March 15, 2012
Wisconsin shot 52.6 percent from 3-point range and the No. 4-seeded Badgers advanced to the third round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship with a 73-49 victory over No. 13 Montana Thursday afternoon at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.
The loss snapped Montana's 14-game winning streak and ended the Grizzlies' season at 25-7.
Wisconsin (25-9) advances to the tournament's third round and will face either No. 5 Vanderbilt or No. 12 Harvard Saturday at The Pit.
Jordan Taylor had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead Wisconsin. Art Steward had a team-high 18 points for Montana.
Montana took a 5-2 lead in the opening minutes on a Steward basket and 3-pointer by Derek Selvig. It would turn out to be the Grizzlies' largest and final lead of the game.
Josh Gasser tied it with a three for Wisconsin, and a Ryan Evans jumper at the 15:53 mark gave the Badgers the lead for good.
Evans would score nine straight points for the Badgers and finish with 14 first-half points on 6-of-8 shooting. He was the frequent recipient of his teammates' drive and kicks against Montana's zone defense.
The Grizzlies were able to force mid-range jumpers and 3-point shots by the Badgers and keep their bigger opponents mostly out of the paint, but Wisconsin built a 39-29 halftime lead on 51.9 percent shooting.
The Badgers went 6 for 12 from 3-point range in the first half.
"We knew (Evans) would be a key matchup for us. He's too good to call an X factor, but if there was one matchup we wanted to hold down it was him," UM coach Wayne Tinkle said.
"I thought we were a little out of character defensively. We knew we had to defend the 3-point line, and we allowed them to get open looks early, and that got their confidence going."
But it wasn't all Badgers in the first half. Steward scored 12 points in the first half, and a Kareem Jamar jumper at the 4:44 mark brought Montana within four, 30-26.
Wisconsin allowed a Shawn Stockton basket at the 3:05 mark to make it 33-28, then the Badgers showed why they lead the nation in scoring defense at a mere 52.9 points per game.
After Stockton's basket, Montana went more than 10 minutes spanning the first and second halves before its next field goal, and that allowed Wisconsin to slowly build its lead to 16 points, 48-32.
For the most part Montana was able to get the ball to the basket. It was finishing that was a problem. The Badgers' 6-10 junior center, Jared Berggren, finished with a career-high seven blocks.
He was a big reason the Grizzlies only had five second-half baskets and shot less than 30 percent over the final 20 minutes.
"We pride ourselves on creating doubt in the minds of our opponents, and I thought Wisconsin really did a good job of that today," Tinkle said.
"We always preach when you attack, you go through the chin. We didn't do that. We were double-pumping, and on this stage you have to go strong. Our approach at attacking the basket wasn't what it needed to be.
"We had plenty of opportunities within the game where we had shots at the basket that could have stopped their momentum a little bit and maybe gotten us going. If we convert some of those layups, I think that would have allowed us to relax a little bit and not feel like we needed to make the perfect play on every possession."
Mathias Ward finally ended Montana's basketless streak when he drained a three at the 13:01 mark of the second half. Will Cherry pulled up and hit his own triple just seconds later, and that brought Montana within 10, 48-38, and forced Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan to use a timeout.
Out of the break Taylor scored on a drive to the basket, then Mike Bruesewitz hit back-to-back jumpers, one a 3-pointer, to extend the lead back to 17, 55-38, and end any threat of a comeback.
Cherry's triple was one of just three baskets Montana's leading scorer would have on a frustrating afternoon. Wisconsin forced Cherry into a 3-for-14 shooting effort, with no assists and a pair of turnovers.
"The tough part about preparing for (Cherry) is he can quickly get to the rim off a shot fake, or he can catch and shoot threes. He's a complete player," Ryan said.
"We just made sure we tried to run him off the 3-point line and squeeze the court. Make the driving lane smaller."
Steward led Montana with 18 points in his final game in a Grizzly uniform. Cherry finished with nine, Selvig seven and Jamar six.
Evans and Taylor scored 18 and 17 points for Wisconsin, combining to hit 12 of 18 shots. The Badgers shot 47.9 percent and finished with a 32-19 rebounding advantage.
"Just give a ton of credit to Wisconsin," Tinkle concluded. "They were ready to go and shot lights out and were more physical than us.
"But I'm proud of my group. It's been a heck of a year. It was a great run these guys put together, and I'm awfully proud of that. Getting this far is great."
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