Reversal of fortunes

UW's players rallied each other to a come from behind victory Friday to advance to the Elite Eight

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Bo Ryan did not scream or holler, he did not throw a Carrier Dome chair or knock over a trash can. He did not belabor the point that his University of Wisconsin men's basketball team had struggled immensely in the first half Friday night against North Carolina State.

The sixth seeded Badgers knew the stakes. They trailed the 10th seeded Wolfpack 30-21 at halftime of an NCAA Tournament regional semifinal, having played a dreadful first 20 minutes, with 11 turnovers, 0 assists and just 7 field goals.

Wisconsin was off kilter, off rhythm and out of sync.

So Ryan reminded them of what got them there—quick and simple—and let he players take over.

"We talked about our original game plan… We didn't change anything," Ryan said.

"[Ryan] said, ‘you can tell them that I gave you some profound speech at halftime' but really it was pretty straight forward," senior guard Clayton Hanson said. "We just wanted to get on the court and play Wisconsin basketball."

The second-half reversal propelled UW to a 65-56 victory, advancing the Badgers to Sunday's Elite Eight here, one step away from the Final Four.

The second half was a dramatic departure from the first. Wisconsin made 14 of 24 shots, including five of its first seven and had an even 7-to-7 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Throughout the Badgers' dramatic run in this NCAA Tournament, UW has continued to focus on living to play another game. At halftime Friday, the Badgers' seniors rallied that cry yet again.

"We came apart as a team in the first half," sophomore guard Kammron Taylor said. "We were arguing with each other and that's something we never do… Our seniors stepped up in the locker room at halftime, told us that they didn't want this season to end. They told everybody to make a gut check and everybody did." Mike Wilkinson.

UW's 11 first-half turnovers were more than the Badgers had had in any game since committing 14 in the regular-season finale against Purdue, a span of six games.

"We were doing things that I haven't seen us do all year," Hanson said. "Fortunately we were able to pick it up and put something together in the second half."

The Badgers outscored State 26-7 in the first 11:17 of the second half to take a 47-37 lead. After being held to an 0 for 3 performance from beyond the 3-point line in the first half, UW loosened the defense with four triples in the first 8:26 of the second half—two each from guards Clayton Hanson and Sharif Chambliss.

Chambliss closed that 3-point barrage, giving UW the lead for good, a 39-27 edge that was its first advantage since it was 9-8 less than five minutes into the first half.

"It felt good," Chambliss said. "It felt good."

Alando Tucker scored eight points in the first half to help UW stay in the game. He dominated the second half, scoring 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting to finish with a game-high 22, including 10 points in a 13-0 run that gave the Badgers a 47-37 edge.

"He did a great job of recognizing if he had a small on him he went inside and if he had a big on him he squared and took him to the hole," Hanson said. "He made some great plays for us in that run."

Tucker's bucket with 8:43 left to play capped the 26-7 rally, turning a 9-point first half deficit into a 10-point lead.

"I remember getting to the bench, me and Clay were both sitting on the bench," Chambliss said. "I said, ‘Man that went fast.' The time was going so fast out there. Right now we just want to sit here, enjoy this for the moment, and tomorrow start preparing for the next game."

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