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How Sweet It Is: Strong guard play guides Badgers to Sweet 16

2013 NCAA Tournament
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6 Wisconsin 71, 14 Bucknell 62
2005 NCAA Tournament - Second Round (Syracuse Region)
Ford Center • Oklahoma City, Okla. • Attendance: 18,567

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1st 2nd Final
 Bucknell 29 33 62
35 36 71
 Statistical Leaders
 • Mike Wilkinson: 23 Pts, 9 Reb, 9-15 FG
 • Alando Tucker: 17 Pts, 7 Reb, 15-18 FT
 • Zach Morley: 15 Pts, 8 Reb
 Stats at a Glance
 FG Percentage .460 .457
 3-Point FG Percentage .333 .412
 FT Percentage .786 .759
 Offensive Rebounds 7 8
 Defensive Rebounds 22 22
 Total Rebounds 29 30
 Turnovers 10 7
 Blocks 2 1
 Steals 4 5
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March 20, 2005

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Wisconsin Badgers have heard all season how much better they might be if Devin Harris had stuck around for his senior year or if his expected replacement, Boo Wade, had played more than one non-conference game.

Well, even if they had those guys, they couldn't be any better off than they are now: among the last 16 teams playing for the NCAA championship.

Mike Wilkinson had 23 points and nine rebounds and Zach Morley contributed 15 points and eight rebounds, sending the Badgers into the regional semifinals in Syracuse next weekend with a 71-62 second-round victory Sunday over tournament upstart Bucknell.

 Fast Facts
• UW led by as many as 13 pts in the 1st half
• Badgers used 17-5 run to end game to pull away
• Wilkinson scored a team-best 23 points (9-for-15)

"It's pretty good to be in the Sweet 16 after all this team's been through," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "People kept saying what we could've been and should've been. Well, we're going to Syracuse. It's not Disneyland, but, hey, it's Syracuse."

The Badgers (24-8) are into the second weekend for the second time in three years. They were knocked out in the second round last year, even with Big Ten player of the year Harris and Wade, who left the program for personal reasons, first in October then for good in January.

"Hard work pays off," said Alando Tucker, Wisconsin's other starting forward, who scored 15 of his 17 points from the foul line. "We've been battling the whole season."

While the sixth-seeded Badgers turn their attention to Friday night's game against 10th-seeded North Carolina State, the Bison will be heading back to their Pennsylvania campus with heads held high.

Bucknell (23-10) gave the Patriot League its first NCAA Tournament win with a stunner against preseason No. 1 Kansas in the first round, then played the Big Ten's third-place team tough deep into the second half Sunday. That's pretty impressive for a program that just started handing out scholarships last year and has only five players getting free rides.

Wisconsin forced the Bison off the 3-point line, taking away their best weapon against the Jayhawks, yet Bucknell still rallied from an early 13-point deficit and led 47-46 with 9:09 left. Even after trailing by 12 with 1:41 left, the Bison got within six with 36 seconds to play, only to see Tucker and Wilkinson seal their victory with free throws.

"I was very proud to be part of that game," Bucknell coach Pat Flannery said. "There's nothing I could take negative from this, whatsoever."

Bucknell's underdog tale was emphasized by the plight of its band, or lack of one. Because of spring break, the Bisons were without their usual crew, so they borrowed Northern Iowa's on Friday and Oklahoma State's on Sunday. They also borrowed a lot of Oklahoma State's fans who stuck around after seeing the Cowboys win the early game.

Wearing a shade of orange similar to Bucknell's, Oklahoma State supporters kept alive cross-arena chants of "Go Bison" and held up "Believe Bucknell" cards that some Bison alums had printed Saturday. Some even learned to do a hands-to-head gesture mimicking a charging bison.

The underdogs were so popular that Ryan overheard a player say afterward, "We won another on the road."

Although Bucknell couldn't become the third No. 14 seed to reach the round of 16, Flannery has no regrets. That's why he emptied his bench with 41 seconds left, trailing by just eight.

"I just didn't want any of those kids to leave here and not get on the floor," said Flannery, who quickly changed gears when his team got within six.

Bucknell beat Kansas in large part by limiting everyone but Big 12 player of the year Wayne Simien. The Badgers, however, had two 6-foot-8 forwards crashing the boards and 6-foot-11 center Chris McNaughton couldn't stop both.

Morley, who was shut out in 28 minutes of a first-round win over Northern Iowa, was 6-of-7 with three 3-pointers. His tap-in with 8:41 left put the Badgers ahead for good, then he protected the lead with rebounds on the next two defensive stands.

Bucknell was still within four points when Wilkinson personally went on a 7-2 run that pushed the lead back to nine.

"We just couldn't keep up with them physically down the stretch," said McNaughton, who scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting. "It's tough."

Bucknell's other four starters combined for just 16 points -- eight from all-conference standout Charles Lee and three from leading scorer Kevin Bettencourt, who went 1-for-9.

Wisconsin kept the Bison from putting up a 3-pointer the first 9:37. Bucknell was just 5-of-15 from 3-point range after trying 31 against the Jayhawks.

"We wanted to be right in their faces," Tucker said. "That kind of disturbed them."

Ryan and Flannery -- a pair of national championship winners in Division III and longtime friends -- afterward shared a warm, gesture-filled handshake at midcourt that looked more like two pals finishing a round of golf.

Ryan said they were continuing a longtime debate.

"He said his favorite is a cheesesteak. Mine's a hoagie," Ryan said. "We didn't iron that one out."

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