MADISON, Wis. (AP)—The Texas Longhorns weren’t about to let a Big Ten team take them down twice in the space of three days.
Gary Johnson banked in a jumper with 23.5 seconds left and No. 9 Texas shook free from pesky Wisconsin for a 74-69 victory Tuesday night, rebounding from a loss to Michigan State on Saturday and paying back the Badgers for beating them in Austin last season.
A.J. Abrams scored 21 points to lead the Longhorns (10-2), but Texas’ rebounding made the difference.
“We didn’t want to come in here and let them out-tough us,” Abrams said. “I think we did a good job of cleaning up the glass.”
Texas outrebounded Wisconsin 40-25, a point of emphasis for Texas coach Rick Barnes after last season’s loss to the Badgers.
“He showed us a bunch of film, and he said they punked us on the glass,” said Damion James, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds. “They pushed us and we didn’t do anything about it.”
They did Tuesday.
The Badgers gave away plenty of size and athleticism to the Longhorns, who have two 6-foot-10 players, Dexter Pittman and Connor Atchley.
“You see the bodies. You see the players. What do you want me to talk about?” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.
Wisconsin’s Joe Krabbenhoft said they were prepared for a tough night on the boards.
“They’re just so aggressive,” he said. “Those guys go to the glass so hard, and we knew it and we knew we had to check them off. Collectively, as a team, we didn’t.”
It was a rare loss at the Kohl Center for the Badgers (9-3), who are 113-8 at home in seven-plus seasons under coach Bo Ryan—including 58-5 in nonconference games.
And Wisconsin was unable to continue the Big Ten’s recent trend of surprising success in nonconference play. Texas was one of the resurgent conference’s most recent victims, losing 67-63 to Michigan State in Houston on Saturday.
With conference play on the horizon, the Badgers still don’t have anything approaching a signature win, having lost to ranked foes Connecticut, Marquette and now Texas.
“It’s just getting old talking about it,” Krabbenhoft said.
Trevon Hughes had 18 points to lead Wisconsin.
“We were there,” Hughes said. “We tasted it. But we couldn’t get it done.”
The Badgers had an uncharacteristically bad night shooting 67 percent from the free throw line. But Wisconsin kept pace with hot 3-point shooting, hitting 47 percent from beyond the arc, while Texas struggled at 19 percent.
Abrams was 8-for-21 from the field, a sign, Ryan said, that his team’s defense made one of the top players in the country work for his points.
“I’ll take that anytime,” Ryan said. “He didn’t shoot a lot of free throws, either.”
Wisconsin led with just over 3 minutes remaining, but was unable to duplicate last season’s thrilling victory in Austin. The Badgers upset the Longhorns 67-66 after Michael Flowers hit a 3-pointer to take the lead with 2.7 seconds left, then stole the inbounds pass to seal the victory. Flowers, a senior last season, returned to attend Tuesday’s game.
Barnes said that was a learning experience for his team.
“We got a lot out of this last year, even though we lost at the buzzer,” Barnes said. “It was a killer, but we definitely learned from it.”
Jason Bohannon’s 3-pointer gave the Badgers a one-point lead with 3:06 remaining, and the Badgers got the ball back when James stepped on the baseline after grabbing a rebound.
But Texas’ Dogus Balbay came up with a steal at halfcourt and drove for a layup, and James hit a jumper in the lane to put Texas up 70-67.
Landry scored inside to narrow Texas’ lead to one with 1:23 left, and Abrams missed a jumper. But James grabbed the rebound and the Longhorns ran the game clock down before Johnson banked in the midrange jumper to extend the lead to 72-69.
With Wisconsin needing a 3-pointer to tie, James blocked Hughes’ shot in the lane. Abrams then made two free throws.