Bluiett leads No. 15 Xavier over Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. -- The raucous atmosphere of No. 15 Xavier’s 80-70 win on Thursday night over Wisconsin had a post-season feel to it.
But the victory boiled down to veteran players taking over.
Xavier senior forward Trevon Bluiett scored a game-high 25 points -- including a pair of 3-pointers with less than 2 minutes left in regulation -- as the No. 15 Musketeers held off Wisconsin in a nonconference game at the Kohl Center.
Bluiett scored 10 points in the final 1:45.
Senior guard J.P. Macura delivered 20 points for Xavier (3-0), which avenged a 2016 NCAA tournament Round of 32 setback to the Badgers.
Xavier coach Chris Mack said the end result all came down to experience against youth.
“Two minutes left in the game -- it’s a tie game; halftime, it’s a tie game,” Mack said. “For us, we have a little bit more experience right now. Guys like Trevon and J.P. have been around college basketball for a long, long time and Wisconsin’s got some younger guards who will get better because of this.”
Wisconsin freshman forward Aleem Ford drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:47 to go to tie the game at 64, but junior forward Ethan Happ was a catalyst prior to that basket with back-to-back layups.
Happ scored a team-high 21 points for the Badgers (2-1). Junior G Brevin Pritzl added 13 and freshman G Brad Davison scored a career-high 12 points.
Badgers sophomore guard D‘Mitrik Trice drilled a go-ahead jumper to make it 66-64 but Bluiett’s two free throws tied things up for Xavier at 66 with 2:25 left.
Bluiett, named to the preseason all-Big East Conference team, delivered 21 second-half points, was 10 for 10 from the free-throw line and had nine rebounds.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard rotated players in the first half trying to find a spark on offense.
Though Wisconsin struggled with interior defense and shot selection in the first half, Gard said closing minutes had its share of miscues on defense.
“I liked the ways guys competed,” Gard said. “It wasn’t perfect. We made mistakes, but in terms of the guys who were on the floor the majority of the time, I like what I saw.”
The Badgers had no starters on the court with seven minutes to go in the first, though Happ returned for a couple minutes. Happ, who had 9 points, three rebounds and three assists, got his second foul and went to the bench with 4:29 to go.
Davison scored 11 points and four steals in 13 first-half minutes for Wisconsin. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Maple Grove, Minn., scored 13 total points in the Badgers’ first two games.
Davison’s performance and energy came as no surprise to Gard. Davison played 28 minutes in a reserve role.
If you’ve been around Brad Davison, you understand these are the type of games he flourishes in,” Gard said. “He likes being physical and he likes getting on the floor. He made a lot of good things happen. Maybe I should’ve played Brad even more.”
Wisconsin sophomore forward Aleem Ford drained a 3-pointer from the left wing that tied the score at 34 with 54 seconds left in the first half.
With Happ and junior forward Khalil Iverson on the bench, Wisconsin closed the first with a 9-0 run that tied things up at 34.
Macura said attaining a road victory in a tough, loud venue was showed the Musketeers’ cohesion and mettle.
“When it was tied up 64-64, I don’t think I’ve been in a louder arena,” Macura said. “I think the guys on this team did a good job staying together, sticking together and staying posed.”
Xavier shot 50.9 percent.
NOTES: Wisconsin junior F Ethan Happ scored the 1,000 point of his career. ... Xavier senior G Trevon Bluiett scored only four first-half points. ... The game was a first-round meeting of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.