Badgers come up big in final seconds
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Wisconsin’s size wasn’t much of an advantage through the second half against Wofford. Instead, it was the skill shown by 6-foot-10 forward Jon Leuer that defined the final minutes of the fourth-seeded Badgers’ 53-49 East Regional victory.
Leuer hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line with 17 seconds left for a 51-49 lead. On the ensuing Wofford possession, Leuer was defending Terriers guard Cameron Rundles when the ball slipped from Rundles’ hand and out of bounds with just under 5 seconds left. A moment later, Leuer hit two free throws to ice the game.
Of the shot that broke the tie, Leuer gave the credit to Badgers point guard Trevon Hughes.
“I knew if my guy helped off, [Hughes] would be looking for me,” Leuer said. “That’s what happened. My guy helped and Trevon made a great play to find me in a corner.”
Wisconsin needed Leuer’s big plays and a series of good luck to defeat 14th-seeded Wofford, which didn’t look like a team making its first NCAA appearance.
The Badgers will need more than good fortune against Cornell, another Sweet 16 mid-major hopeful, on Sunday. Cornell is a much better offensive team than Wofford – the Big Red lead the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage, at better than 43 percent – and features 7-footer Jeff Foote.
Although Wofford’s frontcourt features two 6-6 forwards – Noah Dahlman and Terry Martin – the Terriers outrebounded the bigger Badgers 37-30.
“You can say sometimes it’s the way the ball bounces. You can say sometimes it’s the angles that guys get,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “You don’t have to be huge to be a really good rebounder.”
Heart played a factor, Hughes said. “They were relentless on the glass,” he said.
Wofford led with 1:54 to go, but the Terriers were sloppy down the stretch. They missed two of their last three free-throw attempts, including the front end of a one-and-one.
Wofford made its first eight baskets in the second half but wasn’t nearly as efficient from the line (6-of-13).
“It was one of those games where you’ve got to scratch and claw and survive,” Leuer said. “That’s what the NCAA tournament is about.”
This was Wisconsin’s fourth consecutive first-round victory, but the Badgers have won in the second round just once in that span.