SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Late in Sunday’s NCAA Regional final here, Wisconsin was in the unique position of trailing with two fouls to give.
Down 81-78 with less than a minute to play, UW chose to narrow that gap, fouling North Carolina twice in less than two seconds for its fifth and sixth team fouls of the second half.
With 52 seconds left, UW wanted to go for a quick steal in the back court and, failing that, play solid defense in the half court, avoid fouling, and corral the rebound.
But when the Tar Heels inbounded the ball to point guard Raymond Felton near the corner, UW sophomore guard Kammron Taylor got too close and was whistled for a foul with 51.3 seconds remaining.
“I was really just trying to make a play on the ball,” Taylor said. “It was a tight game, guys are going to be aggressive. I don’t know if he thought I was trying to intentionally foul him. But guys are going to be aggressive because we wanted to win, we want to move on.”
Felton proceeded to make a pair of free throws, putting UNC up 83-78. After Taylor missed a quick 3-point attempt, Felton went to the line with 34.5 seconds left and iced it with two more charity shots, putting the Tar Heels up seven.
“Kam got a little too aggressive,” UW coach Bo Ryan said of Taylor’s foul with 51.3 left. “It looked like he went into him with his chest thinking that Felton… was going to put it on the floor.”
But instead of dribbling away from the boundary, Felton made his own aggressive move, turning sharply in the direction of Taylor, who proceeded to commit the foul.
“Then boom, as Felton turned into him…. it was a foul,” Ryan said.
Ryan, however, said that the quick foul was not a worst-case scenario. Trailing 83-78, UW still had 51.3 seconds to get back into the game.
“What we didn’t want to do is let him come down and run 30 seconds off and then foul,” Ryan said. “It was going to be something right away going for the ball.”
“It is just a few possessions here and there that decided the game,” senior guard Clayton Hanson said. “[North Carolina] did a good job of finishing the game off.”
Felton’s foul trouble suits Badgers; UNC point guard makes up for lost time
Raymond Felton’s first-half foul trouble only intermittently kept him out of the game, but it negatively affected North Carolina for the rest of that period.
Felton picked up his second foul with 11:50 left before halftime and sat out six minutes the rest of the first half. UNC thrives with Felton running the show, but Sunday he became a short-term liability both in and out of the lineup.
In order to help Felton avoid his third foul, UNC switched to a matchup zone defense, but that made it easier for UW to draw defenders and set up its 3-point shooters.
UNC actually expanded its lead from 26-19 to 30-19 in Felton’s first three-minute spurt on the bench (from 10:29 to 7:32), but UW senior Clayton Hanson hit two triples soon after Felton’s return to make it 30-25 UNC.
“We got good looks off [the zone],” Hanson said. “They all came as the result of moving the ball. I think we did a good job early of getting the ball inside and finishing but we just weren’t getting the stops that we needed to.”
Felton answered with a 3 of his own, but than his hesitancy on the defensive end again adversely affected the Heels. UW forward Alando Tucker skied for an offensive rebound, and Felton actually backed away, hands over his head, to avoid any possibility of a foul. Tucker scored on the play to make it 33-27.
Hanson hit his third triple of the first half and sophomore guard Kammron Taylor added a 3 against the zone, but Felton directed a UNC offensive attack that built a 42-33 lead before he sat down with just over three minutes to go in the half.
“I didn’t want to get him his third one,” UNC coach Roy Williams said, who added that he also wanted to rest Felton due to a sore ankle that had bothered him in practice on Saturday. “I’m weighing the foul trouble and wanting him to rest a bit.”
With Felton out of the lineup until the closing seconds before halftime, UNC opened a 44-33 edge before the Badgers burst out on an 11-0 run, tying the game at the break.
Freshman center Greg Stiemsma started the rally with a layup, Taylor scored six points — with a driving layup, two free throws and a jumper — and Sharif Chambliss capped the run with his second triple of the first half.
Felton missed two minutes and 27 seconds in the second half after he appeared to roll his left ankle. But he scored 10 of his 12 second-half points after his return with 11:39 left to play and he finished with seven assists, including a helper on Rashad McCants’ 3-pointer with just over a minute left to play that gave UNC an 81-75 lead.
All tournament team
Badgers guard Clayton Hanson and forward Alando Tucker were named to the Syracuse Regional All-Tournament team. Villanova’s Randy Foye and UNC’s Rashad McCants and Sean May rounded out the team. May, who has scored 86 points in four tournament games, including 29 Sunday, was named the regional’s most valuable player.
Tucker scored 70 points in four tourney games for UW, including 47 in two games in Syracuse. Hanson scored 35 points in the tournament, 33 of which came off 11 of 19 3-point shooting. Hanson also drew challenging defensive assignments in all four UW games and shined in that role.
Mike Wilkinson set a UW school record with his 130th game played Sunday and became the first Badger to surpass 4,000 career minutes. Wilkinson played 39 minutes, finishing his career with 4,023. He also finished sixth on UW’s all-time career scoring list with 1,532 points, third in rebounds (856), third in blocked shots (117) and first in offensive rebounds (311).
Sharif Chambliss had four assists and two turnovers Sunday, finishing the season with a 2.32 assist-to-turnover ratio, sixth best in UW history.
Senior forward Zach Morley made 28 of 56 3-pointers this season, but he did not attempt a triple in two games in Syracuse. Morley’s 50 percent 3-point shooting would be a school record, had he reached the requisite 60 attempts to qualify for the record book.
Senior guard Clayton Hanson made 55 of 121 triples this season, good for 45.5 percent, eighth in UW history. Hanson’s 41.9 career 3-point percentage (93 of 222) ranks sixth at Wisconsin, while Morley’s 41.2 (42 of 102) is eighth.
As a team Wisconsin set school records for 3-pointers made (250) and attempted (640) this season.
Wisconsin’s 25 wins tied a school record set last year. The Badgers won 24 games two seasons ago. The 74 wins the past three years is a school record, as is 93 victories the past four campaigns. UW’s 34 games played this season was the second most in history.