BUFFALO — Here’s a shortlist of things Virginia Tech had to overcome Thursday in its first-round NCAA tournament matchup against Wisconsin: Five capable Badger players, including hot-shooting point guard Bronson Koenig; their own hobbled point guard; history; logic.
The first two are self-explanatory. Then there’s history, because in terms of experience, the eighth-seeded Badgers and the ninth-seeded Hokies were diametrically opposed: One program was making its 19th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance; the Hokies were making just their first since 2007. Finally, logic — when you consider all the other factors, the Hokies simply seemed out of their depth.
It all proved too much for Virginia Tech, which fell to the Badgers, 84-74. Someone forgot to tell them they didn’t belong, however — and their play proved they did. The Hokies trailed by just one in the final minutes before losing their grip at KeyBank Center.
Wisconsin (26-9) advances to a second-round meeting with No. 1 seed Villanova on Saturday.
The Hokies’ numbers told of a good night — they shot 46.9 percent from the floor, 41.2 percent from the three-point line after a shaky start and committed just three turnovers in the second half, after committing seven in the first.
But Wisconsin finished on a 10-1 run in the final 2:08. Koenig had 28 points, including a program record eight three-pointers, and four other Badgers had 10 points or more.
“You could definitely say I was looking for my shot,” Koenig said. “It’s something I take pride in as a senior point guard, being able to make plays in critical moments.”
Virginia Tech (22-11) never led in the second half but pulled within one point three times in the final 6:28. Forward Zach LeDay puffed air into his cheeks when he fouled out with less than a minute left, hugged Coach Buzz Williams, got a pat on the back from guard Seth Allen, and fought back tears.
“I just know I had a couple opportunities, that’s my fault, I’ve got to be better as a leader,” LeDay said. “We weren’t really thinking about the score, I was just out there playing as hard as I could, playing for my teammates.”
The senior had given his program a team-leading 23 points and four rebounds in his last game wearing a Hokies uniform. Ty Outlaw had 16 including four three-pointers, guard Justin Robinson had 11 and Allen had 10.
Wisconsin had a 34-30 edge at halftime, slim considering Virginia Tech was getting out-rebounded 19-12 and had the same number of turnovers as three-point attempts in an offense dependent on three-pointers. Allen played just eight minutes after leaving the court with an injury early on only to return to the bench minutes later, grimacing in pain as he walked with a limp.
“We talked about their three-point shooting,” Allen said. “Especially Bronson . . . they did get hot. I think he hit like three or four in a row at some point, but we just had to do a better job of running them off the line.”
● VILLANOVA 76, MOUNT ST. MARY'S 56: Donte Divincenzo scored 21 points, and the NCAA tournament top seed Wildcats shook off a slow start and stumbled forward in the East Region by beating the No. 16-seeded Mountaineers in Buffalo.
The Wildcats (32-3) weren’t themselves for much of the first half before they opened the second half with a 21-6 run to take the first step toward defending their championship. Villanova is trying to be the first back-to-back titlist since Florida in 2007.
Freshman Miles Wilson scored 22 points as the Mountaineers (20-16), who edged New Orleans in a First Four matchup on Tuesday, gave the defending champions all they could handle for 20 minutes.