It was a long two months.
Wisconsin senior point guard Traevon Jackson never doubted. When he suffered a fractured foot on Jan. 11, ending his streak of 84 consecutive starts, he knew he would be back.
"I had some ups and down, but I knew I would be where I am now," Jackson said. "I was a true believer in myself and God."
Jackson returned to the lineup in the Badgers' 79-72 victory over North Carolina on Thursday in the NCAA West Regional semifinals at Staples Center.
Wisconsin fans cheered when Jackson entered with a few minutes gone Thursday. They cheered louder when he was passed the ball. And they went four-cheese ballistic when Jackson sank a three-pointer from the baseline 15 seconds after coming into the game.
"I imagined the crowd all along," Jackson said. "It's great to have Wisconsin people behind you."
Jackson played nine minutes, finishing with four points and one assist.
"It definitely gave us a boost when Traevon hit his first shot," forward Nigel Hayes said.
Television cameras panned the Wisconsin crowd in the second half and stopped on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, causing a cheer from Badgers fans.
Coach Bo Ryan seemed to feign ignorance after the game.
"Aaron Rogers? Not Erin Andrews, Aaron Rogers?" Ryan said when asked during his postgame press conference. "I didn't even know he was there."
Ryan, though, 'fessed up.
"He's been very supportive," Ryan said. "He does a lot of charities in the state. He's a good guy to have around too."
The box score showed that Zak Showalter played eight minutes and scored six points for Wisconsin. All came during a 9-0 second-half run that gave the Badgers a 63-60 lead.
It was a spotlight moment for a player who turned down scholarships from mid-major programs to come to Wisconsin as a walk-on.
"I lived in Wisconsin all my life and saw every Wisconsin basketball game since I was 10," said Showalter, who earned a scholarship after getting to Madison. "I wanted to play for Coach Ryan."
It was a father-son thing. Steve Showalter, his father, played for Ryan at Wisconsin Platteville from 1985 to '89.
"I first met Coach Ryan when I was 5 at a father-son basketball camp," said Showalter, who averaged 2.1 points this season.
T.J. a bear
It was just another night for Arizona's T.J. McConnell. He did a little of this and a little of that. Turned out it was plenty in pushing the Wildcats to a 68-60 victory over Xavier on Thursday.
McConnell, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. With four minutes left, he hit a three-pointer that gave the Wildcats a 58-54 lead.
All of which he did the day after his birthday.
“This was the best birthday present I have ever had,” McConnell said about the victory. “I can't remember many others. Maybe a bike when I was 8.
Coach Sean Miller, noting that McConnell is from Pittsburgh, said, “He got a Steeler football helmet. He used to run around in the backyard pretending to be Franco Harris.”