Tucker's gritty performance in the second half Tuesday night showed that although he is still battling a foot injury, he is capable of providing quality minutes for the Badgers.
"It's one of those things where you're going to have to," Tucker said. "Once coach puts me on the court, I'm one of 13 guys. I can't be a liability out there, they expect me to play my game and that's what I have to do."
Tucker led the Badgers' offensive attack in the second half, scoring all of his team-high 16 points after halftime. More importantly he started to show some of his pre-injury explosiveness that he had been lacking the past two weeks. He also led the team with eight rebounds on the night.
In the first two minutes of the second half, Tucker grabbed an offensive rebound and put back and drove to the basket for another two in scoring four of Wisconsin's first six points. He connected on his first six attempts from the field in the second half and his three-pointer with 12:40 remaining gave the Badgers their largest lead of the game at eight points.
"I started to see things," Tucker said. "I starting recognizing things early and in the first half, I was sitting there watching things and some of the assistants were telling me what I needed to do and that's pretty much what I did in the second half."
Tucker scored his final basket with 4:34 remaining to give UW a 64-61 edge, but it was the last field goal the team would notch.
Down the stretch, the Illinois defense clamped down on the UW perimeter, limiting the Badgers from getting the ball in the post. With that, both Tucker and senior forward Mike Wilkinson saw limited touches in the final minutes and the Badgers could never come back.
"I thought he took advantage of the times that he did get his touches," head coach Bo Ryan said. "Statistically he played better in the second half. It was pretty obvious he played better in the second half. More active. Better decisions. I'd like to see him get back to doing that for the full game. That's something that could help his team."
Despite a strong finish to the game, Tucker was a non-factor during the first 20 minutes, courtesy of the Illinois defense. The Illini denied Tucker the ball from the start and forced others to carry the offense for UW.
In addition to dealing with his still ailing foot, Tucker was unable to get going at all in the first half and went into halftime scoreless on 0 of 2 shooting. Tucker did however grab five rebounds in that frame, two on the offensive glass.
All in all, it was the best Tucker has looked since his injury in practice on Jan. 9. While the effects are still showing, Tucker says the injury is not anything too serious to keep him out.
"It got banged up in practice," he said. "That's pretty much it. Its not serious. Just back and forth playing, bumping guys, so its nothing real serious."