Wofford stalls in the final moments
03/20/2010 12:00 AM
03/19/2010 10:51 PM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In two weeks, Wofford guard Cameron Rundles said, he will look back on this season with satisfaction.
Rundles and his teammates won 26 games and captured the imagination of their school and the Spartanburg community as they reached the NCAA tournament for the first time. As a No. 13 seed Friday, Wofford pulled ahead of powerful No. 4 seed Wisconsin by one point on a Rundles jumper with 4 minutes, 43 seconds remaining.
But Rundles couldn't enjoy those accomplishments Friday because of the way the game ended. The Terriers turned over the ball three times and missed two of three free throws in the final three minutes as Wisconsin won 53-49 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
"When you smell the victory like we did," Rundles said, "it's going to be tough to hold our heads up."
Jon Leuer made an 18-foot baseline jumper with 17 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin a 51-49 lead, and hit two free throws on the Badgers' next possession to seal it.
"He's been huge for us all year, and everybody knows that," teammate Keaton Nankivil said.
No. 4 seed Wisconsin (24-8) will meet 12th-seeded Cornell on Sunday in the second round.
Rundles took the loss hard. After Leuer's go-ahead basket, Rundles drove left off a ball screen but was cut off by a Wisconsin defender.
While backing off to try to create an opening for a teammate, Rundles dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds in front of the Wofford bench.
"It's a tough one to swallow," Wofford forward Noah Dahlman said. "You look up at the scoreboard, we're up one, under three minutes to go, I think. And you've been in that situation before, rattled off 13 straight victories, you think you've got it."
Wofford (26-9) was in position to win despite shooting 7-for-25 from the field in the first half. Despite their struggles, the Terriers were down just 27-19 at the half, and they went on a tear to start the second half.
They made their first eight field-goal attempts, including two 3-pointers by Junior Salters and one by Jamar Diggs. Wofford grabbed its first lead of the second half at 37-36 on Salters' second 3-pointer with 14:43 remaining.
"We just didn't come to this tournament to show up, be happy and that's it," said Diggs, whose 13 points were a team high. "We wanted to win the game."
Sensing an upset, the crowd got behind the underdog. It was two years ago that another Southern Conference team, Davidson, stunned Wisconsin in the regional semifinal round, and the Badgers trailed late in this game as well.
Leuer scored 20 points, Trevon Hughes added 19, and the Badgers survived.
"We've had a lot of different matchups, and we've played a lot of different styles," Leuer said. "We just focus on what we're going to do. We always want to get good shots and take care of the ball, and no matter who we're playing, how big they are or how small they are, it's about what we do."
And although his players were hurting, Wofford coach Mike Young was proud.
"They (Wisconsin) hit us with a couple there late that got them over the top," he said. "But I'm tickled to death with my team and their toughness and their willingness to play the right way every time out. That's what they do."
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