JACKSONVILLE - Wisconsin held on late to beat Wofford, a No. 13 seed, by a score of, 53-49, in the second game of the first round of the NCAA East regional Friday afternoon.
The win means the Badgers move on to play Cornell, who beat Temple, 78-65, in the first game of the day held at Jacksonville's Veterans Memorial Arena, Sunday afternoon.
The Badgers committed only four turnovers against the Terriers. This was the third straight game and ninth overall in which they turned the ball over five times or fewer.
Badger coach Bo Ryan, who earned win No. 600 in his career, said the lack of mistakes was the key to the game.
"To a coach, four is probably too many, but in a game like that against a team in this environment on the NCAA stage, I'm very proud of our guys that they took care of the ball," Ryan said. "That's the only way we had a chance to shoot 37 percent and win a ballgame."
The Badgers dominated the first half and took a 27-19 lead into intermission, but as with many double-digit seeds in the first round of the NCAA Tournament so far, Wofford rallied in the second half tying the game, 31-31, at the 16:33 mark of the second half.
From that point forward, the game went back- and- forth until the Badgers took control only after Wofford's Cameron Rundles lost the ball off his leg with only four seconds remaining in the game with the Badgers holding a slight two point lead.
Jon Leuer, who was quickly fouled, hit two free throws to ice the game.
Ryan said he was pleased that his team hung in until the end
"Well, we feel pretty good about advancing, playing such a good team in Wofford," Ryan said. "We knew what they had. We knew what they were going to try to do and they did it for the most part. They finally hit some outside shots there in the second half, got it to where it was going to be a toe to toe, possession for possession game and they're used to those and I think our guys are used to those, too."
After shooting a dismal 28% in the first half, Wofford got hot in the second half shooting 56% including three shots from beyond the arc. Jamar Diggs led Wofford in scoring with 13 points and Noah Dahlman added 10.
Leuer led the Badgers with 20 points and Trevon Hughes followed closely behind with 19. The rest of the team scored only 14 points.
Leuer and Hughes teamed up for the winning play when Leuer hit a jumper with only 17 seconds after an assist from Hughes.
"Basically I was looking to get into the paint, try to draw some guys in, and actually his guy sacked off into the paint," Hughes said. "So he was open. I had to pit the open man, I can't be selfish and he knocked the shot down."
Leuer said chemistry between the two made the difference.
"When Pop was dribbling up at the top, we kind of make eye contact and just kind of let me know if my guy hopped off he was going to be looking for me," Leuer said. "So I was just fortunate to knock it down and we get to advance."
Wisconsin avoided consecutive losses for the first time this season. The Badgers are the only Big Ten school not to have lost consecutive games as their 8-0 record following losses suggests.
Since losing to Georgia State in the First Round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin has won eight of its last nine first round games. During that time, their lone loss came in 2006 to Arizona.
Despite losing the rebound battle, 37-30, to a much smaller Wofford team, Ryan said he was not worried about having to face Cornell with seven- foot center Jeff Foote.
"So we'll look at the tape, we'll talk to guys about not taking away certain things, getting bumped off, not having a wide base," Ryan said. "We'll make our teaching points, but we're not going to fret. What you do is you make those points and see if guys understand that they've got to do a little better job of getting their hands up."
Brent Beaird writes for Rivals.com, Gator Bait magazine and Samsportsline. Brent, who is a Heisman Trophy voter, can be heard on 1010XL sports radio in Jacksonville, Florida. He can be contacted at [email protected]
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