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Badgers Outlast the Bison

Front-Court Trio Scores 55 as Wisconsin Advances: Wisconsin 71, Bucknell 62

By Thayer Evans
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, March 21, 2005; Page D08

OKLAHOMA CITY, March 20 -- After eclipsing the school record for single-season three-pointers during its first-round NCAA tournament victory, Wisconsin decided to go back to front-court basics.

And when the sixth-seeded Badgers followed through on that approach Sunday against No. 13 seed Bucknell, the trio of Zach Morley, Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson shined.

Wisconsin's Mike Wilkinson struggles to the hoop as the Bucknell defense closes, but the Badgers prevail, 71-62, Sunday. (Sue Ogrocki - AP)

The three forwards combined to score 55 points and grab 24 rebounds during Wisconsin's 71-62 victory over the Bison, ending the Patriot League champion's unlikely run in the NCAA tournament before 14,000 at Ford Center.

"We were there," Bucknell Coach Pat Flannery said. "We had opportunities. I can't find fault in our kids."

The sixth-seeded Badgers (24-8), who have made the round of 16 two of the last three years, are headed to the semifinals of the Syracuse Region, where they will face 10th-seeded North Carolina State.

"It's not Disney World, but we are excited," Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan said.

Wilkinson led the Badgers with 23 points and nine rebounds. He was 9 of 15 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free throw line.

Tucker, a sophomore, added 17 points, 15 of those coming on 18 attempts from the free throw line. Morley, held scoreless by Northern Iowa in the first round, busted loose with 15 points.

Despite being down by 13 points in the first half, Bucknell (23-10) hung tough against Wisconsin. The Bison used an 8-1 run slightly more than five minutes into the second half to go ahead 44-43.

The two teams traded leads before Morley tipped in a missed jumper by Tucker with 8 minutes 38 seconds left in the game.

"We knew it was going to be a battle," Morley said. "We knew we would have to fight for every position. Every ball that went up was a free ball."

That started an 18-5 run by Wisconsin, and Bucknell never recovered.

The spurt included nine points from Wilkinson, who was held to just seven points on Friday against Northern Iowa.

"The guys got me the ball where I could do something with it," the 6-foot-8 senior said. "I just had some opportunities inside today, and I made some good moves and finished them."

After shooting 31 three-pointers in its first-round win against Kansas, Bucknell got off just 15 attempts, making five. Sophomore center Charles McNaughton was the only Bison to score in double figures with 23 points.

Junior guard Charles Lee (Quince Orchard), who had 15 points against the Jayhawks, was just 4 of 13 from the field. He did not make any of his three attempts from three-point range.

"I look at the statistics, and they were even across the board except for a couple of things," Flannery said. "Their size, quickness and their seniors being in this type of game helped them."

Afterward, Wilkinson applauded the effort of McNaughton, who averaged 16.5 points in the NCAA tournament, 4.3 points higher than he did in the regular season.

"He's a great player," Wilkinson said. "He did a good job of getting in the post and working to get position. You take away one side, and he'd work around and get position in another way. He'd find ways to get in. Once he got in there, he didn't miss very many times."

Even in losing, Flannery remained upbeat about his team's experience.

"There is nothing negative I can take from this," Flannery said. "I was proud of the way our kids battled. It was great to have the support we had out there. I don't think it's going to sink in for a little while. These kids are hurting because we are not going to Syracuse."

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