Senior Salute

The Kohl Center reverberated with appreciative cheers Sunday

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MADISON, Wis.—In an extremely spirited Kohl Center finale against Purdue on Sunday, Wisconsin fans and teammates got one last chance to cheer on the three Badger seniors. With the 82-46 victory and highlights galore, it was a near perfect ending for guard Ike Ukawuba, center Dave Mader and guard Freddie Owens.


Mader and Owens got the chance to make their final impression on the Kohl Center right away. Both were in the starting lineup and helped the Badgers keep a controlling lead over the Boilermakers in the relatively uneventful first half. Owens contributed early in the half with a layup and jumper in the paint and even helped out fellow-senior Mader with an assist at the nine minutes and 50 seconds mark. Mader's bucket resulted in his only points of the half and helped put the Badgers up 20-12.


Not only did Wisconsin run away with the game during the second half, but the seniors received the chance to display everything that they had been working on for four or five years. During one play at the 17-minute, 32-second mark, Mader used a left-handed hook shot over Purdue senior forward Brett Buscher to raise  the crowd to a euphoric level and put the Badgers on top 37-23. Then, after a missed jumper by Purdue senior guard Kenneth Lowe, Mader grabbed the rebound, further revving up the capacity crowd. At the other end of the court, junior guard Devin Harris hit a 3-pointer, forcing Purdue head coach Gene Keady to call a timeout.


At this point, the Badgers were on the way to their 28th straight home victory and the Kohl Center erupted to a near deafening roar. The fans continued to show their appreciation for the remainder of the game.


"I'll tell you, that last 10 minutes out there was as loud as this place has been since I've been here," Badger head coach Bo Ryan said. "And that was in appreciation… when they hang up the uniform, when we're done, they can be so proud of the fact that they played on a team that went undefeated at home … that's quite an accomplishment."


Besides Mader being a crowd favorite, chants of "We want Ike", emanating from the student section, could also be heard throughout the Kohl Center. Ryan responded to the chants and put Ukawuba in with four minutes, 29 seconds left in place of  sophomore guard Boo Wade. Two possessions later, he really gave the crowd something to cheer about. Ukawuba took a dish from Harris, set up for a long two and found nothing but the bottom of the net for his first points this season. He was not finished. He took it to the paint later in the half and worked the lane against Lowe to finish with four points, tying  his career high. Ukawuba went 2-for-3 from the field and grabbed one board.


Both Ukawuba and Mader left the game with 34 seconds left and received a standing ovation. Mader finished the game with five rebounds and four points on 2 of 3 shooting.


After departing the game with three minutes and 29 seconds left after getting poked in the eye, it looked as though Owens had played his final minutes at home. He was far from finished though and returned to the game with 34 seconds left for one last hoorah. With 29 seconds remaining, freshman guard Kammron Taylor found Owens wide open on the break and he slammed one home for his, and the team's, final points of the 2003-04 home season.


"We normally set up in our press break because we knew they were going to press us," Owens said. "My job was just to run down the floor and take someone with me but I found myself open and Kamm passed me the ball. I'll always remember that my last shot was a dunk of the last home game. It's a pretty good feeling."


 Owens ended up with six points on 3-for-6 shooting and added an assist and a steal.


Whether they slammed one final drunk home, filled up the lane or got their first points of the season, Owens, Mader and Ukawuba proved to be the crowd favorites on Sunday and will surely be missed next year.

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