for this game

Tucker, Taylor spark Wisconsin past Illinois

Mar 11, 2007 - 6:25 AM MADISON, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Alando Tucker is the unquestioned leader for Wisconsin but classmate Kammron Taylor ensured the team would be playing for a conference championship.

Tucker scored 21 points and Taylor had 14 of his 16 in the second half as the fourth-ranked Badgers eased past Illinois, 53-41, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Wisconsin (29-4) advances to play Ohio State on Sunday for the Big Ten championship and, most likely, a bigger prize - a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

"We have had two tough physical games so we are glad to be playing in the championship game," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. "This is good stuff playing the number one team in the country, we are excited about that."

After Tucker scored 14 points in the first half to become the school's all-time leading scorer - surpassing Michael Finley - and gave the Badgers a 23-16 lead at the break, Taylor responded to squelch an Illinois comeback.

After the Illini (23-11) had pulled within 39-34 on a dunk by Shaun Pruitt with 12:25 to play, Taylor took over with a personal 8-0 run.

The 6-2 guard sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a jumper to extend the advantage to 47-34 with just under 8 1/2 minutes left and Illinois never threatened thereafter.

"I was just making better decisions with the ball," Taylor said. "I wasn't trying to force things like I was in the first half and, you know, when shots are going down, everything looks good. And when they're not, you know, that's when things look bad. So I just tried to make a conscious effort at making better decisions."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber admitted his team was laboring after playing three games in three days.

"We just didn't have much in our legs and it the gas tank to get it done," he said. "Wisconsin is a sound team, they took Shaun (Pruitt) away from us and we never got into a rhythm."

Illini forward Brian Randle, who was scoreless in 13 minutes, disagreed with his coach.

"It's not so much about being worn down, than they just played better than us," Randle said. "Kammron Taylor came on in the second half and hit some big shots for them. That is the story of the day."

Tucker finished 10-of-17 from the field and Taylor was 6-of-12 as they were the only players to score in double figures for the Badgers, who won their third straight game after a two-game losing streak.

While Tucker needed just two points to wrest the all-time scoring record from Finley, he spoke with pride about the accomplishment.

"That's a great feat, a great accomplishment," he said. "It's one of those things that the team has been so successful this year. It's one of those things that it's helped me out, confidence-wise, the way everybody has been playing.

"It always feels good when you're successful, and everything else comes. It seems like everything is falling in place. It's great. It's great for the whole team."

Warren Carter scored 14 points for sixth-seeded Illinois, which won Big Ten titles in 2003 and 2005.

Wisconsin and Ohio State split a pair of regular-season meetings, each winning on its own court.

"You have to look forward to it as a player and a competitor," Tucker said. "You want to play the best teams, they are one of the better teams in the nation and this is the third time we have seen them.

"Those games were tough battles but we are looking forward to it since it is the Big Ten tournament championship game."

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    ILLINOIS 18 23 41
    WISCONSIN (4) 23 30 53 FINAL

    Mar 10 5:50 PM


    Mar 10 4:40 PM