Liberty Flames vs. Wisconsin Badgers Pick & Prediction MARCH 19th 2023

Stadium: Kohl Center Madison
Logo Liberty Flames
Logo Wisconsin Badgers

127.5o -112
-5 +109



For Wisconsin to get past visiting Liberty in the second round of the NIT on Sunday at Madison, Wis., the Badgers will have to do something they have not done since early January: Win back-to-back games.

Second-seeded Wisconsin (18-14) defeated Bradley 81-62 in the first round Tuesday behind a career-high 36 points from Steven Crowl. Third-seeded Liberty (27-8), appearing in the NIT for the first time, topped Villanova 62-57 in its opener on Tuesday.

The Badgers have not won two in a row in a 19-game span since defeating Minnesota on Jan. 3 for their sixth consecutive victory. Since then, Wisconsin is 7-12, including a first-round loss in the Big Ten tournament that quashed its hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid.

Liberty shared the ASUN regular-season title with Kennesaw State, but when the teams met in the conference tournament title game, it was Kennesaw State that pulled out the 67-66 victory.

Crowl entered the game against Bradley averaging 11.5 points per game, but the 7-foot junior hit 12 of 16 shots, including a career-best five 3-pointers, and went 7 of 7 from the free-throw line.

Wisconsin's other three double-digit scorers -- Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl and Connor Essegian -- were a combined 4 of 20 against Bradley. However, the Badgers hit 23 of 28 free throws, both season highs.

"I'm really happy for these guys because they put a lot into this year," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "Obviously, we've had ups and downs, but for them to be able to continue to play basketball and play it well tonight, I'm happy for them."

Liberty's Darius McGhee, who was 0 of 11 from 3-point range in the ASUN title game, bounced back for a game-high 26 points against Villanova, including 5 of 13 beyond the arc.

McGhee, the school's all-time leading scorer, averages 22.6 points per game, fourth-best in the country, along with a team-high 158 3-pointers. Kyle Rode is the only other double-figure scorer at 10.8.

The Flames, who average 74.8 points and allow 60.5, are 19-1 at home, but 8-7 away. Their scoring margin of 14.3 per game is third-best in the country, behind only Houston and Gonzaga.

Although this will be the first meeting between Liberty and Wisconsin, Flames coach Ritchie McKay is familiar with the Badgers from his time as an assistant at Virginia.

"They're really physical," McKay said. "Coach Gard, I've known him for years. I have a ton of admiration for how they do it. They never beat themselves. This was an (NCAA) at-large candidate up until the last 10 days maybe of the season."

--Field Level Media

Liberty Flames
Wisconsin Badgers

Liberty Flames vs. Wisconsin Badgers Recap MAR 19TH 2023

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.

The second-seeded Badgers (19-14) advanced to the quarterfinals against the winner between top-seeded Oregon (20-14) and Central Florida (19-15).

Tyler Wahl added 16 points and Steven Crowl had 14 for Wisconsin, which won consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 3. The Badgers beat Bradley 81-62 in the 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, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc.

Zach Cleveland scored down low to put 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 6 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