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Wisconsin beats Belmont in NCAA opener

Mar 18, 2011 - 4:39 AM Tucson, AZ (Sports Network) - Jon Leuer finished with 22 points and seven rebounds as the Wisconsin Badgers used a strong second half to top the Belmont Bruins, 72-58, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Jordan Taylor added 21 points, including five baskets from beyond the arc, and also dished out six assists for the fourth-seeded Badgers (24-8), who will face Kansas State in the third round.

"We were playing a tough, physical team that really made us battle for everything we had, and we stepped up to that challenge," Leuer said.

The Badgers rebounded from a dreadful 36-33 loss to Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament and are making their 13th straight visit to the NCAAs.

"Any time you lose you want to play better," Taylor said. "We were just excited to get back on the floor. As you can see, guys were ready to relish this challenge of knocking down shots and we had a number of guys do that today."

Mick Hedgepeth paced the Bruins (30-5) with 17 points. Kerron Johnson added 13 points for the Atlantic Sun Champions, who returned to the tournament for the first time since 2008.

The 13th-seeded Bruins came out cold to open the second half, not hitting a field goal until a Scott Saunders jumper with 15:50 remaining. Prior to that shot the Badgers used two jumpers from Leuer and a Taylor three to widen their lead to 41-31.

Two three-pointers from Jordan Campbell a little later cut the Bruins' deficit to 43-39, but the Badgers pulled away with a 13-1 run. Wisconsin made three from beyond the arc in the run, including two from Jared Berggren, whose second put the Badgers up 56-40 with 8:32 remaining.

The Badgers held a double-digit margin down the stretch, widening their lead to a game-high 71-52 on a Taylor three with 1 1/2 remaining.

The first half was back-and-forth, with neither team able to create distance until the final minutes.

Leuer gave the Badgers a 26-25 advantage with 3:30 remaining on a three- pointer, and treys from Tim Jarmusz and Taylor widened Wisconsin's lead to 32-25.

Hedgepeth stopped the spurt with a short jumper and Taylor capped the first- half scoring with a pair from the line, giving Wisconsin a 34-27 lead at the break.

Taylor led the Badgers with 14 points in the opening 20 minutes, and they shot a combined 7-of-14 from beyond the arc. Hedgepeth paced the Bruins with 11 points on 5-of-6 from the field.

"I'm just so proud of our team," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "I am so proud of how they have responded to our coaching staff and how they represented the university on the floor, off the floor. I just couldn't be more proud to coach a team and very, very lucky to get to do so."

Game Notes

Belmont is now 0-4 all-time in the NCAAs; Wisconsin improved to 22-15...This was the first meeting between these schools...The Badgers made 5-of-8 from beyond the arc in the second half...Leuer scored 17 of his points in the final 20 minutes...Wisconsin held a 33-22 rebounding advantage.