Belmont poised for upset bid against Wisconsin

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“People can say what they want,” star guard Jordan Taylor said, “and they’re going to make their picks. But all that really matters is what happens between the lines in the next 40 minutes.”

Wisconsin wants to control the tempo and rely on the talents of Taylor, who averages 18.1 points per game, 20.1 in Big Ten play, and leads the country with a 4.20 assist to turnover ratio.

Belmont will come at the Badgers in waves, with Byrd routinely going 10 deep in his rotation. No team in NCAA Division I had better bench scoring.

“It’s been very beneficial as far as practicing harder, which no one really thinks about,” Belmont’s Mike Hedgepeth said. “Usually we’ve been able to practice a lot harder this year. I think that’s helped us out. Hopefully it will prepare us for this tournament.”

With their depth, the Bruins don’t pace themselves.

“It’s good to know you can come in and play as hard as you can for three or four minutes instead of having to pace yourself like a lot of guys do on most teams,” Hedgepeth said. “So we stay fresh. I think we average, like, 10 guys play over 10 minutes but no one plays over 25 minutes.”

Several are long-range specialists, led by Ian Clark, who made 72 of 165 3-pointers (44 percent). Jordan Campbell came off the bench to make 74 of 161 3s (46 percent). Overall, Belmont shot 38 percent on 3 pointers, going 321 for 842. Wisconsin can make 3s, although though they attempt far fewer. The Badgers made 37 percent (250 of 673), led by Taylor’s 65 of 150 (43 percent) and Jon Leuer’s 51 of 135 (38 percent).

Wisconsin’s players brushed aside the 36-33 Big Ten tournament loss to Penn State last weekend, saying they have put it behind them.

Ryan chose to note the positives.

“What we did defensively against them (Penn State) I was very, very proud of the team,” Ryan said. “And just cut to the chase _ we just didn’t make baskets.”

Belmont was no higher than a 15 seed in its previous three tournament trips and lost each time. The last one, though, was a thriller _ 71-70 in 2008 to No. 2 seed Duke.

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