March 22, 2004

(3) Pittsburgh 59, (6) Wisconsin 55
March 21, 2004

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- If anybody knows how to quiet a crowd it's the Pittsburgh Panthers.

They muffled the pro-Wisconsin horde at the Bradley Center with a 59-55 victory over the Badgers on Sunday in the second round of the East Rutherford Regional.

``We've been in hostile environments before. It's just basketball,'' said sophomore guard Carl Krauser, who led Pitt with 16 points.

The third-seeded Panthers (31-4) will play Oklahoma State (29-3) in the regional semifinals. The Cowboys beat Memphis 70-53 earlier Sunday.

Pittsburgh was a bit chafed at having to play what amounted to a home game for the sixth-seeded Badgers, who only had to travel 75 miles up Interstate 94.

The Panthers needn't have fretted.

They improved to 12-3 away from home, a record that includes victories over Syracuse in front of more than 31,000 at the Carrier Dome and over Georgetown at the earsplitting MCI Center.

``Truthfully, I was surprised. They weren't booing us as loud as playing against Syracuse or Providence,'' forward Chris Taft said. ``That's where we get the most boos. This was nothing.''

Nothing like the crazed crowds in the Big East, said Chevon Troutman, whose 14 rebounds helped hush the house.

``These people are really nice up here,'' he said.

The game pitting two Top 10 teams was befitting next weekend's regional semifinals and proved that a low-scoring, defensive oriented contest could be exciting.

Pittsburgh shot 36 percent to the Badgers' 35 percent, and it was anybody's game until the closing seconds when Pittsburgh made all the crucial plays.

With wider, more athletic players inside, the Panthers outrebounded the Badgers by nine and held a 15-7 advantage on the offensive glass.

``We've played teams that are big. But these guys are big, strong and active all the time,'' Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. ``We thought we could bang, we thought we could hang.''

They thought wrong.

Devin Harris scored 21 points for the Badgers but none after his 3-pointer gave Wisconsin a 40-37 lead at the 12-minute mark. He finished the season with a school record 624 points, four more than Michael Finley scored in 1993.

``Shots that I was hitting in the first half just weren't falling in the second half,'' Harris said. ``I had three or four turnovers in that stretch. That's how they got ahead and they stayed on top.''

Krauser put the Panthers up for good at 54-52 with an aggressive drive to the basket that could easily have sent him to the bench with five fouls.

``We needed that basket and I definitely didn't have a fear of picking up a foul,'' Krauser said. ``I was just trying to get to the basket and score. If you're worrying about your next foul, you are not going to get the job done.''

After the Badgers pulled to 56-55 on Boo Wade's follow-up 3-pointer on a dish from Harris with 21 seconds left, Krauser was fouled in the backcourt and sank both shots for a three-point lead.

The Badgers couldn't get a good look from beyond the arc, but Ryan never used one of his two timeouts and Zach Morley was off target on a short, open jumper with five seconds left.

Jaron Brown grabbed the rebound and Clayton Hanson fouled him with three seconds remaining. Brown missed the first but sank the second to send the Big East regular-season champions into the round of 16 for the third straight year.

``The plan was, in our huddle, to have him miss both of them,'' Ryan said. ``It didn't happen.''

The Badgers (25-7) set a school record for wins this season but that was of little consolation to the red-clad crowd that had expected to help lift their team past the Panthers.

The teams met in the 1941 NCAA tournament at the UW Field House in Madison, and the Badgers won 36-30 on their way to their only national championship.

The Badgers credited the crowd for helping them survive an upset bid by Richmond in the opener. But the Panthers, whose three road losses are by a combined seven points, kept the Badgers from getting any advantage from playing in the hometown of three Wisconsin starters.

``The fans were great. We were fortunate to play here,'' Badgers center Mike Wilkinson said. ``We just didn't get the job done.''

The Badgers led 48-44 with 5:47 left when the Panthers scored seven straight points to take control and the crowd began heeding the lonely sign in the Pittsburgh section that read simply, ``Shhhh...''

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