SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Badgers waited for their
shots to start falling, waited for something to work on defense.
And after playing what might be their worst half of basketball all
season, they couldn't wait any more.
Even before coach Bo Ryan entered the locker room for some
halftime adjustments -- or maybe just a chewing out -- the players
discussed their problems among themselves. Then Wisconsin scored 26
of the first 33 points in the second to beat North Carolina State
65-56 and earn a berth in the Syracuse Regional finals of the NCAA
"At halftime, guys got after each other a little bit. Guys knew
what they had to do," said guard Sharif Chambliss, who had one
point in the first. "The first half was probably one of our worst
halves all year. The second half, we knew what we had to do."
Alando Tucker scored 22 points, getting eight in a row during a
13-0 second-half run that turned a 37-34 deficit into a 10-point
lead. Mike Wilkinson scored 17, the final two on a breakaway dunk
with 20 seconds left that prompted the rest of the Badgers to leap
for joy on the court.
Sixth-seeded Wisconsin (25-8) will play for a spot in the Final
Four against North Carolina, which beat Villanova 67-66 in the
other regional semifinal.
"There wasn't much that had to be said. We knew we were a
better team than them," forward Zach Morley said. "We finally
realized what we had to do to be successful. We just slowed down
and worked the ball inside and got some good shots."
Engin Atsur scored 16 and Julius Hodge had 14 on 4-for-16
shooting for NC State (21-14). The Wolfpack shot 45 percent in
the first half to 32 percent in the second, making their first six
3-pointers before hitting just three of the next 16 attempts.
"It was a tale of two halves," NC State coach Herb Sendek
said. "We were much better in the first than in the second."
But the difference was even more drastic for Wisconsin.
The Badgers went from shooting 39 percent in the first to 58
percent in the second. They missed all three 3-pointers in the
first and hit 4-of-7 in the second. And they had 11 turnovers in
the first, with zero assists; they had seven and seven in the
Ryan said he'd never seen anything like it.
"Not even in my first year coaching junior high school when I
got out of the army -- and that was a struggle," he said. "We hung
around. We just hung around. Fortunately, halftime came and we
regrouped. I'm extremely proud of our guys that they didn't cave
Ryan improved to 7-0 against lower seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
The 10th-seeded Wolfpack had been the lowest remaining seed.
"We played until we were absolutely exhausted," Hodge said.
"We gave it our all. We have no reason to hang our heads."
Tucker scored eight of just 21 Wisconsin points in the first
half as the Badgers fell behind by 10 before Chambliss made one of
two free throws with 0.7 seconds left. Those were the first points
by a Badgers guard in the game.
It all changed quickly in the second.
Clayton Hanson opened with a 3-pointer and then, after Atsur's
layup, Chambliss made a 3. Tucker hit a driving layup to make it
32-29 with 16:46 to play; Hodge scored for NC State before Hanson
made a 3 and Wilkinson banked one in to tie it 34-all with 14:51
The Wolfpack led 37-34 when Tucker made another layup. Then
Chambliss hit a 3 from the top of the key to give the Badgers the
lead for good, and Tucker scored the next eight points to make it
47-37 with 8:41 left.
NC State came within five points, 59-54, with the ball, but
couldn't get closer.
NC State guard Tony Bethel, who missed the previous four
games with a groin injury, came off the bench with 9:27 left. ... A
crowd of 30,713 came to the Carrier Dome. Wolfpack fans shared one
side with the crowd from North Carolina, which played Villanova in
the late game. Some of the light-blue clad Tar Heels fans even
cheered for their neighbors despite a long-standing rivalry. They
all cheered Duke's loss. ... Wilkinson sat out the last 7:46 of the
first with two fouls.