But Friday night's quarterfinal match-up with Ohio State was a far cry from the dominant performances Badger fans have become accustomed to from the two All-Big Ten players.
Neither Tucker or Wilkinson had scored fewer than 14 points since that game against Michigan nearly a month ago, but they each finished with 12 points in the Badgers 60-49 victory over Ohio State at the United Center here. Unlike in other recent games, however, Wisconsin received a scoring punch from its supporting cast, primarily Zach Morley, who contributed a career high 23 points.
"When coach puts his five on the court, everyone can contribute and that is what we need," Tucker said. "Guys need to have the confidence to step up and hit a big shot."
The first half dictated the general theme of the night as Wilkinson and Tucker each shot only 25 percent from the floor and went into halftime with only four points apiece.
Wilkinson found the scoring column early in the game with Wisconsin's first bucket at the 18:42 mark, but then missed his next six shots and went more than 15 minutes without converting on any opportunities. Wilkinson's play was uncharacteristic of the unanimous All-Big Ten first-team selection as the 6-foot-8 senior seemed lost out on the basketball court, something Badger fans have not seen of Wilkinson in quite some time.
Tucker, meanwhile, did not score his first points of the night until more than 10 minutes into the contest. Yet, when Tucker scored it had a major impact as his first bucket with 9:16 remaining in the first half sparked a 14-2 Wisconsin run that gave UW its biggest lead of the game at 25-12. The Lockport, Ill., native finished a dismal 4 of 13 from the floor and seemed to be rushing his shots.
"We got it into the post," head coach Bo Ryan said. "We just need some better finishes."
The duo combined to shoot just 9 of 28 from the floor, including 0-for-4 performance from beyond the 3-point arc.
Flowers, Badgers ‘D' spectacular
Wisconsin's defensive spark plug may have only played 11 minutes in Friday night's victory, but his present was felt in every one of those minutes. Guard Michael Flowers helped the Badger backcourt hold Ohio State to just 2 of] 20 shooting from behind the arc.
"Everyone held their ‘D' and no one person got beat," said sophomore guard Kammron Taylor. "We knew coming in they had good guards and our focus was to limit their good looks at the basket.
Despite scoring just two points, Flowers, a freshman from Madison's La Follette High School, continues to prove that the defensive intensity he brings to the floor is central to Wisconsin's success.
"Michael Flowers, he brings energy," Morley said. "When he comes in, that's what we feed off of."
That intensity helped the Badgers hold OSU to a 34 percent shooting performance. Wisconsin held the Buckeyes to just 10 percent from behind the arc and did not allow a single 3-pointer in the second half despite the Buckeyes launching ten 3-pointers from in the final 20 minutes.
"When [the Buckeyes] were missing, it was good defense," Ryan said. "I thought it was real good defense."
"We play great team defense," Tucker said. "They got off to a quick start early… They hit some tough shots, they made a run but that's when we have to stay steady."
Weber will coach Illini Saturday
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber was forced to leave the United Center quickly after the top-ranked Illini's victory over Northwestern Friday when his mother, Dawn Weber, 81, was brought to the Rush University Medical Center to be treated for chest pains. She passed away at approximately 6 p.m. after a surgery to repair a ruptured aorta failed to save her life.
"On the behalf of Wisconsin, to Bruce and his family, from the Wisconsin people, our heartfelt condolences and our prayers and our wishes for the family to carry on through this," an emotional Bo Ryan said after the Badgers' game.
Weber will coach Saturday, when the Illini (30-1) face fifth-seeded Minnesota (21-9) in a Big Ten semifinal, the Associated Press reported Friday night.
"This has been a great loss to our family," Weber said in a statement. "My mother has been very influential in my life and career and that is why I have decided to coach the team on Saturday, because that is what she would have wanted."