It might have been a little tougher than expected, but Wisconsin basketball prevailed 84-74 Thursday against Virginia Tech and now enters the “house money” portion of the NCAA Tournament.
The Badgers will face No. 1 overall seed Villanova on Saturday, but for now, it’s time to talk about one of Wisconsin’s best offensive efforts of the season the East Region in Buffalo. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard discussed what went right in his postgame news conference with the media.
“I thought we got the ball in some pretty high-percentage areas,” Gard said. “We wanted to make sure, we tried to touch the post when we could. We shot quite a few free throws down the stretch, too, so it’s part of it. I don’t know. I’ve only coached one team, so I can’t judge in terms of what they are going through. I thought we had guys make key plays at key times, and that’s what you have to have at this time of year if you want to continue to advance. Different people have to step up at different times.”
Here’s what else Gard had to say, which was pretty much all things Bronson Koenig:
On Bronson Koenig, who set a school record with 8 3-pointers in a single game
“He did a very good job without the ball tonight. He played more without the ball than he did with the ball for the most part because of what we wanted to run against what they were doing defensively. So, he found spots. As he mentioned, teammates did a good job of screening and finding him, and I don’t know if it’s his best shooting performance. Obviously it sets a record, but he had 17 attempts to do it, too. But he’s a good player. There’s no doubt about that. He’s the school’s all-time leader in 3-point shooting. It’s pretty obvious. He’s been fun to coach.”
On where this game ranks for Koenig in his eyes
“Well, I can probably remember his 2 turnovers or whatever he had. Oh, he had 1. Okay? You know, he’s — I’ve known him since he was a freshman in high school, recruited him for three years before he committed to us. So I’ve seen him do a lot of things. Watched him win two state championships. I watched him four years here with us. He’s a heck of a player.”
On Koenig’s track record as a clutch scorer
“He’s done that throughout the year. He’s hit big shots for us. He hit a big shot — everybody remembers the shot against Xavier last year that he hit to send us to the Sweet 16. He has a tendency to obviously have the ball in his hands, so the opportunities go up. That’s usually where you put your — at the end of the game, you want the ball in your point guard’s hands, whether it’s him shooting or making plays for others. And he was opportunistic, and he hit obviously timely shots when we needed it. Like I said, teammates found him, too.”
On Koenig’s mentality
“Well, he’s gone through games where he’s gone 1 for 8 or 1 for 9, too. So the biggest thing about shooters, they have to have a short memory when things aren’t going well. We’ve gone through — I think he went 1 for 10 when we were at Madison Square Garden against Rutgers this year. He came over to the bench and said what’s wrong. I said keep shooting. You’ve got to keep shooting when you’re a shooter of his level. Because eventually you going to get one to go and it start to snowball. You can’t lose confidence when you’re a player like that.”
On the game’s frustrating plays
“Well, here’s the thing. They shoot the 3 so well, and maybe we made too big of a deal as a staff about taking away their 3s, that we had them hyper-alert to them shooting 3s specifically off out-of-bounds plays or anywhere. I’ll look through the tape to see why we gave up so much dribble penetration. Some of it we weren’t as compressed and compact defensively as we normally are, knowing that they had so many shooters on the floor. We were a little more spread. They do that to you, too. They did it throughout the year to teams in the league as I went through films.”