Tucker does his part in loss to Illinois

Sophomore forward scores 24 points in Wisconsin's loss Saturday

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Alando Tucker finally looked like his old self Saturday—explosive, quick off the dribble and light on his feet.

But with the weight of the entire team on his shoulders, not even a near 100 percent Tucker could lift Wisconsin over Illinois.

The sophomore forward played a team-high 35 minutes and led the Badgers with 24 points on 9 of 18 shooting and also grabbed eight rebounds in Wisconsin's 70-59 loss to the Illini. Scoring 17 points in the second half, Tucker single-handedly kept Wisconsin in the game, but just did not have enough to overcome the play of Illinois' three-headed backcourt monster—Luther Head, Deron Williams and Dee Brown.

"Once I attacked the lane, I drew a lot of people. I was just trying to be aggressive," Tucker said. "That's one thing you have to be against this team. You have to attack the rim and be aggressive because otherwise, they are going to make you turn it over."

With his teammates struggling to find any consistency on the offensive end, Tucker took it upon himself to be the aggressor for the Badgers and he delivered.

Getting to the free throw line a team-high seven times Saturday and connecting on four, Tucker appeared to be the only one on his team that seemed to find any opening in the Illinois defense and he took advantage of those opportunities.

With a dunk just before halftime, two free throws to start the second half and a layup with 14:46 to play in the game, Tucker was the only Badger to score in a 10-minute, 20-second span between the end of the first half and the start of the second.

Tucker's two free throws early in the second half gave the Badgers their only lead after halftime at 28-27.

"When he's 100 percent and we're playing well as a team, it really makes a big difference," senior Mike Wilkinson said. "He can do a lot of things for us—put the ball on the floor, scoring, getting rebounds. It really helps."

On a night when the four other starters combined for only 19 shots and 21 points, Tucker was the only Badger to attempt more than 10 shots in the game.

"I don't go out and try and force things, I just try and do what I can," Tucker said. "I don't put too much pressure on myself. I just figure hey, whatever it takes. It doesn't have to be scoring with me. If I can get 10 rebounds to help us win, that's what I'll do."

But even his strong performance was not enough.

"I like how active he was," head coach Bo Ryan said. "He's a tough young man who likes to compete. It's what you want all of your players doing all of the time, competing. Sometimes the results aren't what you want. You want to compete and Tuck competes."

Resembling the player he was prior to his foot injury last month, Tucker has shown in the last three games that he is recovering well and beginning to play to the level he is capable of performing.

More importantly, Tucker has been able to practice at full strength lately and thus has been able to work on his continuity with his teammates.

"I always talk about me being out on the court, being able to practice with the team," Tucker said. "That helped me out a lot. They get a feel for me and I get a feel for them just being on the court. I feel good. I've been telling coaches and talking to the athletic trainers and they've been working with me. I told them I'm ready and said just unleash me."

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