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March 18, 2017

Greg Gard

Vitto Brown

Ethan Happ

Nigel Hayes

Bronson Koenig

Buffalo, New York

Wisconsin - 65, Villanova - 62

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the Wisconsin head coach, Greg Gard, as well as student-athletes, Ethan Happ. Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, and Bronson Koenig.

GREG GARD: Obviously, extremely excited beyond -- I don't know if I can put it into words how happy I am for these guys and their teammates in the locker room. Just an unbelievable, gutty performance against a terrific team.

You know, we didn't play perfectly, but we played well enough, and we had enough perseverance to be able to get things done in the amount of time we had. Just so excited and proud of these guys because they've had to battle through a lot this year as we've worked and grown through the season together. So, I'll leave it up to those guys.

Q. Nigel, could you take us through the go-ahead basket and kind of what you saw during that play?
NIGEL HAYES: Coach drew up a -- it's kind of a play we run all of the time, just a side isolation. If you will. Ethan set a screen to try to give me a little traffic to try to baseline. Went down there to -- I didn't know what move I was actually going to do before I caught the ball. Just went, did a fake spin, got to my left hand and fortunately the lay-up went in for us.

Q. Like a wrestling term, you showed intestinal fortitude late. Could you give us a window, what was the conversation with like 3 seconds to go.
NIGEL HAYES: Three seconds to go?

Q. It was 3.4. When you guys were up.
NIGEL HAYES: Did he make his free throw? It was, one, don't foul; Ethan and I don't foul. And if he makes the flow, try to get them to catch the ball going towards our basket so we don't give up a Hail Mary because they won a championship on a shot similar. So we didn't want to give up anything like that.

Yeah, we wanted to have some composure. We played a really great team, great team. It took a great effort from us, and we're just proud of ourselves for getting the job done.

Q. Could you describe the anxiety of sitting on the bench with four fouls and being able to come back eight of ten shots and get the lead back?
BRONSON KOENIG: Yeah. I felt terrible, to say the least, when I got my fourth foul and I was just sitting on the bench trying to be a coach from the bench and help all our guys out. I knew that's not how my career was going to end. I knew that when coach gave me the opportunity to get back in there, I was going to make something happen. So I'm just glad we pulled it out.

Q. For the seniors, a couple Arizona games, Xavier last year, Kentucky, now this. Lots of us have never been in the situation where we're on the court in a high-stakes game and figure out how to win. Tell us what it feels like and if there's something you guys know that we don't know about what it takes.
NIGEL HAYES: I think a lot of those games, probably -- excuse me. Correction.

All of those games we've been the underdog. You have all types of your ranking systems, statistic, analytics guys that they put. The thing is with all those algorithms, they can't calculate heart, will to win, toughness, desire. They can't put that into a formula to come out with a percentage chance to win, and that's the things that we have. The things that we've grown with. We've seen the older guys, they've had that.

Our best example is Traevon. When we got here, we watched Trae make clutch shot after clutch shot. Frank did the same thing, and now we're stepping into their shoes and we're trying to continue.

Q. For Nigel and Ethan, you guys struggled down the stretch last year in Philadelphia, and ended up turning the ball over to lead to your defeat. How have you guys, or how have you grown since that loss in Philly especially against late game situations to pull out with a late win today.
NIGEL HAYES: Honestly, we've grown a lot. First game, we had eight turnovers, maybe. We've done a lot better job. Today we still -- we almost gave the game away. Fortunately, thank the lucky stars, that that wasn't an intentional foul on me. I did make a play for the ball. I'm glad the ref saw that, but if that goes intentional foul, he makes those two, they get the ball back, we could have been talking about a great career that we've had.

Q. Bronson a follow-up to the one earlier. You talked about how tough it was being on the bench. How proud of you are those guys that were out there for those eight minutes that kept this game?
BRONSON KOENIG: I was very proud of them. I think that's something we've done really well recently. When somebody gets in foul trouble or someone is not playing well, we've done a lot better of job picking each other up and trying to stay positive the whole game. At times it does get a little impossible to do that. We just stick together.

Q. For Ethan, can you describe that defensive sequence, at the end you got Josh Hart, potential Player of the Year, coming toward you and you stand your ground and force the turnover. What did you see there?
ETHAN HAPP: Nigel had him. Nigel picked up and they screened him, so we ended up switching it. I know he likes to go left and spin back, but he just stuck to his left hand the whole time and then Vitto came over with great help and I walled him up and Vitto came over and got the almost tie-up, but ended up blocking it.

