Sunday, March 26, 2000

Wisconsin 64, Purdue 60




The Associated Press

        ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As improbable as it seems, it's “On Wisconsin!” The pesky, patient Badgers are headed to the Final Four, a journey they last made 59 years ago.

        “What can I say?” Wisconsin's Jon Bryant said. “Who would have thought this was possible? A month and a half ago, we were just trying to get into the tournament. But here we are going to the Final Four.”

        Coach Dick Bennett's eighth-seeded team put on another clinic of precision passing and pressure defense Saturday to beat Purdue for the third time this season, 64-60, and complete an unlikely rise from sixth place in the Big Ten to champions of the NCAA West Regional.

        “Whatever superlative you can think of, use those words,” Bennett said. “I feel indescribably happy.”

        The Badgers (22-13), whose only big-time basketball success came when they won the NCAA title in 1941, held the Boilermakers without a field goal for nearly six minutes late in the game to become the lowest-seeded team to advance to the Final Four since 1986 when LSU made it as a No.11 seed.

        Roy Boone scored 12 points for Wisconsin, twice his season average, six of them in the final 2:45. The reserve guard's short jumper put the Badgers up 56-53 with 2:45 remaining, then he made two free throws with 1:08 to play to make it 60-53 and two more to boost the lead to 63-57 with 17.6 seconds to go.

        Bryant, who transferred from Division II St. Cloud State in 1997, scored 18 points, including 5-of-9 3-pointers, and was selected the regional MVP.

        “Their team defense and his 3-pointers really cut our throats,” Purdue coach Gene Keady said.

        Andy Kowske added 14 points and eight rebounds.

        Brian Cardinal scored all 13 of his points in the second half for Purdue (24-10), but it wasn't quite enough. Carson Cunningham also scored 13, including a 3-pointer that cut Wisconsin's lead to 63-60 with 11.5 seconds to play. But Mike Kelley, the Big Ten defensive player of the year who forced Purdue's Jaraan Cornell into another miserable shooting day, made one of two free throws with 10.6 seconds left to clinch the victory.

        Cardinal, one of four senior starters for the Boilermakers, broke down in the postgame news conference.

        “Wisconsin's a great team,” he said. “I really couldn't do too much, so my hat's off to them.”

        Cornell, 1-for-7 from the field in Wisconsin's victory over Purdue two weeks ago in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, was 1-for-9 this time, 1-for-7 from 3-point range.

        The loss deprived Keady of his first trip to the Final Four. It was the second time the Boilermakers have made it to a regional final in Keady's 20 years at the school. They lost to Duke in the Southeast in 1994.

        “We just try to play great basketball and if that gets you to the Final Four, great,” Keady said. “You know how hard it is, and if that bothers a coach, he probably ought to get out of it.”

        The Badgers beat the Boilermakers three consecutive times after losing at Purdue early in the conference season.

        When it was over, as the band blared the old fight song “On Wisconsin,” Badgers players and fans rushed to the center of the court. Three players jumped on a courtside table in front of a large section of shrieking Wisconsin fans. The table collapsed, sending writers' laptop computers, soft drinks and the players onto the court, but no one was hurt.

        The victory was especially rewarding to Bennett, whose rise through the coaching ranks in the state of Wisconsin was as slow and steady as his team's offense. He was a successful high school coach, then was a winner at Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

        He was passed over twice for the Wisconsin job before finally getting his chance five years ago. But he had his critics, who complained he wasn't winning enough and his style was boring. The Badgers were just 13-12 after a loss at Michigan State on Feb. 19. But they are 9-1 since then, with the only loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament.

        Purdue held its previous three tournament opponents to 16- percent shooting from 3-point range, but Wisconsin was 7-for-16.

        The Badgers were 5-for-7 on 3-pointers in the first half and led 31-28 at the break. Bryant made three in the first 3:20.

        Purdue went without a field goal from the 6:54 mark until Greg McQuay's tip with 56 seconds to go.


WISCONSIN (64)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Linton          23   2-3   0-0   0-1  2  3    5
Kowske          27  6-10   2-2   3-8  0  4   14
Vershaw         30   2-9   3-6   2-7  3  1    7
Bryant          35  6-12   1-2   1-2  1  1   18
Kelley          36   2-3   1-4   0-1  5  2    5
Davis            6   0-0   0-0   0-1  0  2    0
Duany            8   1-2   0-0   0-3  1  3    3
Penney           3   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Boone           16   3-6  6-10   1-2  2  2   12
Wills           16   0-1   0-0   4-5  0  3    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 22-47 13-24 11-30 14 21   64
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.468, FT-.542. 3-Point Goals: 7-16, .438 (Linton 1-2, Vershaw 0-2, Bryant 5-9, Duany 1-2, Penney 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 1 (Boone). Turnovers: 15 (Linton 3, Duany 2, Kowske 2, Wills 2, Boone, Bryant, Davis, Kelley, Penney, Vershaw). Steals: 6 (Boone 2, Bryant, Duany, Kelley, Vershaw).

PURDUE (60) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Robinson 35 4-10 4-5 1-1 4 3 12 Mcquay 31 4-5 2-3 6-12 0 3 10 Cardinal 27 4-8 3-5 0-4 1 4 13 Cornell 32 1-9 0-2 0-2 1 4 3 Cunningham 31 4-12 2-2 0-2 2 2 13 Kerkhof 7 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0 Lewis 18 3-5 0-0 2-5 1 2 7 Lowe 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Smith 15 0-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 0 Allison 3 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-53 11-17 9-27 10 21 60 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.396, FT-.647. 3-Point Goals: 7-23, .304 (Cardinal 2-4, Cornell 1-7, Cunningham 3-8, Lewis 1-2, Smith 0-2). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 3 (Mcquay 2, Cornell). Turnovers: 13 (Cunningham 4, Robinson 3, Cardinal 2, Allison, Cornell, Kerkhof, Smith). Steals: 4 (Cardinal, Cornell, Cunningham, Kerkhof). __________________________________ Wisconsin 31 33 - 64 Purdue 28 32 - 60 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 16,004. Officials: Higg, Dick Paparo, Tony Green.



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