By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 24, 2011 at 11:40 PM

The dance came to an end in ugly fashion Thursday for Wisconsin, with a 61-54 loss to Butler in the East Regional semifinal at the New Orleans Arena.

The Badgers were done in by an inability to make a basket and lackluster performances from top players Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, denying Wisconsin its first trip to the Elite Eight since 2005.

The fourth-seeded Badgers (25-9) shot 30 percent for the game but hit just three of their first 19 field goal attempts.

Butler, with Matt Howard and Andrew Smith anchoring the defense, kept Wisconsin out of the lane, forcing a barrage of off-target jumpers. Howard finished with 12 rebounds to go along with team-leading 20 points.

Howard's dominance in the paint negated the play of Leuer who finished with a season-low three points on 1 of 12 shooting. Taylor overcame a cold start to finish with 22 points but was just 3 of 10 from beyond the arc.

"We just made plays that were uncharacteristic of us, trying to force some things," Leuer said."

The Badgers did mount a late rally. Trailing 35-24 at halftime, they missed their first 10 shots of the second half and didn't score until Mike Bruesewitz hit a jumper with 14:03 to play, making it a 42-27 game.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan threw his arms up in the air after that basket in a sign of relief.

"Well, you would, too," Ryan said, when asked about the gesture.

Butler extended the lead to 20 on Smith's layup with 11:34 left but five consecutive points from Taylor sparked a 22-6 run that cut the deficit to four on Taylor's three-pointer with 1:04 to play.

Butler (26-9), though, hit five of six free throws in the final 30 seconds while Wisconsin's only bucket came on Josh Gasser's layup with six seconds remaining, sealing the Badgers' tournament fate.

"We just needed to put a few more minutes together here tonight so we could keep dancing, but the music stopped playing," Ryan said. "So we just wish Butler the best of luck in their journey for what they're looking for."

The Bulldogs advance to Elite Eight for the second consecutive year and face second-seeded Florida (29-7), which defeated BYU, 83-74, Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for a trip to the Final Four.

Sweet 16 scores and schedule


West Regional
No. 3 Connecticut 74, No. 3 San Diego State 67
No. 5 Arizona 93, No. 1 Duke 77

Southeast Regional
No. 2 Florida 83, No. 3 BYU 74
No. 8 Butler 61, No. 4 Wisconsin 54

(All times Central)

East Regional -- Newark, N.J.
No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Marquette, 6:15 p.m. (CBS)
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Kentucky, 8:45 p.m. (CBS)

Southwest Regional -- San Antonio
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 12 Richmond, 6:27 p.m. (TBS)
No. 10 Florida State vs. No. 11 VCU, 8:57 p.m. (TBS)

Regional Finals

Southeast Regional final
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 8 Butler, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

West Regional final
No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 5 Arizona, 6:05 p.m. (CBS)