True Warriors

Wisconsin was without its leading scorer for seven minutes early in the second half. Instead of Marquette taking control with senior Jon Leuer on the bench, the Badgers increased their lead and never gave it up in the second half, beating in-state rival Marquette, 69-64, Saturday.

MILWAUKEE – As much as Wisconsin needs senior All-Big Ten selection Jon Leuer on the court, the Badgers proved last year that they can survive without him.

They don't want to make a habit of playing without the senior's 20 points per game, but the Badgers showed against their fiercest in-state rival that Wisconsin's other moving parts are more than capable of being successful.

The Badgers played 7 minutes, 3 seconds without their leading scorer and more than weathered the storm, building their second-half lead and getting a game high 21 points from Jordan Taylor to upend Marquette, 69-64, in front of 19,074 at a raucous Bradley Center.

Leuer was commanding tempo for Wisconsin (8-2), leading the team with 13 points when he picked up a shooting foul, his third, with 17:44 remaining in the second half and UW up 36-32.

That opportunity awoke senior Keaton Nankivil, who scored the next six points on a jumper, a tip-in off his offensive rebound and a drive with the shot clock running out to help push the lead to 42-35.

"To keep making progress like that and to stretch the lead out is huge," said Nankivil, who also grabbed three of his five rebounds during the stretch. "When we have a player like Jon, who is so important to our team offensively and defensively, with the fouls, for us to be able to make some progress is huge for us."

The Badgers got more production when the Golden Eagles (7-3) went cold, missing their first four shots after Leuer hit the bench. Jordan Taylor, Jared Berggren (8 points) and Rob Wilson (3) all scored to help the Badgers turn a four-point lead into a seven-point lead with Leuer returned with 10:41 remaining.

With fresh legs, Leuer slammed home an assist from Mike Bruesewitz, keying a 7-2 run that gave the Badgers a 12-point advantage, the largest of the game.

"They all stepped up and that was fun," Leuer said. "I was a cheerleader on the sideline for a little bit and it was fun to see those guys step up and produce for us … It was a big road win for us against an in-state rival. It's going to be a good resume win for us."

The Badgers have had practice thriving without Leuer. After breaking a bone in his left wrist, Leuer was sidelined for nine games, but saw his team go 6-3 in his absence, including a win over No.5 Michigan State. Wisconsin also has been fluid when Leuer had been forced to the bench with foul trouble, a prime example being its 16-2 run a win over No.15 Ohio State last New Year's Eve.

"Jon is obviously a great player and we run a lot of stuff through him because of it and scores a ton, but we have other guys that can step up and play," Bruesewitz said. "Berggren did a phenomenal job giving us an inside post presence and guys just wanted to get stuff on the defensive and offensive end, as well."

Wisconsin held an 11-10 rebound advantage at halftime and only grabbed three offensive boards. It was a stark change in the second half, as the Badgers grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in the second half that turned into 16 second-chance points.

"The idea is you can put (the ball) right back with a pump fake or get it out and make them work again," UW Coach Bo Ryan said on his team's offensive rebounds. "Plus, we know what it can do mentally to the other team … I think it kind of takes air out of the players on the court."

No series was more indicative of the domination by Wisconsin's length than an 82-second stretch late in the second half with Wisconsin up eight. The Badgers reset the shot clock five times, grabbed three offensive rebounds in the process and capped it with Leuer hitting a jumper in the lane to push the lead back to 11.

"We did a good job of being smart with the offensive rebounds," Nankivil said. "You saw guys get it, see if they an alley to the glass, kick it out, reset it and grind it out. I think the way we use the possessions and the extra time was very helpful for us in the overall scheme of the game."

Despite holding UW to 39.4 percent shooting in the second half, Marquette did not help itself, twice missing the front of end of bonus free throws and getting little production from second-leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom, who shot 1-for-9 from the court and finished with 13 points.

Marquette was led by seniors Jimmy Butler (15 points) and Dwight Buycks (13). Former UW commit Vander Blue was a non factor, taking only four shots and finishing with 7 points, as were Marquette's second-chance points, finishing only with nine.

"They scored 30 percent of their points on second-chance points, and that's tough," Marquette Coach Buzz Williams said. "Too many back breaking second-chance points for them, which means that we're going to guard them 25 more seconds, which means that's limiting our opportunities on offense."

But just like some of Wisconsin's other road games, the Badgers found a way to make it interesting, seeing a 10-point lead cut to 64-62 after a Butler three with 20.1 seconds left.

This time, there was no late-game disappointment. Taylor made 4 of 5 free throws down the stretch and Gasser knocked a bounce pass off Buycks out of bounds with 1.8 seconds left and UW up three. Two Taylor free throws was the final straw.

"I came in here, wanting to give the team a few minutes here and there, and help our team however I could," Gasser said. "That's still what I am doing. If I need to be a non-scorer, that's what I'll do."

The first half suggested the opposite of a grinding contest, as both teams shot over 52 percent from the floor, but the Badgers took a 32-30 edge by shooting 5 of 12 (41.7 percent) from three point range. Even when Taylor went out with his second foul with four remaining, Gasser helped Wisconsin tread water.

The true freshman, who grew up a Marquette fan, finished with only four points, but handled the point guard like a veteran, committing only one turnover against Marquette's pressure.

"He just does so many things for us, a lot of things you wouldn't even notice," Leuer said. "As a freshmen, to make the kind of plays he does, it gives us a huge lift. He's helped us out and he's going to continue to help us out a lot."

Wisconsin also got a lift from Bruesewitz, who snared a team-high eight rebounds, dove twice on the floor for loose balls, stood his ground for an offensive foul against Junior Cadougan and forced a travel by Butler after he simply had his hands extended on a shot attempt, forcing Butler into a no-win scenario.

"All those guys were huge today," Leuer said of the post players. "Mike did so many things today that go unnoticed, but they were key for us getting this win."

Every Wisconsin player that stepped up to the microphone seemingly echoed each other - talking about blocking out the hostile environment and sticking to the team's fundamentals. It was a lesson the team learned in its 15-turnover loss at Las Vegas, a lesson the team used to avoid another crushing road setback.

"We played at Vegas in a possession for possession game … that's how we walk away with this one today," Ryan said. "If we don't have that game in the Vegas with the crowd as crazy as they were … this is a tough place to come in and get one."

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