Steven Crowl poured in a career-high 36 points to pace Wisconsin to an 81-62 victory over visiting Bradley in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night in Madison, Wis.
Second-seeded Wisconsin (18-14) will host Liberty in the second round, most likely on Sunday. Liberty (27-8) defeated Villanova 62-57 on Tuesday.
The Badgers, who have won just six of their final 18 games, are in the NIT for the first time since 1996. Wisconsin had appeared in 22 of the 23 previous NCAA Tournaments, but a first-round loss in the Big Ten Conference tournament dashed this season’s hopes.
Crowl hit 12 of 16 shots, including a career-best five 3-pointers in seven attempts, and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. The 7-foot junior’s previous high was 25 points, this season against Western Michigan on Dec. 30.
Max Klesmit added 16 points and Connor Essegian 14 for the Badgers.
Rienk Mast had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Zek Montgomery added 12 points for Bradley (25-10), which won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title but lost to Drake 77-51 in the conference tourney final.
Crowl’s fifth 3-pointer put Wisconsin up 58-44 with 13:15 remaining. The Badgers then went scoreless for 4:51 until Tyler Wahl’s free throw made it 59-49.
Wisconsin committed just three turnovers while scoring 11 points off 11 Bradley giveaways.
Crowl had 19 first-half points to pace Wisconsin to a 40-35 lead at the break. He hit 6 of 9 shots, including 3 of 4 beyond the arc, along with grabbing six rebounds.
Crowl’s 3-pointer put the Badgers up 26-13 with 9:45 left in the first half, but the Braves responded with a 7-0 run.
Ja’Shon Henry’s jumper brought the Braves within one possession, but Crowl answered with two free throws and a 3-pointer to push the lead to 37-29.
–Field Level Media