1) found its pace early in the second half. The Bruins outscored the Badgers 21-6 in the first 6:12 of the half to turn a seven-point deficit into a 52-44 lead.
Wisconsin (2-3) responded with a 16-1 run to retake the lead at 62-57.
“I’m proud of our guys and how we battled,” Gard said. “We’ve been tested in a lot of ways (in these two games). Hopefully we’ll continue to learn. We’ve got a pretty good team, we just have to get over that hump and mature, to finish halves and finish games.”
UCLA answered to tie the score at 67-67 with just over 2:00 remaining.
Holiday hit a 3-point shot with 44 seconds left to give UCLA a 70-67 edge. Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice made a layup with 33 seconds left to cut the lead to 70-69. The Badgers stole the inbounds pass, and Khalil Iverson was fouled going up for a dunk. Iverson hit one of two to tie the score with 30 seconds left.
UCLA held the ball for the final shot, which Holiday sank.
The Badgers were led by Ethan Happ with 19 points. Trice, Iverson and Brad Davison each had 14.
The two teams slogged through the first half at Wisconsin’s pace. Neither side led by more than three points before the four-minute mark of the half. The Badgers went ahead early with a 12-0 run to break open a 26-26 game. The Bruins scored the last five points of the half to make it respectable at 38-31.
Both teams shot relatively well, with Wisconsin connecting at 51.7 percent and the Bruins at 50 percent for the half.
Wisconsin finished shooting 48.1 percent from the field, while the Bruins wound up shooting 54 percent.
NOTES: Wisconsin was playing its third ranked opponent in a row. The Badgers played No. 15 Xavier on Thursday, losing 80-70. On Monday night, they lost to No. 25 Baylor 70-65. ... Six different Badgers have scored at least 12 points in a game this season. ... UCLA holds a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series, though the two schools had not met in 22 years. ... The UCLA freshman trio of LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill remain suspended. They were arrested last week on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store while the Bruins were in Hangzhou, China. ... The Bruins won the first of their 11 NCAA titles in Kansas City (Municipal Auditorium) in 1964.