No. 9 Badgers fall to No. 5 Tar Heels 60-57
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Wisconsin had made things difficult on defenses by stretching them thin and then knocking down crushing 3-pointers. The ninth-ranked Badgers just couldn't do the same against North Carolina.
Sure, Wisconsin spread out the fifth-ranked Tar Heels and made them defend until deep in the shot clock in the 60-57 loss Wednesday night. But the Badgers missed 20 of 28 shots from behind the arc to squander a chance at a huge road win.
"We thought maybe we could float around the outside and find some open space out there," said Jared Berggren, who had 14 points for the Badgers. "I did find a few openings. But their length, no one else can really close out the way they can."
Wisconsin came in shooting 47 percent from 3-point range, but the Badgers hit three of their five second-half 3s in the final minute after falling behind by 10 points. That cold spell was particularly critical when the Tar Heels made an 18-5 run to erase a 36-31 deficit midway through the second half.
The Badgers missed two 3s before UNC pushed ahead for good in that spurt.
"You've just got to be tough enough to get one or two in there and break those streaks," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
For North Carolina, Harrison Barnes scored 10 of his 20 points during the decisive second-half surge.
Tyler Zeller added 12 points for the Tar Heels (6-1), who had to show plenty of fight and toughness to outlast the Badgers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They were coming off their first loss of the season over the weekend against UNLV.
Barnes was critical in the key run, knocking down two 3-pointers and a jumper. But on a night when their fast-paced attack rarely got out in transition, the Tar Heels only fought off Wisconsin (6-1) after stringing together enough defensive stops and getting enough defensive rebounds to aid their struggling offense.
For the Badgers, almost everything went to plan except for the outcome.
They made the Tar Heels work for their shots. And coach Roy Williams grew so frustrated at one point in the second half that he ripped off his suit jacket and yelled at his players.
But North Carolina -- which despite the NBA potential on its front line had been outrebounded three times this season -- responded by controlling the boards behind John Henson, who finished one shy of a career-high with 17 rebounds.
Jordan Taylor had 18 points to lead Wisconsin, which held North Carolina to 42 percent shooting. That included a 6-minute scoreless stretch in the first half, but the Badgers didn't fare any better (36 percent) and couldn't knock down the 3-point shots that would have brought even more tension to the blue-clad crowd.
North Carolina was coming off a loss to UNLV in the Las Vegas Invitational over the weekend, which also included Barnes playing 30 minutes despite spraining his right ankle in the first half. He missed Monday's practice and Williams didn't sound sure Barnes would be ready for the Badgers, though Barnes made it through a full practice Tuesday evening and was back in the starting lineup to spark the Tar Heels' sluggish offense.
Things won't get easier for UNC. Next up is Saturday's trip to Kentucky, which replaced North Carolina at No. 1.