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Tucker leads Wisconsin to Big Ten semis

Mar 10, 2007 - 6:53 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- It took a little longer than usual for Alando Tucker to find his shooting stroke.

Tucker scored 21 points and Kammron Taylor added 11 as No. 4 Wisconsin advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten Conference tournament with a 70-57 victory over Michigan State.

The Big Ten Player of the Year, Tucker surpassed Devin Harris' single-season school scoring record (645) and moved within one point of Michael Finley's career mark (2,147). He enabled Wisconsin (28-4) to move to the semifinals against Illinois, which edge Indiana, 58-54, in overtime on Friday.

"I'm thinking about winning," Tucker said. "Had I not done some things on the court, we'd have been going home. We'd be on a bus back to Madison. That was my whole mind frame on the court. I never try to think about records."

Tucker made just three free throws and missed both his shots from the floor in the first half. He finished by hitting just 5-of-14 shots for the contest, including 4-of-8 from the arc.

"I don't think I was struggling," Tucker said. "It's just my teammates were getting open. Mike (Flowers) came out hot and it's things like that we need down the stretch."

After managing just five points against the Spartans in a 52-50 win on Saturday, Flowers came out strong by scoring eight, including a pair of 3-pointers, to help the Badgers open with a 10-0 lead.

"We've just been trying to be more aggressive, especially on the perimeter," Taylor said. "We were just trying to keep them from getting open looks. We didn't do a good job of that the first time we played them.

"But we just tried to make a conscious effort of just picking up our man and basically just harassing him and trying not to give him any good looks."

Goran Suton scored eight of Michigan State's first 10 points to cut the deficit to 15-10. However, Greg Stiemsma scored six points and Joe Krabbenhoft had five down the stretch as Wisconsin took a 36-21 halftime advantage.

Raymar Morgan gave Michigan State some life after the break with seven points in an 11-2 burst, including a three-point play, to help bring the Spartans within 38-32 with 13:34 remaining.

That's when Tucker came alive. He nailed four 3-pointers in the next 7 1/2 minutes as the Badgers widened the margin to 58-46 with 5:03 left.

"I was taking what the defense was giving me and I knew at that point in time that I had to step up," Tucker said. "But it was one of those things that we made some good calls, some good reads, and that's the way the ball drops sometimes."

Wisconsin defeated Michigan State for the second time in three meetings this season by shooting 51 percent (23-of-45) and extended its single-season school record for victories.

"I am just proud of how our guys played," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. "We had to fight through some rough spots. With the way Michigan State came at us in the second half, I didn't feel good about things until the final buzzer."

Suton scored 14 points and Morgan added 11 for the Spartans (22-11). Leading-scorer Drew Neitzel was limited to 10 on just 3-of-13 shots.

"I think their goal was to try to get the ball out of my hands," Neitzel said. "Coach said, 'Try not to force things. Just let the game come to you.' That's what I tried to do, get the ball in the post and make them pay for stepping up."

"I am disappointed that we did not give them a better game," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "For some reason, our defense just let us down. It has been good for the 31 or 32 games we played this year, but we didn't check very well tonight."

    --- --- -----
    MICHIGAN ST 21 36 57
    WISCONSIN (4) 36 34 70 FINAL

    Mar 9 8:38 PM


    Mar 9 7:24 PM