The 6-foot-8 senior forward reached double figures against Bucknell Sunday — in the first half.
Wilkinson scored a team best 23 points, including 11 in the first half and nine of the Badgers' last 17, in a 71-62 win over Bucknell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Ford Center here.
Wilkinson was noticeably more aggressive Sunday, taking the ball strong to the paint early and often. He spun off the block against Bison center Chris McNaughton for a layup four minutes into the game and added his second field goal one possession later, giving UW an 11-4 lead.
Wilkinson's 3-point play at the 8:36 mark in the first half gave the Badgers their biggest lead of the game at 23-10.
He beat McNaughton on another baseline spin, this time finishing with a short half-hook, to give UW a 28-23 edge.
"If you look at the way Wilkinson played today, unbelievable," McNaughton said. "I think we had a great battle down low. I mean McNaughton couldn't stop him and he couldn't stop me."
McNaughton matched Wilkinson's 23 points but he struggled to stop the Badger big man in the game's final minutes.
After Bucknell closed to within 33-29 on a pair of McNaughton buckets, Wilkinson scored on a tough reverse layup to provide the halftime margin of 35-29.
With Bucknell within 54-50 late in the game, Wilkinson made a pair of free throws and hit a short jumper to make it 58-50. His 3-point play with 4:17 left to play pushed UW's edge to 61-52. He would later add a pair of free throws to make it 66-56 UW.
Badgers adjust on McNaughton
Bucknell was able to get a few easy baskets for McNaughton in the first half off a pick-and-roll along the wing. McNaughton would set a screen for point guard Abe Badmus, then roll quickly to the lane as Wilkinson hedged to cut off Badmus' driving lane.
"Mike was jumping out too far," UW guard Kammron Taylor said. "We made an adjustment at halftime. We told Mike he didn't need to go out that far because Clayton [Hanson] was going to bust over that screen every time. We limited that in the second half."
McNaughton still managed to make 10 of 14 field goal attempts, including 5 of 8 in the second half.
"It's a challenge," Wilkinson said. "You've got to enjoy it though. How often do you get to play against big guys of that caliber? On this type of stage? It's just fun. That's why we play this game. It's because it's fun."
"It is just so much fun to play in games like that," he said. "You don't experience that every day."
Morley's triples spark Badgers
Morley's first long-range score came just two minutes into the game, giving UW its first lead at 5-4. That shot sparked an 18-4 run that gave the Badgers their largest lead, a 20-8 margin with 12 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first half. Morley's second triple had made it 17-6 a minute earlier.
After Bucknell stormed back to close within two, Morley swished his third 3-point attempt to extend UW's lead to 26-21. His nine first-half points were the second most on UW and he would end up scoring 15 in the game.
"I don't want to put this uniform off," Morley said of his performance. "I want to wear it as long as I can. We came here for one reason and that was to play as long as we can."
Badgers' offense stretches Bucknell thin
Morley's 3s — and those of his teammates — pulled the Bison out of their usual matchup zone rather quickly.
Morley hit his first two 3-pointers, as did senior guard Clayton Hanson, as UW jumped out to a 20-8 lead.
Bucknell had been sagging off defensively to try to take away the inside game from UW forwards Mike Wilkinson and Alando Tucker. The Bison more or less succeeded in that venture early, but the made 3-pont shots forced BU to switch to a pure man-to-man, which opened up the middle for UW's frontcourt to go one-on-one. Wilkinson (23 points), Tucker (17) and Zach Morley (15) combined to score 55 Sunday.
"We had to bring them out of that," Tucker said. "Teams, you can gamble for so long. But if we are having a hot night like that, where we start out early shooting as hot as we were, you have to come out and do something different. We forced them to come out of their matchup zone and start playing more man-to-man and that's when we were able to exploit them on the inside."
"If teams are going to take away one thing, they are going to leave something else open," Wilkinson said. "I just had some opportunities inside today and I made some good moves and finished them."
About 12 minutes into the first half, the Oklahoma State fans in attendance for the Wisconsin/Bucknell matchup rang out in an OSU cheer that doubled for the orange-clad Bison.
As one side of the arena rang out ORANGE!, the opposite side responded POWER!
Wisconsin led for most of the game, however, keeping the Oklahoma State fan dominated crowd largely quiet. The Ford Center remained about three-quarters full after the conclusion of OSU's win over Southern Illinois.
The Cowboy faithful's polite cheering turned raucous as Bucknell began a methodical second-half comeback.
The crowd erupted after Chris McNaughton's two free throws drew the Bison within 42-40 with 13:25 to play, and grew louder still when McNaughton made a shot from the right block with two seconds left on the shot clock to make it 43-42 UW.
After sophomore forward Donald Brown gave the Bison their first lead since it was 4-2 a minute-and-a-half into the game, Wisconsin took a timeout and the Ford Center crowd erupted in chants of Lets go Bison!
"Coach said that we had to dig in right there," Taylor said. "We didn't want to end our season in Oklahoma. We wanted to keep it going. Coach, he's a great motivator and I think it really got the guys that were out there motivated and our bench motivated. We came together as a team. It shows."
The Badger fans who occupied most of sections 114 and 115 had the last word. As the OSU fans filed out of the stadium in the final minutes, the cheer Lets go Red! Lets go Red! rang out loud and clear.