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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Former UWM coach Pearl hired by Auburn

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AUBURN, Ala. - Former UW-Milwaukee men's coach Bruce Pearl is returning to the bench.  Auburn University confirmed today that it hired the 54-year-old Pearl to replace head coach Tony Barbee, after the Tigers went 6-12 in the SEC this season and 14-16 overall.

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Pearl spent the last two years as an analyst on ESPN, after he was fired at Tennessee in 2011 for lying to the NCAA about the recruitment of Aaron Craft -- who's now at Ohio State.  Pearl spent four seasons at Milwaukee, where he led the Panthers to a Sweet-16 appearance in 2005.  He was hired at Tennessee after that campaign, and he went 145-61 in six years with the Volunteers.  Barbee, the man he's replacing, went 49-75 in his four years at Auburn.  

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The UW-Green Bay men's basketball team will play its first game in the NIT Tournament tonight, when it hosts Belmont.  The Phoenix are seeded fourth in the Saint John's quadrant, while Belmont is seeded fifth.  Tonight's winner will play either top-seeded Saint John's or No. 8 Robert Morris in the second round.  Green Bay is 24-6 overall, with its first Horizon League regular season title in 18 years. Belmont is 24-9, after winning the Ohio Valley Conference season crown.  Senior J.J. Mann was the league's player of the year, averaging 18 points and almost five rebounds a game.  Phoenix guard Keifer Sykes -- the Horizon League player of the year -- needs 19 points to become only the second player in UWGB history to score 1,500 career points before the end of his junior year. Sophomore Jordan Fouse needs two steals to set a new Green Bay single season mark.  Terry Evans has the school record with 67 steals in 2009. 

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The Milwaukee Bucks have won their last two annual games at Portland, and they'll try to make it three straight tonight.  The only problem is that this year's Bucks are not nearly as good as in those past two seasons.  They're just 1-10 on the road against Western Conference opponents.  Milwaukee has lost four straight.  At 13-54, the Bucks have the NBA's worst record by two games under Philadelphia.  Even so, the Trail Blazers don't have a lock right now on tonight's game.  They're 43-24, but Portland has lost five of its last six after falling by one point at home to Golden State on Sunday.  All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge has missed two games with a lower back contusion.  He's expected to sit out tonight's Milwaukee game as well.  Point guard Brandon Knight continues to be the bright spot for the Bucks.  He had 21 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in a nine-point Milwaukee home loss to Charlotte on Sunday.  The Bucks had won four straight overall against Portland before losing by nine at home to the Blazers last November 20th.

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We'll get a better idea by this weekend on how the competition for the Milwaukee Brewers' first base job is going.  Veterans Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds signed minor league contracts to compete for the position.  Holdover Juan Francisco is also in the running, and manager Ron Roenicke says there's no way he can all keep three on the roster.  Overbay can ask for his release if the Brewers don't add him to their 40-man Major League roster by Saturday.  The same process begins for Reynolds next Monday.  Francisco is out of minor league options, so the Brewers cannot just send him down without some type of release.  Going into yesterday's exhibition loss to the White Sox, Reynolds was batting .172 with a double and five RBI's.  Overbay was hitting .182 with no extra base hits or RBI's.  Francisco belted a pair of homers in Milwaukee's Spring Training opener, but he has not gone yard since.  He has a .333 batting average.  Francisco also has the added leverage of playing at third when the Brewers need him there.  Milwaukee was 8-12 in Cactus League play, heading into an exhibition against Texas this afternoon.

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The Milwaukee Brewers will play an exhibition game against UW-Milwaukee during next year's Spring Training in Phoenix.  The Brewers announced the game today, but the date is still uncertain.  General manager Doug Melvin says it will be a great chance for the Brewers to support the UWM program, and give the big league players an opportunity to connect with some top amateur talent.  The Brewers have not paid a college team in an exhibition since 1983, when they took on Arizona State.  This is the first time the Brewers will have ever played UW-Milwaukee in an exhibition.  Panthers' coach Scott Doffek says it will be a fun day and a great opportunity for his team.  UWM is the lone Division I college baseball team in the state of Wisconsin.

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His team is a 16 and a half point underdog, but UW-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter and his players are studying ways to get past Villanova.  The sixth-ranked Wildcats will play UWM on Thursday night in an NCAA second-round match-up in Buffalo.  The Panthers will try to become the latest 15th-seed to shock a No. 2, as Florida Gulf Coast did a year ago.  Jeter says it's all a matter of individual match-ups, and the big question is whether his Panthers can keep up with Villanova's quickness on the perimeter.  A pair of guards lead the Wildcats in scoring -- James Bell at almost 15 points per game, and Darrun Hillard at 14-point-four.  Forward Jay Vaughn Pinkston is close behind at 14.3.  Milwaukee has won five straight games, in part because of a strong man-to-man defense.  Against Detroit last month, Milwaukee used a solid zone to keep switching defenders on Juwan Howard Junior, who was held to just nine points in that contest.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin is gearing up to play American University on Thursday morning in the NCAA's second-round West Regional opener in Milwaukee.

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Tyler Tillema of UW-Stevens Point has been named the West Region's player of the year by both the national coaches' association and D3hoops.com.  Tillema, a senior, led the Pointers with 20 points and five rebounds per game.  He also led the team in assists and blocked shots.  Pointers' coach Bob Semling was picked by his peers as the Division III regional coach of the year.  His Pointers were atop the national rankings for most of the season, and they fell two wins short of making this weekend's D-III Final Four.  Trevor Hass of the Pointers also made both the coaches' and D3hoops.com all-league, first team.  In the coaches' Midwest Division, Saint Norbert's Gary Grzesk was named the coach of the year.  Ty Sabin of Ripon College was D-III's Midwest rookie of the year.  Brandon Gries of Saint Norbert and Austin Stueck of the Milwaukee School of Engineering made both divisional first teams, while Kam Cerroni of Saint Norbert made D-III's top squad.

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The University of Wisconsin softball team went 2-1 at the Louisville Classic, after beating the host Cardinals by a 4-1 score yesterday.  The Badgers only had one hit, a double by Chloe Miller.  The rest of the team reached base with the help of walks, wild pitches, a hit batsman, and an error.  Cassandra Darrah pitched a one-run complete game.  She worked out of bases-loaded jams in both the sixth and seventh innings.  Wisconsin is now 12-10 this spring.

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University of Wisconsin volleyball sophomore Taylor Morey will compete in Europe this summer with a U.S. national team.  Morey will be among 12 players on a tour that runs from July 8th through 19th.  The squad will visit Venice Italy, and then take part in a four-day training camp in Maribor Slovenia.  There, they'll scrimmage with Slovenia's national team and under-20 squad, along with several under-20 teams from other countries.  After that, Team USA will head to Pula, Croatia for the Global Challenge July 13th through 18th.  Morey is a 5-8 libero who averaged two-point-six-five digs per set for the Badgers last fall. 

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Lee Johnson of Wisconsin Lutheran is the men's tennis athlete of the week in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.  Johnson won all six of his singles' matches last week -- including a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Uros Pajic from Division I Chicago State.  In doubles, Johnson and his partner Zach Birner went 3-3.  Also, Sean Esenberg of Wisconsin Lutheran is the NACC men's golfer of the week. 

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