THE MODERATOR: Vitto, your thoughts?

VITTO BROWN: Yeah. The way some of the calls were going, we weren't sure if there would have been a foul in the end and so Ethan did a great job keeping his hands back and kind of taking the ambiguity out of so they wouldn't call that foul and then I figured he wasn't paying attention to me, so I I kind of reached in there and had to hold it strong because DiVincenzo was coming strong to rip from me.

THE MODERATOR: Last one for the student-athletes.

Q. You were joking yesterday, Bronson made all of the spectacular shots. Did you figure it was your time?
NIGEL HAYES: No, he did. We were down three. I was dribbling around the court aimlessly, and I threw it out to him and he hit the shot. His shot made was the reason we were able to get the tie and made a couple other big shots late at the shot clock. I just made a lay-up. Lay-ups are easy. He made the tough jump shots.

Q. That was an easy reverse?
NIGEL HAYES: No, I actually thought I missed it. I felt I threw it a little too hard. Luckily it went in for us.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. Good luck, moving on.

We'll go ahead and open up questions for Coach Gard. We'll start right down from here.

Q. There's no formula when to put a guy back in with four fouls. How can you decide when is the right time to get Bronson back in there?
GREG GARD: Well, the assistants couldn't decide either. One wanted him to go back in at 7 minutes. The other said no. I never got Krabbenhoft's vote. I decided to wait. We were within 7 at that point in time at the eight-minute media; I think it was 57-50. It wasn't going to get much further and I was going to have to go back to him.

So once we got to the five-minute mark, I think Trice had struggled with the previous possession. I said all right it's time to go. Obviously, the kid came in and played well. There's no set formula. You have to go on gut instinct. The odds of where you're at, scoring time, how the flow of the game is going, things like that.

Q. Just taking a quick scroll through my time line walking down here, a lot of the chatter is about you guys doing the eight seed and getting selections right or wrong. Do you even care where you were seeded?
GREG GARD: No. Seeds don't matter. I said that all along. These teams are so good. At this point, you got 68. I know there's some playing games and things like that and some automatic qualifiers that they have in the 16 seeds and things like that. But having been in this long enough, having been a 1, having been a 2, having been a 12, you know, you just got to go play. Like I said, there's so much parity, and teams are so good when you get to this time of year, you just have to lace them up and not worry about that. That's the approach we've taken.

I told these guys I don't care where we're seeded. We have to win six games. Let's start with these two this weekend.

Q. Coach, getting back to the question asked of Bronson. How much anxiety was there when he was out of the game with four fouls, knowing how he changed the game as he did?
GREG GARD: As long as we can stay within striking distance, I have a lot of confidence in my freshman point guard, D'Mitrik Trice. I thought other guys picked us up too. Pritzi gave some us good minutes. Even though he didn't score, Iverson was active and did some good things for us.

The bench scoring goes 24-3 in their favor. But I thought we got quality minutes from guys and were able to stay within striking distance or have the lead in the first half, and then you got to kind of pick your time. It happens. It's happened all year.

We've got to deal with somebody at some point in time. You like to avoid it. But when it does happen, you have a plan and trust the people you prepared to step in and help us out.

Q. Their last possession, did you assume the ball was going to go to Hart the entire time?
GREG GARD: Yeah. Either Hart or Bronson, just what we had seen on film. They've made so many last second game-winning plays. Going through the film, just the games of theirs, you look at the tight games and down the stretch how many game-winning plays they've made. And predominantly it had been in those two guys' hands or those two guys were somehow involved. Hart hits a big offensive rebound against Virginia, did he tip one in? If it was him or got it there late.

But those two guys typically either have the ball in their hands or are somehow involved in trying to make a play for them.

Q. All right, coach. The question is, your second half defense, Hart and Brunson were taking it to the rim strong and scoring to get the 57-50 lead and then you started getting stops. Your assessment of what happened?
GREG GARD: Well, we got better. We got better at the point of attack of trying to stop some guys. I thought we got -- we allowed too much of an angle to the rim at times. And also, you got to give credit where credit's due. Those two guys are two terrific players. I've watched -- what are they 32-4 -- so 35 games, going through quite a few of them and watching them go downhill on a lot of people and get the ball in the paint.

I watched Bronson in high school, and know what type of guard he is. And Josh Hart is a terrific player, too. That's how they played all year. There's been a lot teams having a hard time keeping them out of the paint, and we were able to shore it up enough down the stretch to be able to catch them and hang on.

THE MODERATOR: Not seeing any other questions, coach, congrats.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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