UW men's basketball notes: Flowers power

Freshman guard's defensive presence could be an asset this season

MADISON—True freshman guard Michael Flowers gave the Badgers a defensive boost in their 78-44 win in their final exhibition game against UW-Platteville Tuesday night. In 22 minutes he tied for a game-high with six rebounds and hustled for a game-high four steals. Offensively he went 2-for-4 from the floor and ended the night with five points.

In last week's first exhibition against UW-Parkside, Flowers played in his first collegiate game but did not have the same strong showing. He was in for 14 minutes and did not tally a point or rebound. He did manage two assists and a steal but it was his two turnovers that hurt him in his first showing. Against Platteville he showed increased comfort with the ball and had an assistant and a zero in the turnover column.

"Last game I was kind of nervous but I got support from my teammates and family back at home and they gave me the confidence to go out there and play like I played in high school," Flowers said. "I stayed within myself, I stayed within the team's strategy I just helped the team out…the confidence level, that's what changed. I got the first one out the way and I feel comfortable out there now."

Alando Tucker, who also had six rebounds, noted the extra help from Flowers and believes that the defense Flowers brings will be an asset to Wisconsin as the season unfolds.

"(Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan), he believes in Mike and that's what he can bring to the table," Tucker said. "When he gets in, we want productive minutes and he showed tonight what he can do defensively. We're going to use that come to late December and early January especially when we come to the Big Ten where you have guys like Dee Brown that's very quick. Mike showed that he's very quick and moves his feet and defensively he's a presence and we're going to need that energy."

When Flowers was in he mainly defended Platteville senior guard Brad Reitzner, who is familiar with the skills Flowers possesses. Reitzner, a Stoughton, Wis. native, faced off against Flowers, a product of Madison LaFollette, during high school.

"It was kind of nice for me (to play against Flowers), I played against him in high school quite a bit," Reitzner said. "He told me at the end of the game he gets redemption now for me beating him his freshman year so I guess he got that. But he's a great athlete both physically and quickness wise he's probably the best defender I'll go against all year."

Height absent

In Wisconsin's first exhibition game against Parkside, it looked as though the team was going to continually have players in the post that were no smaller than 6-foot-8. Once the Platteville game came around, though, the height and depth at the post spots quickly diminished due to big men sitting out. Sophomore 6-10 forward/center Jason Chappell missed Tuesday's game with a right ankle injury, while freshmen 6-11 centers Greg Stiemsma and Brian Butch both sat out with right foot injuries.

All three played significant minutes during the first exhibition game, Stiemsma and Butch playing their first games as Badgers. Chappell sat out all of last season with a foot injury but was also present in the Parkside game. Butch made the best showing of the three with 13 points against Parkside but after the game he had re-adorned his right foot with the walking boot he had warn in the days before the game.

The lack of big men Tuesday forced players like Tucker and junior forward Zach Morley to take on more of a post presence. Senior forward Mike Wilkinson has been constantly counted on in the post; after the two exhibition games he has been icing his taped left wrist after the game, though the ailment has not forced him to miss any time.

All in all Ryan is hoping to get his big men back on the court for the team's season opener against Penn on Saturday.

"The trainers, doctors, …they just let me know who's available and who isn't," Ryan said. "I think that might have made us take a step backwards some, just a small step, hopefully we can get the bigs back out there on the floor. What we haven't had is enough of the bigs in possessions in practice to know if we're really ready for Saturday but it's coming anyhow so we'll line up and go."

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