4:05 PM ET, March 12, 2005
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
CHICAGO (AP) -- Alando Tucker knew there was no time to waste.
He caught the inbounds pass and took off up the court dribbling as fast as he could before letting fly with a 3-pointer from the right side of the arc.
As the ball banked through the basket at the buzzer, Wisconsin (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) had a stunning 59-56 win over Iowa in the Big Ten semifinals Saturday, sending the Badgers to the floor in celebration.
Tucker's improbable shot also gave the Badgers a third crack this season at top-ranked Illinois when they meet Sunday for the tournament title.
"We practice situations like that all the time to prepare for situations like this, game situations. Coach always says you have three legitimate dribbles and a chance to shoot it, or two dribbles and a pass. I just wanted to take long strides," Tucker said
And he did, beating Adam Haluska up the floor with his dribble and then jumping in and releasing the shot just outside the 3-point arch.
And no, he wasn't shooting for the glass.
"After it went in, I called backboard," Tucker said.
When the ball kissed off the glass and went through, the Badgers raced to the floor to mob Tucker, halting momentarily while officials reviewed the final shot before upholding it.
"When I first let the shot off, I was just, I thought I got it off in time. I just wanted to make sure when the refs reviewed it it was good. Then we were able to celebrate afterward," Tucker said.
Wisconsin's Mike Wilkinson, saddled with foul problems, hit two baskets in the final 1:18, including a jumper that put the Badgers ahead 56-54 with 32 seconds to go.
Iowa (21-11) set up a last shot with Jeff Horner firing a pass to a wide-open Haluska in the corner. His 3-point attempt went high off the rim but Greg Brunner was there to put it back in, tying the game at 56 with 3.7 seconds to go.
After two timeouts, the Badgers (22-7) made it work, even though they had to inbound the ball under the Iowa basket.
Zach Morley made a good pass to Tucker as he was already moving and he was able to race up the right sidelines and make the shot that left the Hawkeyes shaking their heads in disbelief.
"It was set up and they just made a tough play," Brunner said.
"It hurts losing on banked fade '3' at buzzer. That doesn't help it at all," Iowa coach Steve Alford said, refusing to blame his defense.
Tucker's athletic ability just made the play work.
"We wanted them to catch it back in the backcourt, obviously. That happened. He fumbled one of the dribbles, was able to retain it. We brought help late," Alford said.
"He makes a double-clutch, fade away to left bank shot. I thought they defended it well, he just happened to make a terrific shot."
Wisconsin won the Big Ten tournament a year ago, beating Illinois in the final. The Illini -- who beat Minnesota 64-56 Saturday -- won both meetings this season and ended Wisconsin's 38-game homecourt winning streak.
"It's nice to be playing in a championship game. They know how it works. If you win, you get to keep playing," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
Win or lose Sunday, the Badgers are a cinch for the NCAA Tournament.
Tucker finished with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting and Morley again came off the bench for another big game, following his career-high 23-point effort against Ohio State in the quarterfinals with 17.
Brunner had 18 points and Horner chipped in 12 as Iowa's five-game winning streak ended in painful fashion. The Hawkeyes will now wait until Sunday to find out if they can get into the NCAA Tournament or head back to the NIT for a fourth straight year.
"That's part of it when you're an at-large selection, you're at mercy of selection committee," Alford said.
"You just try and put together the best resume you can."
Iowa went 6-6 after leading scorer Pierre Pierce was dismissed from the team admidst legal problems.
Tucker made both free throws with 7 minutes left for a three-point lead.
Horner's two free throws cut it to one and the Hawkeyes had a chance for the lead following a timeout with 1:54 to go.
But Morley stepped in front of a pass for Brunner and then called a timeout before he fell out of bounds with 1:42 to go.
Wilkinson had his shot blocked by Brunner but somehow managed to get the rebound and follow it in, getting fouled on the play. He missed the free throw, keeping the Badgers' lead at 54-51.
Brunner then made one and missed the second at the line, but Erek Hansen got the offensive rebound, was fouled and made both free throws with a minute left to tie the game at 54.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||20-44 (.455)||23-56 (.411)|
|3P Made-Attempted||4-17 (.235)||7-22 (.318)|
|FT Made-Attempted||12-15 (.800)||6-12 (.500)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|