Chucky Hepburn scored a career-high 27 points and Max Klesmit scored all seven of his points down the stretch as Wisconsin rallied past visiting Liberty 75-71 in the second round of the NIT on Sunday in Madison, Wis., in the teams’ quadrant of the tournament.
The second-seeded Badgers (19-14) advanced to the quarterfinals against the winner between top-seeded Oregon (20-14) and Central Florida (19-14).
Tyler Wahl added 16 points and Steven Crowl 14 for Wisconsin, which won consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 3. The Badgers beat Bradley 81-62 in their NIT opener.
Darius McGhee, who entered as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer at 22.6 per game, finished with 31 points for Liberty (27-9). He made 10 of 25 shots from the field, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc.
Zach Cleveland scored down low to put third-seeded Liberty up 71-70 with 1:08 remaining before Klesmit regained the lead for Wisconsin after banking in a drive on the ensuing possession.
Connor Essegian hit the second of two free throws to double the advantage with 24 seconds left. McGhee missed on a drive, and Klesmit was fouled on the rebound.
Klesmit hit both free throws to make it 75-71 with six seconds left.
Klesmit made a 3-pointer, the Badgers’ first after 14 misses, to put Wisconsin up 68-67. McGhee countered with a layup to put the Flames in front 69-68 with 1:53 left.
Kyle Rode hit back-to-back 3-pointers to fuel a 10-0 run that put Liberty up 50-46 with 13:33 remaining.
Crowl was called for an offensive foul, his fourth, with 10:35 remaining, and McGhee countered with a 3-pointer from the top to put the Flames up 61-54.
Hepburn and Crowl combined for 33 first-half points to pace Wisconsin to a 37-34 lead at the break.
Hepburn had 19 points in the first half, making 7 of 11 shots along with 5 of 7 from the line. Crowl, who had a career-high 36 points in the win over Bradley, was 7 of 8 for 14 points at intermission.
Crowl was called for a Flagrant 1 foul and a technical with 49 seconds left and the Flames hit 3 of 4 free throws to pull within 35-34.
–Field Level Media