Wisconsin 81, Weber State 74
SPOKANE, Wash. — Wisconsin showed right from the start that it has a potent enough offense to go with one of the nation's stingiest defenses.
Devin Harris scored on a layup off the opening tip and the fifth-seeded Badgers never slowed down Thursday night, beating No. 12 Weber State 81-74 in the first round of the Midwest Regional.
Playing for the second time in more than two weeks, the Badgers weren't rusty at all, looking much better than they did in a 58-50 loss to Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament last week.
"In our last game, we settled for a lot of jump shots," Harris said. "Today we were aggressive and took the ball to the basket."
Kirk Penney scored 21 points to lead the Badgers.
Wisconsin's stifling defense gets most of the credit for the team's success, and the Badgers held the Wildcats (26-6) in check until the final minutes.
But it was sharp shooting that got Wisconsin (23-7) out to a quick start. The Badgers shot 57 percent to take a 15-point halftime lead and finished at 53 percent.
"We don't worry about what people say," Penney said. "We got some good looks tonight and were able to knock some shots down."
Wisconsin, which set a school record for wins, advanced to play the winner of the Dayton-Tulsa game in Saturday's second round.
Mike Wilkinson added 15 points and Harris had 14 for the Badgers, who scored their most points since beating Penn State 86-55 on Feb. 1.
Slobodan Ocokoljic, a transfer from Ohio State, led Weber State with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Jermaine Boyette added 25 points for the Wildcats, who had a 17-game winning streak snapped.
Boyette, the Big Sky player of the year, was quiet until he scored 10 points in the final 42 seconds.
"I thought early on we were able to take what he wanted away," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "But he's an outstanding player."
The Badgers avenged a loss to Weber State in Hawaii last season and squashed the Wildcats' bid for another NCAA tournament shocker.
Weber, playing as a No. 14 seed, upset Michigan State in 1995 and North Carolina in 1999. But the Wildcats had none of that magic against the Big Ten's regular-season champions.
"It doesn't take a bracketologist to figure out we dug ourselves too big a hole in the first half," Weber State coach Joe Cravens said. "This game is more physical than we are used to playing."
Wisconsin was prepared for the Wildcats after losing 73-69 to them last season. Penney shot just 1-for-10 in that game, but had his touch early this time.
"It's in the back of your mind that we lost to them last year," Penney said. "We wanted to play them again. But when push comes to shove on the court you have to play well and not worry about that."
Penney hit two 3-pointers in the first half as Wisconsin broke out to an early lead.
The Badgers came into the tournament allowing just 58.7 points per game — fourth-best in the nation. Weber couldn't get any open looks in the first half, shooting just 32 percent.
Wisconsin went up 47-30 on a dunk by Alando Tucker with 17:39 to play. After Weber responded with a 9-0 run, Penney hit a 3-pointer to put the Badgers back up by 11.
"He's got a thousand moves," Boyette said. "Last year to this year, he was a lot more aggressive. He was the key to their victory."
The Wildcats cut it to seven and had an opportunity to get closer, but Patrick Danley missed an easy putback. Freddie Owens came right back with a 3-pointer to put the Badgers up by 10.
The Wildcats didn't get any closer than eight points until the final 30 seconds.