Here's what Greg Gard had to say after the Badgers' 72-61 loss to James Madison

The Wisconsin Badgers once again made an early exit in March, losing to the James Madison Dukes in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 72-61.

After the game, head coach Greg Gard spoke to the media, reflecting on his team's efforts in the disappointing loss.

Opening Statement

Greg Gard: First, congratulations to James Madison. They were more interesting in person than they were in the movie, and I was more impressed by them in the movie. Their pressure bothered us, especially in the first half, obviously with 13 turnovers, they really got after us. We didn't handle it well, and when we did, sometimes we couldn't finish around the rim and missed some easy shots.

But how the team fought back in the second half and turned six again. If you have 13 turnovers and 26 percent shooting in the first half, you've dug yourself a hole, but this team hasn't gotten out of them all year. And, you know, to get it back to six and get it close, they gave it everything they had and left it on the floor.

So proud, obviously Tyler is our only senior, what he's given to this program and these guys to my left, I've never had to coach, you don't have to try, you can get a lot of benefits. Things that this group did are happening. So it's going to sting for a while because we obviously felt like we could have played better, but we'll absorb that and we'll keep moving forward.

K. You talked about Tyler being a senior, but a lot of this group returns from last year. How hard this loss is, especially considering the speed you came from Big Ten Tournament?

Greg Gard: Well, any time you get to this point in the year, any loss is tough because you scrape and claw and work all year to get yourself into this tournament. As we've seen in every other game, you have 40 minutes, and if you have a bad segment of that 40, you play uphill like we did, like we did a bad 20.

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Yes, you put a lot into it and it burns. Not only that — you didn't prepare for it for four days after Sunday's exam. You have been working on this since last June. These guys have poured a lot into it and you've seen tears and emotion because it means a lot and they've made a lot of commitment and sacrifice to give to this team.

K. You talked about missing some shots on the edge. Does the pressure lead to rushing those scenes, do you think?

GREG GARDE: I mean, the game pressure is real. You won't deny it. But I thought we were turning the ball over early because of their physicality, and then I felt like we rushed the ball at times when we had turnovers because of the physicality. We had some unforced errors where we sped up and threw the ball.

Yes, we haven't finished rounding the rim. We had some pretty point-blank looks and we didn't shoot the free throw line as well as we did. I thought offensively, especially in the first half – defensively, we held them under a point in the first half. That's just 13 turnovers and 26 percent shooting. It's pretty ineffective when you shoot low.

Usually, if you turn the ball a lot, at least you'll shoot it better, because the shots you don't hit, you're throwing away, so it doesn't count against you. But we scored a double century in the first half.

K. You said in your opening statement to absorb this and move forward. What would it look like? When you don't run a tournament one year and don't win the next, do you look in the mirror and try to figure out how to get the program back to where you want it to be?

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Greg Gard: Well, I mean, you play through it, you're in a one-game playoff, so anything can happen. This team wanted to win the Big Ten Championship. We didn't get there. We got to the finish line last week in Minneapolis and they didn't get it. And they wanted to succeed in this and progress.

So in a 40-minute game, if you don't play well, like I've said a hundred times, you're going to go home. So for us, we've struggled with turnovers and shot selection all year and those sins came back to get us again tonight, more turnovers than ever. It's probably our highest grossing game of the year. Probably is.

But those things, that's why you fight and teach and coach all year long to not have a situation where you don't turn the ball over and you don't take bad shots to this point so that doesn't happen to you.

A lot of this is credited to James Madison. Like they said, we never saw a group actually come at us, we knew they would. Everyone we've talked to that they've played with is that they're going to come at you, they're going to foul you, it's going to be physical, they're going to reach out and grab you. You can handle it, and we didn't at the beginning of the game.

Like I said, 13 of 36 possessions in the first half was a recipe for disaster, but this team found a way and took better care of the ball in the second half. The problem was that the hole we dug was too deep.

K. In today's era of transfer portal, you have to do a lot to re-recruit last year's guys. Do you expect to get some this off-season, and what's your pitch for these guys to come back for another year?

Greg Gard: We're 15 minutes into the game, so I don't know. They don't know. That is, we see the world in which we exist. Let's have conversations. A lot of guys, all but Tyler have an option to come back, and there will be other options, I'm sure. If guys want to test the waters on the draft or get feedback. We haven't had those conversations yet. We are very bad after the game.

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Like I said, you look at the landscape, that's the environment we're in. So you have to deal with it and prepare. It could go a hundred different ways. But this core is very good. They are really tight. That locker room, it's so emotional right now, it tells me, or it tells me — it's not the first time I've seen an emotional locker room, but it tells me they're here for the right reasons.

That's what they're here for, and they did a good job representing the front of that jersey. But we are in a different era. There are a lot of personal choices that people have.

K. This is your sixth tournament. You have two first-round exits, two second-round exits, and you're all the way to the Sweet 16. Where does this loss occur, how much does it sting, how well did your team perform, and how does this rank compare to others?

Greg Gard: I'm not comparing years because each team is different within itself. In '13, we lost to Arizona and in the first round, and we turned around and went to the Final Four the next year. I don't like comparing years because the players are different. The pace of a season is different. Your season changes differently. It stinks because this team put so much effort into it, they really scored more goals and played well.

You know, like I said, we didn't play well tonight, it's not a seven-game streak. So you put your best hand out there, and if it's not good enough, you go home.

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