Tucker's buzzer beater puts Wisconsin in third place in the Big Ten

MADISON – Wisconsin men's basketball coach Bo Ryan had it all planned out. With 10 seconds left, the score was tied at 60-60 and the ball was in the Badgers' hands. Overtime was not an option and sophomore forward Alando Tucker was going to be the hero.

"Alando you're going to get the offensive rebound on the miss that's going to win the game," said Ryan, recounting what said in the Badgers' huddle prior to final in-bounds play. "That's the only thing all night that anybody ever listened to me."

Call Ryan clairvoyant if you will for this is exactly what happened.

Initially, Tucker tried to save the day with his 3-pointer from the left corner but, as Ryan predicted, the shot came up short. Senior forward Mike Wilkinson found the offensive rebound but also failed to put the game away. Just before the final buzzer went off, though, Tucker pulled off Ryan's plan. He tipped in Wilkinson's missed tip-in to put the finishing touches on Wisconsin's wild 62-60 victory here Tuesday night.

"Initially when I caught the ball I saw my defender stumble," Tucker said. "I could have made the decision to drive to the basket or shoot it. I shot it and Mike got in a great position to get the rebound. Coach told the players, ‘If the shot goes up, everybody dives in with the intention not to foul but to go after the ball.' Mike grabbed the rebound and he made a great play by getting it up in the air. He got it up in the air and it was a spot I was coming right to and I grabbed the ball and laid it in."

The win put 23rd-ranked Wisconsin (10-5 Big Ten, 19-7 overall) one game ahead of Indiana (9-6, 14-12) and Minnesota (9-6, 19-9) for third place in the Big Ten with one game left to play.

Prior to the game-winning shot, it appeared as though the Badgers were going to suffer their second Kohl Center loss of the season. Wisconsin led by 10 with less than 10 minutes to play but IU junior guard Bracey Wright gave the Hoosiers their first lead of the game with a 3 that made it 56-55 with 2:22 remaining.

Wilkinson hit 1 of 2 free throws to tie the score at 56 and then on the next Badger possession he went 1 of 2 from the line again to make it 57-56 at the 1:14 mark.

Wright retaliated with two made free throws to put IU up 58-57 but Wilkinson made 3 of 4 in his next two trips to the line, giving the Badgers a 60-58 edge.

Wright then went barreling down the lane but missed an out-of-control jumper near the goal. Roderick Wilmont, however, pounced on the rebound and put it in to tie the game with 14 seconds left.

While the Badgers were able to get to the free-throw line in the last 10 minutes they could do little else. Before Tucker's tip-in the Badgers last field goal came on a Sharif Chambliss' jumper at the 9:35 mark.

"Defensively they did a great job," Ryan said. "They're so athletic and quick. We didn't get a lot of second-chance opportunities during that run and they get seven field goals in that stretch and fortunately we had one more in us."

During the final 7:15 Wisconsin went 7 of 15 from the free-throw line. Wilkinson was 5 of 10 in the final three minutes, missing 4 of his first 6 in that stretch.

"What's great about what Mike Wilkinson was doing at the end; I've seen guys who are missing free throws who stay so far away from the basketball, they don't want to go to the line again," Ryan said. "How about Mike? He just couldn't wait to get up there again and I love that about him. I have seen guys over the years… [who] are missing free throws and they disappear, they just drift away. Not Mike; he wasn't going anywhere except to the free-throw line again. Those last two were big."

Tucker's tip-in proved to be the game-winner, but Wilkinson had a monstrous game. The first half belonged to him. He started out on fire and scored nine of the Badgers' first 14 points. He went 8 of 9 from the field in the first half, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, for 19 points. For the game he led all scorers with 28 points and added game-highs with nine boards and three steals.

"I got some good looks, my teammates made some great passes and set me up with some good looks and I just knocked them down," Wilkinson said. "We knew coming in that if we got the ball inside, they were going to help and sag a little bit because that's what they've been doing and it's made them really good. They've got some athletes that can really close up. I was just fortunate enough to get a couple looks and them being a half a step slower where I could get it off. [The shots] were just going down."

Tucker tallied nine points in the first half and ended the game with 17 points and eight rebounds. With about ten minutes remaining in the game, he also gave the Badgers a scare. He went up for a shot over IU freshman guard Robert Vaden, drew a foul and landed hard on his back. He made the shot but was slow to get up before making the free-throw attempt. Tucker remained in the game and appears to be fine.

"It wasn't to the point where I knew it was going to be too serious but at the time it was… a real tough stinger," Tucker said. "It was just one of those things that you just got to take a couple minutes to let it wear off really quick and try to get back and fight through it."

Another thing the Badgers did well in the victory was put the pressure on Indiana's key player, Wright. Coming into this game Wright had put up a 27-point performance against Purdue last week and a season-high 32-point showing in Indiana's upset over Michigan State Sunday. Tuesday, Wright was relatively cold on 3 of 13 shooting for only 13 points. Senior guard Clayton Hanson took primary responsibility for guarding Wright.

"He did a great job," Ryan said regarding Hanson's defense on Wright. "That young man works so hard … last game at Indiana it maybe looked like Clayton was struggling a bit but he also wasn't getting the help that we need to get to guys like Bracey Wright and in this game we corrected it."

Indiana got some help offensively from the freshman duo of Vaden and forward D.J. White. On 7 of 9 shooting, White ended the night with a team-high 17 points while Vaden added 10 points, seven boards and three steals in his 33 minutes.

Had the Hoosiers sprung the upset Tuesday, they would have clinched the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, the Badgers can secure third place outright with a home win over Purdue Saturday.

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