By PAUL GOTHAM
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bronson Koenig broke a 12-12 tie with back-to-back buckets, and the No. 8-seed Wisconsin Badgers took a 31-27 lead over No. 1-seed and reigning national champion Villanova Wildcats in second round action of the NCAA Tournament East Region at Key Bank Center, Saturday.
Koenig knocked down a pull-up jumper just above the free throw line and followed with a 3-pointer for a 17-12 Wisconsin lead.
The Badgers pushed the advantage to six when Vitto Brown connected on one of his three treys in the half. Wisconsin still led by six at 29-23 when Nigel Hayes grabbed his own miss and finished underneath.
Villanova’s Eric Paschall responded with four straight when the sophomore forward converted one of two from the free throw line and hit a triple of his own.
Koenig hit a step-back jumper for the halftime margin.
Villanova’s Josh Hart leads all scorers with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Koenig and Brown have nine apiece.
Wisconsin came into the game averaging 11 turnovers per game, but the Wildcats forced eight miscues over the first 20 minutes and converted those into a 12-7 advantage in points off miscues. Wisconsin committed eight turnovers in their first-round win over Virginia Tech.
Villanova also has a 10-4 advantage in second-chance points.
Wisconsin outscored Villanova in the paint 14-4.
Wisconsin has a 17-16 edge in rebounds.
The winner will face the Florida-Virginia winner in the Sweet 16.
Wisconsin has won 12 NCAA Tournament games since 2014 – the most in the nation. The Badgers are 6-2 all-time as a No. 8-seed.
Villanova is 58-34 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 21-12 under head coach Jay Wright.