NCAA Tournament

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  Saturday, Mar. 18 6:00pm ET
No. 1 seed Arizona sets in the West

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Slowly but surely, Wisconsin lured another speed-loving opponent into playing its deliberate pace.

Mark Vershaw scored 15 points as the eighth-seeded Badgers upset No. 1 seed Arizona 66-59 on Saturday to advance to the final 16 for the first time since the NCAA Tournament went to its current format.

Sat, March 18
Loren Woods didn't play against Stanford, but Richard Jefferson did.

Woods didn't play against Wisconsin and Jefferson barely did.

The Wildcats had no shot against Wisconsin without Jefferson and Woods on the floor. Jefferson was plagued by foul problems, sitting out most of the game with three fouls. He didn't foul out, but only scored seven points.

The knock on Arizona was that Luke Walton and Justin Wessel couldn't replace Woods. It turns out they couldn't substitute for Jefferson, either. Walton scored only one point; Wessel scored six. Arizona was in trouble the moment Jefferson got into foul trouble.

The Wildcats went into the tournament as the weakest and most vulnerable No. 1 seed. Losing to Wisconsin shouldn't be a surprise. This was bound to happen once Woods went down, even with the wins over Stanford on the résumé.

"It's indescribable to come in as the eighth seed and beat Arizona," Wisconsin's Andy Kowske said. "We started the Big Ten 1-4, and to go to the Sweet 16 is unbelievable."

The Wildcats (27-7) are the first No. 1 seed in two years to lose in the second round, where they hadn't been beaten since 1990. The only other time Arizona scored so few points this season was in an 86-60 loss at Louisiana State, which will face Wisconsin in next week's West Regional semifinals in Albuquerque, N.M.

"They made us play out of our game and do things we aren't used to," Arizona's Richard Jefferson said.

The Badgers (20-13) hadn't won two games in an NCAA Tournament since winning the national championship in 1941.

"I'm not sure I can adequately describe how good we feel or how proud I am of this team," Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett said. "They accepted the game plan and employed it as close to perfect as humanly possible."

Freshman Gilbert Arenas led the Wildcats with 21 points. Five times they closed within six points in the final 1:51 only to have Wisconsin reserve Maurice Linton answer.

Linton scored nine of his 14 points in the final 2:57, when the Wildcats hit three 3-pointers, but still couldn't catch the Badgers.

"Since the season began, I've been working on taking what the defense gives me," he said. "Of all the shots I took today, nothing was forced."

At the buzzer, the Badgers mobbed each other, with guard Mike Kelley leaping into Vershaw's arms. The team stayed on the floor, shouting to the small group of Badgers fans as the band blared.

"It's a scene that we just haven't had much at Wisconsin. It was quite a celebration and it's so great to be a part of it," Vershaw said. "It's a feeling you can't know until it's happened to you."

The Wildcats, who favor an uptempo pace, had a 6-4 record when scoring in the 60s this season, but they were limited to 39 percent field-goal shooting against the nation's fourth-best scoring defense.

"We're not the most physically gifted bunch of folks," Kowske said. "We know our limits, but our team concept helps, especially on defense."

Luke Walton
Arizona's Luke Walton finds the going tough against the Badgers' Mark Vershaw.

Two years ago, No. 8 seed Rhode Island shocked No. 1 seed Kansas 80-75 in the Midwest Regional.

The Wildcats, who were national champions in 1997, got beat on the same Huntsman Center court where they were surprised by Santa Clara in the first round of the 1993 tournament in a game where both teams scored in the 60s.

"It was a tough lesson to learn," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "It was very obvious that the better team won this game from the standpoint of maturity and toughness."

With the Badgers dictating their favorite slow pace, the Wildcats missed 7-foot-1 center Loren Woods, who is sidelined by a back injury.

Woods would have established more of an inside presence against the Wisconsin frontline of 6-foot-9 Vershaw and 6-8 Kowske, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds, including 10 defensive boards.

Michael Wright and Jefferson, both 6-7 sophomores expected to fill in for Woods, were stifled by Wisconsin's defense. Wright had two points in 37 minutes and Jefferson seven points and four fouls in 16 minutes.

"They came out and played real physical and wouldn't allow me to establish myself down low," Wright said. "I had to work so hard just to get the ball."

The Wildcats controlled the boards 37-26, including a 17-6 edge offensively, but they were forced to rely on seven predominantly underclass scholarship players.

"Tournament basketball is certainly different from regular-season basketball, the hype, the pressure and so forth," Bennett said. "I'm very impressed with the job coach Olson has done, but freshmen hit the wall at some point. Without seniors, it's difficult."

The Badgers, who play a mostly junior lineup, stretched a five-point halftime advantage into a 41-27 lead by outscoring the Wildcats 13-4 to open the second half. Kowske scored eight points in the spurt, and the Badgers benefited from three miscues by Arizona freshman Luke Walton, the son of former UCLA star Bill Walton.

Kowske dunked over Walton, who then fouled Jon Bryant. Kelley then stole the ball from Walton, and Kowske scored on a tip-in of Kelley's miss.

"Our freshmen and sophomores can really learn an awful lot from what happened," Olson said.

Rick Anderson stopped the onslaught with a 3-pointer, Arenas hit one free throw and Juston Wessel scored off Arenas' second miss to draw the Wildcats within 10 with 10:13 remaining.

Wisconsin ran off seven straight points, capped by Duany Duany's dunk off a steal, to take a 50-33 lead.

Anderson scored seven straight to cut Arizona's deficit to 50-40 with 6:36 remaining.

Jason Gardner and Jefferson hit consecutive 3-pointers, but Linton kept mixing jumpers and free throws down the stretch.

Kelley, a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, had five of Wisconsin's 10 steals, including one against Jefferson in the final two minutes that killed Arizona's comeback hopes.


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