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Johnny Davis and Brad Davison lead the way as the Badgers wipe out a 16-point deficit


Wisconsin's Johnny Davis shoots over Texas A&M's Andre Gordon on Monday.

Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis shoots over Texas A&M’s Andre Gordon on Monday.

Greg Gard’s young Wisconsin team grew up just a bit in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.

Wisconsin was rushed and out of sync on offense and disconnected on defense early in the game Monday and trailed Texas A&M by as many as 16 points in the first half.

UW settled in, battled back to take a one-point halftime lead and then made critical plays for most of the second half to win going away, 69-58, over the Aggies in Las Vegas.

“They’re resilient,” Gard said. “It’s a tough-minded group and we just need to continue to understand and establish what makes us really good.

“Getting our defense set is a piece of that.”

The Badgers (3-1) advanced into the winner’s bracket and are scheduled to play at 4 p.m. Tuesday. They face No. 11 Houston (4-0). The Cougars scored 27 points off 20 Butler turnovers en route to a 70-52 victory over Butler in the second game Monday.

Box score: Wisconsin 69, Texas A&M 58

More: ‘Our identity is on the defensive side’: But can the Wisconsin basketball team’s offense be consistent enough?

Sophomore Johnny Davis scored 21 points and senior Brad Davison 19 and they hit a combined 13 of 29 shots. They also combined for 16 of UW’s 36 rebounds.

Sophomore Steven Crowl added 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and a block. Freshman guard Chucky Hepburn added seven points, two rebounds and one assist. Tyler Wahl was active on both ends of the floor and finished with six points, four rebounds three steals and a block.

Jordan Davis played only six minutes but entered the game earlier than usual and contributed three points and four rebounds.

“It was great to be out there playing with my twin brother,” Johnny Davis said. “I thought he contributed a lot. He got in, did what he needed to do.”

The same could be said for most of the 10 players Gard used.

UW, which faced a 26-10 deficit with 11 minutes 56 seconds left in the opening half, won the battle for second-chance points (15-5), points off turnovers (22-14) and points in the paint (26-16).

Wisconsin's Brad Davison and Texas A&M's Aaron Cash wrestle for the ball Monday in their first-round Maui Invitational game in Las Vegas.

Wisconsin’s Brad Davison and Texas A&M’s Aaron Cash wrestle for the ball Monday in their first-round Maui Invitational game in Las Vegas.

“I saw the same fight I saw in the Providence game,” said Johnny Davis, who missed the 63-58 loss because of a heel injury. “The way these guys battled back, even when the shots weren’t falling, I’m just really proud of the way we all played.”

Texas A&M (4-1) hit 6 of 7 three-pointers (85.7%) and 8 of 10 shots overall (80.0%) in building the 26-10 lead but finished 10 of 26 from three-point range (38.5%) and 19 of 49 overall (38.8%).

The Badgers looked out of sync and outclassed in the first 15-plus minutes and the Aggies’ lead was 33-20 before UW closed with a 15-1 run over the final 4:41.

Davison sparked the run with a jumper. He had eight points, Johnny Davis had five and Crowl had two in the 15-1 run as the Badgers grabbed a 35-34 halftime lead.

“It was huge,” Davis said. “We needed that momentum to close out the half. And I think it carried over into the second half to start because we jumped on them early.”

The Badgers held a 46-42 lead but then went on a 15-3 run to push the lead to 61-45 with 8:45 left. Wahl had four points, Davison three, Jordan Davis three, Crowl three and Hepburn two in the run.

The Aggies closed to within 65-58 but Johnny Davis and Davison each hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to help stymie the rally.

“We just collected ourselves and got back to the things we need to do to have success,” said Gard, whose team hit 15 of 17 free throws. “Part of that was what we did offensively better, taking better shots, taking care of the ball better (and) getting to the free-throw line. All of those things helped us set our defense.

“They had their barrage early, most of it through a scattered floor (defensively). We weren’t getting back, for a variety of reasons. And credit them for taking advantage of that.

“But we figured that out, fortunately fast enough, and we were able to collect ourselves with enough time left that we could back to doing what we need to do.”

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin 69, Texas A&M 58: Badgers win their Maui Invitational opener



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