Still Some Left in the Tank

Wisconsin senior Rob Wilson is guaranteed five more games in his college career. Knowing that his time is ticking down, it's no surprise that Wilson played his best game of the season Thursday and has his sights set on other special performance in his home state Sunday.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - In the days immediately leading up to Wisconsin's tilt at Carver Hawkeye Arena, Rob Wilson sat on one of the work tables in the media room and used words like ‘energy, spark and aggressor' when describing his role of coming off the bench for the Badgers in his four-year career.

His words shined through Thursday and while No.16 Wisconsin didn't get the desired result against the Hawkeyes, Wilson came off the bench to score a season-high 11 points in a season-high 17 minutes. It was two points off his career high of 13 set against Michigan Jan. 2010, one he likely could have tied had the officials not missed a first-half goaltending call.

"He did (give us a spark)," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "We needed that."

Down by as many as 13 points in the second half, Wilson provided the spark that gave the Badgers (20-8, 9-6 Big Ten) some hope. During one stretch, Wilson scored five of UW's next seven points, including hitting only his fourth 3-pointer in Big Ten play, to make it 51-45 after both teams traded buckets.

More importantly, he did the little things, like using his athleticism to out jump a cluster of four players to tap out a rebound that started a 4-on-1 Wisconsin break. The result was a Ben Brust 3-pointer that cut the lead to 51-48 with 12:53 remaining.

"It was huge," said Brust of Wilson's play. "I think he sparked one of our first comebacks. He made some plays and it's good to get some production off the bench. That helps us."

Notice how Brust said first comeback. Once the lead ballooned back up to 11 because of the white hot hand of senior Matt Gatens, Wilson found space in the lane and registered a thunderous uncontested dunk, making the score 63-54 with 5:52 left. That play started a 9-0 run that got Wisconsin within two with 21 seconds left, but never completely over the hump.

"I think I came out a little more aggressive," said Wilson. "There were opportunities, and I took that approach. I feel like I took more advantage of it.

Wilson's production will again by vital and then some when No.16 Wisconsin takes on No.8 Ohio State (23-5, 11-4) Sunday afternoon in Columbus.

Wilson won't get the type of rude welcome Brust received on Thursday from the Iowa crowd, but Wilson recognized the uniqueness and the excitement of trying to get his first win on his third and final attempt in his home state.

"I love going home," said Wilson, who is from up the road in Cleveland. "It means a lot to be able to play in front of my family."

For Wilson, he just loves playing the game of basketball. It's the reason he had the words ‘Love for the game' tattooed on his upper left arm in high school and why he doesn't regret any of the trials or setbacks he has gone through at the University of Wisconsin.

Although he was a scorer for Garfield Heights HS, averaging 18 points per game his senior year, Wilson has been a role player in four seasons, averaging nine minutes and 2.3 points in 109 career games played.

He got a chance to start twice last season, but a nagging hamstring injury limited him to 23 games and lingered throughout the year. The result was a sense of urgency last summer for Wilson, one of only two seniors (along with best friend Jordan Taylor) on the roster. Wilson said the offseason consisted of him lifting almost daily with strength coach Scott Hettenbach, rehabilitation with trainer Henry Perez-Guerra, shooting in the gym in the hours between classes and getting pushed through drills by Taylor, considered the team's hardest worker.

The results have equaled Wilson having no lingering effects and a renewed sense of love for basketball.

"Jordan is the type of player that's always there to help the team," said Wilson. "He always encourages players when he sees them down or sees things aren't going the right way. He takes the time out to see if everything is going all right. He's always there when I need him."

Wilson has played in every game this season, but he's averaging just 9.8 minutes, 2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. He's also shooting a career-best 31 percent from 3-point range this season – hardly amazing but a step in the right direction.

"I just have to be consistent with it," said Wilson. "I have to take advantage of it when I'm out there and keep bringing things that will help the team."

After not playing in more than 15 minutes in a game all season and more than eight since a game against Nebraska on Jan. 15, Wilson's play was applauded post game by his coaches, a sign of positives with at least five games left in his college career.

He's set to graduate with a degree in human ecology with an emphasis in leadership studies, he's set to play in his fourth straight NCAA Tournament and he's set to give all he has left over the next month.

"That hunger has always been there since I was a freshman," said Wilson. "The clock is tick-tocking in the back of my mind. I tell everybody it's going ‘tick, tick, tick.' Time is creeping away, but I have no regrets and I want to take advantage of what I have left."

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