One-on-one fun for Tucker

Sophomore has enjoyed two of the highest scoring games of his career when facing a single defender

MADISON – When Alando Tucker ventured into the post last Saturday he had to be startled by what he found:

One defender.

So the 6-foot-5 sophomore forward with an uncanny combination of leaping ability and strength went to work, taking 18 shots on his way to a team-high 24 points, a strong performance in the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team's 70-59 loss to top-ranked Illinois.

"They pressure [the ball] a lot," Tucker said. "So it is a lot more a little one-on-one into the post with a team like that."

Tucker was happy to oblige Illinois' decision, making 9 of 18 shots in tying the second-highest point total of his career.

Scouting reports do not travel lightly, and UW's opponents know the analysis. So Tucker has rarely seen man-to-man coverage in the post this year. In fact, he said the last time was in his career-high 27-point effort in a 69-64 win over Maryland Nov. 30.

"That's why when we get that chance we have to really exploit that and take advantage of it because that's not going to happen too often," Tucker said. "It happened once against Maryland and after that every time I catch it in the post I've been doubled."

Defenses react quickly when Tucker is on the move. More often than not this season, when he drives to lane or sets up on the block, he has faced a defense that has converged around him.

Tucker has reacted well, finding open teammates when defenses close in around him. After recording 34 assists in 32 games his freshman year, Tucker has 32 in 19 games this season, including a career-high five against Alabama.

"If teams are sagging off a lot on me and I'm penetrating and I can see I've got open guys that game, pretty much I've got to make a lot of passes," said Tucker, who leads UW with 14.9 points per game. "I don't try to force too much in the offense. But if I can actually pick points where I can see I can attack and score then I'll put up shots."

Tucker can expect a return to normalcy Wednesday evening, when the Badgers face Michigan at the Kohl Center here.

The last time UW faced the Wolverines (a 72-61 win in Ann Arbor Jan. 22), Tucker was constantly double and triple teamed in the post, despite the fact he was playing through a right foot injury. He still worked for opportunities but was 0 of 9 from the field for a season-low four points – a byproduct of the rust he had acquired from not practicing that week because of the injury.

Tucker found other ways to contribute against Michigan, pulling down 11 rebounds while handing out three assists.

He primarily played the ‘3' position in that game, but has been serving as the ‘4' more often since returning to practice in full Feb. 4. In the three games since recovering from the injury Tucker is averaging 15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.

"He's getting a lot more confidence in pushing off, elevating," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "At least what he is doing on his shot and around the basket is he's a lot more confident in his push off. And his basketball timing on passing and catching and position. I think that's coming along. So hopefully that will continue to improve."

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