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Published: Friday, 3/25/2005

Big 2nd half lifts Badgers Wisconsin shoots 58 percent after halftime to beat Wolfpack

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - 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 half to beat North Carolina State 65-56 and reach the Syracuse Regional final of the NCAA tournament.

"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 the winner of the late game between North Carolina and Villanova for a berth in the Final Four.

"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 N.C. State (21-14). The Wolfpack shot 45 percent in the first half to 32 percent in the second, making its first six 3-pointers before hitting just three of the next 16 attempts.

"It was a tale of two halves," N.C. 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. 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."

N.C. State came within five points, 59-54, with the ball, but couldn't get closer.



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