March 21, 2010

UW season finished by hot shooting Cornell

JACKSONVILLE - Wisconsin's basketball season is over after losing, 87-69, to Cornell, a No. 12 seed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament held in Jacksonville.

The Badgers shot a respectable 49 percent (24 of 49) for the game, but they could not overcome Cornell hitting 61 percent (33 of 54), the best shooting clip from a Wisconsin opponent since Indiana shot 70.2 percent in an, 85-55, win against the Badgers on Feb. 24, 2001.

The 87 points scored by Cornell are the most by a Wisconsin opponent in regulation since Arizona defeated Wisconsin, 94-75, in the First Round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

Badger coach Bo Ryan said he was surprised that his team trailed by 12 points at halftime despite shooting 52 percent from the field.

"Cornell did everything that they've been pretty much doing all year," Ryan said. "They found different ways to score on us, and it's tough when you shoot 52 percent in the first half and you're still down 12 and you've taken away Jeff Foote and three of the threes that they hit were off of offensive rebounds.

"So in our half court defense, we thought we did some pretty good things."

Cornell made 59 percent of its first half shots then improved in the second half to 63 percent. Louis Dale led Cornell with 26 points and Ryan Whitman added 24.

Jon Leuer led Wisconsin with 23 points and Jason Bohannon contributed 18 and Trevon Hughes added 10 points in their final game in a Badger uniform.

For one of the few times this season, Wisconsin lost the turnover battle. The Badgers coughed the ball up more than 10 times while Cornell had only eight.

Cornell coach Steve Donahue said winning the turnover battle was pivotal.

"Well, I think they obviously didn't turn the ball over much," Donahue said. "I thought they missed some shots. Mixing up the defense was, I thought, a key to the game because they're very methodical in their man-to-man stuff.

"I thought our ability to play some different zones made it difficult. Wisconsin plays a certain way that's very successful in the Big Ten. I just think we have guys who have different skill packages that make it difficult for them to guard us like they guard Big Ten teams."

Wisconsin trailed, 11-1, at the 17:01 mark of the first half before closing the gap to three points at 24-21, a little less than 10 minutes later.

The Badgers scored only 10 points in the final 7:21 of the first half and went into halftime behind, 43-31. Leuer led the Badgers with 14 points in the first half, but he was held to nine points in the second half. The closest Wisconsin got was a nine-point deficit after a 3-pointer by Bohannon with 18:18 left in the game.

Bohannon said it was difficult to overcome the Cornell offensive prowess.

"I mean they shot the ball very well," Bohannon said. "They got us doing stuff that wasn't necessarily characteristic of our defensive game plan and when they started doing that and hitting those types of shots, they got all their confidence going. They certainly got their confidence going early from the get go and it's tough to fight back from that even when they are shooting a high percentage and they're hitting those type of shots, it's tough."

Hughes said it was difficult to see Cornell score nearly 90 points against the Badger defense.

"It was very frustrating, but they shot the ball well," Hughes said. "We had our hands in their faces on a couple of their jump shots and their confidence got going from that. It's hard to take away their confidence when they're clicking on all cylinders and like Jason said, it started from the tip. We hang our hat on our defense, but we kind of got antsy and when we're down, it's kind of hard coming back from a good team."

Wisconsin lost to a lower seed for the third time in the last four years (No. 7 UNLV beat No. 2 Wisconsin in 2007 and No. 10 Davidson defeated No. 3 Wisconsin in 2008). Those three games represent Ryan's only three losses to lower-seeded teams. He owns an 11-3 record as a higher seed.

Despite the loss, Ryan said he saw positives during the overall season.

"Well, that inner peace I was talking about is I saw guys get better," Ryan said. "I saw guys bond in the off-season. They worked at some things. Tough schedule. They handled the tough schedule. They won a couple of neutral games against good teams. They beat a team like Duke that's here now and they did a lot of other good things to put themselves in position in the Big Ten."

Brent Beaird writes for Rivals.com, Gator Bait magazine and Samsportsline.com. Brent, who is a Heisman Trophy voter, can be heard on 1010XL sports radio in Jacksonville, Fla. He can be contacted at brentbeaird@comcast.net


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