Dekker Expects to Get Back on Track

Admitting he was a little taken aback by his three-game stretch to finish the regular season, sophomore Sam Dekker doesn't see himself struggling any more now that No.12 Wisconsin opens postseason play.

INDIANAPOLIS - Even before the lights were turned on at the Kohl Center prior to Wednesday's practice, Sam Dekker found himself alone on the court, working on perimeter shooting and dribble drives to a basket that was only illuminated by some flood lamps and the arena's LED lights.

The extra work is nothing new to Dekker or other members of No.12 Wisconsin, but it was especially important for Dekker who recognized that he hasn't been as aggressive down the stretch as he knows he can be.

"I haven't been active enough and doing the things that helped me have a good year until this point," said Dekker. "Offensively and defensively I don't think I was in tuned enough or aggressive enough, active or being myself."

Named a midseason top-25 candidate for the Wooden national player of the year award Jan.22, Dekker played like such a player later than night from an offensive perspective – shooting 50 percent from the floor, going 7-for-8 from the free throw line and scoring 20 points for the third time on the season. But since that 13-point loss at Minnesota (UW's most lopsided one of the year), Dekker has shot 40 percent or less eight times and scored in single digits four times, including the last three games. Through the first 19 games, that only happened three times each.

In Wisconsin's last three games, Dekker is 6-for-22 from the field, 1-for-7 from 3-point range and averaging only six points per game.

"It's a little weird because I was thinking I never had a stretch like this," said Dekker. "Usually I've been pretty consistent throughout the season. Maybe it's good that I got it all out of the way here and I can start fresh. I am just trying to stay positive. When you get down on yourself, it's not going to help you."

Although being upbeat has been engrained in Dekker since he was a young player, it's hard to ignore human nature. During Wisconsin's 77-68 loss at Nebraska Sunday, Dekker failed to attack the rim on UW's first possession and gave up a lay-up on the defensive end seconds later, landing him a seat on the bench.

When he returned, Dekker admitted to becoming passive, forgoing open looks in favor of passing the ball to his teammates. He finished 3 of 9 shooting, scoring all six of his points in the paint off passes from his teammates, and had two rebounds. The rebound total was his lowest since grabbing no boards Feb. 4 at Illinois. He also didn't draw any fouls for the first time in nine games.

"Not even thinking about it, I passed up some shots and some opportunities to drive," said Dekker. "Sometimes that does happen if things haven't been going your way. Those are things good players snap out of, and I have to get more mentally tough, mentally mature to snap out of those things."

When clicking, Dekker is still one of the more dominant players in the league. One of just six players in the Big Ten averaging at least 12.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, Dekker's five double-doubles are fifth best in the league. Those were part of the reasons Dekker earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and third-team accolades from the media.

Entering Friday's Big Ten tournament quarterfinal against Minnesota at Banker's Life Fieldhouse, Dekker ranks 17th in the Big Ten in points (12.9 ppg), ninth in rebounding (6.2) and 15th in shooting (46.8).

It's hard to forget that this is Dekker's first full season playing and starting, as he averaged 22.3 minutes and 9.6 points in 33 games last season.

"There's things I want to do better," said Dekker. "Every person is going to say that, and it's true. There are things I wish I would have done better but there are things that I did pretty good this year. There are even more goals that are going to be set for me this offseason with where I am going to be at, what I am going to do and where I want this team to be at next year."

But before Dekker can think about that, he's concerning himself with the next practice or the next game so he can be another key component of Wisconsin's balanced attack.

"I don't see myself playing like this the rest of the season or in tournament play," said Dekker. "I think we have some special things before us with the Big Ten tournament starting and then the NCAA tournament. It's a special team, and I think we can do something."

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