Senior day, sophomore moment

Wisconsin's starting front court scores 55 points in 71-62 win over Bucknell, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament

OKLAHOMA CITY — Cinderella refused to go quietly into the night. The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team, though, made sure Bucknell's feel-good story ended at the Ford Center.

Mike Wilkinson's 23 points led a UW starting frontcourt that scored 55 Sunday, as the sixth-seeded Badgers prevailed 71-62.

Wisconsin (24-8 overall) won behind a game-ending 28-18 run after the 14th-seeded Bison (23-10) took a one-point lead with 10 minutes, 20 seconds left to play.

"We don't want to go home," guard Sharif Chambliss said. "I like being at home but I don't want to go home."

Wisconsin will go home to Madison for a few days this week. Then it is off to Syracuse, N.Y., and a trip to the Carrier Dome for a Syracuse Regional semifinal matchup with 10th-seeded North Carolina State (21-13).

"We're going to Syracuse," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "It's not Disney World, but we are excited."

Four UW seniors combined to score 36 of the Badgers' first 42 points, but sophomores Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker made two of the biggest plays to get UW out of an offensive funk that threatened to keep Bucknell dancing.

Tucker fended off three Bison for an offensive rebound, drew a foul and made one of two free throws to make it 43-40 UW with 11:25 left to play, snapping a 5-minute, 30-second Badger scoreless streak.

After Bucknell went up 44-43, Taylor drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner, snapping a nearly seven-minute drought without a field goal.

"The shot clock was running down and the shot was there," Taylor said. "It felt good when it left my hand."

The Bison responded to take a 47-46 lead but UW's front court took over from there.

Zach Morley tipped in Tucker's missed jumper to give the Badgers the lead and fellow senior Wilkinson scored over Bucknell center Chris McNaughton to make it 50-47.

"The big guy, he was struggling moving his feet against Mike," Tucker said. "We wanted to take advantage of that."

Tucker then began an extraordinary parade to the free throw line, making 10 of 12 in the final 7:28 of the game. His second pair in that span gave UW a 54-47 lead.

BU drew within 54-50 on point guard Abe Badmus' 3-pointer, but Wilkinson responded with a pair of free throws and a jumper in the paint. Bucknell would get no closer than six the rest of the way, and trailed by as many as 12.

Wisconsin needed to assert itself in the paint offensively to counter McNaughton, who scored 23 points, almost entirely on layups and free throws. The 6-foot-11 sophomore made 10 of 14 shots and 3 of 4 free throws.

"I think Mike and Alando did a great job of getting the ball inside and finishing plays, getting to the free throw line," senior guard Clayton Hanson said. "And then we were able to get some stops too on the defensive end."

Tucker finished with 17 points for Wisconsin, while Morley chipped in 15, including three 3-pointers in the first half.

After Bucknell pulled ahead 44-43, Wisconsin called timeout. Taylor's shot, the Badgers' post offense and their team defense shifted momentum back to UW.

"We just got away from our game plan," Morley said. "We weren't doing what got us the lead. We were trying to do too much each person instead of just letting the team get it inside and work it around."

Wisconsin's final 24 points came from the free throw line or in the paint. The exclamation point came when senior point guard Chambliss, who is listed at 6-1, made a left-handed tip-in to make it 63-52 with 3:46 remaining.

Chambliss' shot made Tucker do a double take in the Badgers' next huddle.

"I had to make sure it was him that actually tipped it in and not one of Bucknell's players," Tucker said.

"And it was left-handed—that really shocked me," Tucker said. "He tipped it in left-handed and I'm like, ‘Wow, that's Sharif.' I'm like, I know we have to win this game because any time Sharif's stepping in and throwing in left-handed tip ins we were destined to win this game." Box Score

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