MILWAUKEE—Wisconsin could not quite pull out a win in round two of the NCAA Tournament at the Bradley Center Sunday, falling to third-seed Pittsburgh 59-55. The Badgers, however, would not have been in the game without the play of junior forward Zach Morley.
Things were looking shaky for the Wisconsin men's basketball team during the opening minutes of the second half. The Panthers broke a 26-26 halftime tie courtesy of a hook shot by freshman center Chris Taft and then two from the charity stripe for sophomore guard Carl Krauser, giving Pittsburgh a four-point lead.
At the 17:30 mark, though, Morley came in for senior center Dave Mader and did everything to try to bring the Badgers back into the game.
Morley immediately made a contribution, working around Taft in the lane before finding sophomore guard Boo Wade wide open for an easy lay-in to pull Wisconsin within 30-28. After Pittsburgh widened its lead to 35-28, Morley earned two on a hook shot over the 6-foot-11 Taft and then two possessions later drove in the lane against Taft and laid it in off the glass to make it 35-32.
Morley did his share to even the score and subsequently put the Badgers ahead. He picked up an offensive rebound after a Wade missed jumper and kicked it out to Harris for a 3-pointer to even the score at 35-35. On Wisconsin's next possession, Morley converted a lay-up against Pitt junior forward Mark McCarroll to give the Badgers the lead. Before taking a breather at the 5:23 mark, Morley connected on two free throws to put the Badgers ahead 42-41.
"We knew that he was a good player coming in," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said regarding Morley's performance. "He's the third leading scorer and very talented. They like to use him as a match-up because of his versatility. I think that normally I'd have a bigger guy guarding him. He likes to take advantage of bigger guys guarding him."
Although Morley gave the Badgers production during that stretch, when it came down to the wire, he was unable to keep the game and the season alive for Wisconsin. With about nine seconds remaining and the Badgers trailing 58-55, Morley took a jumper that clanged off the rim and fell into the hands of Pittsburgh senior guard Jaron Brown, who drew a foul and hit 1 of 2 free throws with three seconds left to ice it.
"During the last possession we wanted to either get it to the rim and score quickly and then try to intercept the in-bounds pass or attack and kick it out for the three," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "If Zach's goes down, there's still five or six seconds left on the clock, we're OK. Zach's guy was backing off of him and it's a shot he can knock down. If he scores that, and that doesn't come off the rim, it doesn't get to three seconds. The clock stops and that's five seconds."
Even if Morley did not come away the hero, he still gave the Badgers all they could ask for during the season. The Indian Hills Community College transfer proved to be a perfect fit as the sixth man and closed out the year with a respectable 12 points, nine boards and two assists in 30 minutes in Sunday's game.
"Zach played a great game," junior forward Mike Wilkinson said. "He does so many things for us from playing defense to getting the ball in the post to finishing to making passes and getting rebounds. He just did everything for us today. That's what we needed from him."
Panthers stronger down the stretch
Morley's good work goes unrewarded
Badgers lose battle of the boards
Photo gallery 1 - Matthew Kutz
Photo gallery 2 - Getty Images
Photo gallery 3 - Associated Press
Pittsburgh 59, Wisconsin 55 - line score