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March 16, 2007

Wisconsin survives early scare from TAMU-CC

CHICAGO -- Wisconsin looked liked the NCAA tournament rookies, at least at the start.

Flustered for most of the first half, the Badgers overcame an 18-point deficit to beat 15th-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 76-63 Friday in the opening round of the Midwest Region.

Kammron Taylor, scoreless at the break, finished with 24 points. Wisconsin also clamped down its defense on the Islanders (26-7), who began playing basketball in the 1999-2000 season.

Second-seeded Wisconsin (30-5) advanced to Sunday's second round at the United Center against UNLV, which beat Georgia Tech 67-63 in Friday's opening game.

The Islanders came out strong in their first tournament appearance, scoring the game's first 10 points and later leading 25-7 against the stunned Badgers.

Taylor rallied Wisconsin, scoring 14 straight points at one stretch. The Badgers did it at the other end, too, holding A&M-Corpus Christi without a basket for nearly nine minutes.

Big Ten Player of the Year Alando Tucker scored 23 points for the Badgers, while 7-foot center Chris Daniels led A&M-Corpus Christi with 20 points.

The Islanders' bid to become just the fifth No. 15 seed to upend a No. 2 was hurt greatly by struggles at the free throw line in the second half. They missed eight from the line in the final 10 minutes.

Trailing by 18 with just more than five minutes left in the first half, the Badgers recovered with a closing 12-2 spurt. Tucker caught an over-the-shoulder pass from Taylor and dunked with seven seconds remaining to give the Badgers momentum after they were on the verge of being blown out.

Wisconsin shot only 21 percent in the opening 20 minutes, missing 23 of 29 field goal attempts. In the second half, the Badgers shot 61 percent (16-of-26)

The Islanders worked their lead back to 11 in the early stages of the second half, but the Badgers whittled it down methodically. Tucker had a 3-pointer, Jason Bohannon hit another from long range and then Tucker charged down the baseline and scored, bringing Wisconsin to 42-38 with 12:54 left.

Wisconsin tied it when Taylor connected on back-to-back 3-pointers, making it 47-all with 10:15 left.

Then Taylor sank a jumper with 9:36 left to give their Badgers their first lead and after a fancy dribble, he made another 3-pointer that put Wisconsin ahead 52-48.

A slam follow by Marcus Landry pushed the lead to eight with just more than five minutes remaining.

The Islanders raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first 3:10. Daniels blocked two shots, Taurean Mitchell hit a pair of 3-pointers and the Badgers missed their first six field goal attempts.

The lead ballooned to 17-4 on two free throws by Cedric Smith with just seven minutes elapsed in first half, and when Matt Slatnick hit two more from the line the Islanders had moved ahead by 15.

The Badgers simply couldn't find the basket, missing 15 of their first 17 shots and mustering just four points 11 minutes into the game against the hustling Islanders. On the same court five days earlier, Wisconsin shot only 4-for-23 3-point attempts in the finals of the Big Ten tournament, a lopsided loss to Ohio State.

Smith dunked after a miss to make it 21-5 and Daniels followed moments later with another slam, putting the Islanders ahead 23-7 with 7:47 left in the half. Josh Washington made two from the line with 5:29 left as the lead swelled to 25-7, silencing a large contingent of Badger fans.

The Badgers didn't hit double figures until Bohannon had two free throws to make it 25-11 with just under four minutes remaining.

Daniels finished with nine rebounds and four blocks.

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