Badgers call all guards

Wisconsin's backcourt steps up to Northern Iowa's challenge, leads 57-52 win

OKLAHOMA CITY — Northern Iowa's defensive game plan was clear from the opening tip Friday evening. Sag, sag, sag, and sag some more. Make the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team beat you with its backcourt, the Panthers' scheme screamed.

All season long forwards Mike Wilkinson and Alando Tucker have starred for the Badgers. Friday evening was the guards' turn to shine.

Sophomore Kammron Taylor came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points and senior Sharif Chambliss added 15 to pace UW's 57-52 win over Northern Iowa at the Ford Center here.

Senior Clayton Hanson chipped in six points, giving UW's backcourt 37 points, or 65 percent of the Badgers' total point production.

"We knew Northern Iowa was going to look to stop our big guys," Taylor said. "Our coaches were just telling us, once you get it inside, move without the ball and our big guys did a good job of finding us on the perimeter."

Away from the ball, the Panthers dropped off of UW's perimeter shooters. They stepped back when Tucker took the ball on the wing, daring him to shoot over the defense.

UNI knew that Wisconsin's bread and butter is its post-up game, featuring Tucker and Wilkinson. So the Panthers clogged the lane relentlessly, rotating its defense every time UW ventured inside, and double and even triple teaming Wilkinson in the post.

UNI wanted Wisconsin to shoot, shoot, shoot from beyond the 3-point arc.

So the Badgers obliged, but they did it their way.

Wisconsin made 11 of 26 3-pointers, in the process setting a school record for triples in a season, but they did not simply bomb away. On the contrary, the Badgers patiently worked their swing offense, stubbornly working the ball to the post, even though it was inevitably kicked back to the perimeter as the defense closed down.

"You just have to remember that even if a couple [3-pointers] go down early you can't fall in love with them too much because in most cases they are not going to go down the whole game," Hanson said. "You just have to keep that in the back of your head and stick to the game plan."

UNI's choices gave UW's guards ample opportunity to succeed. It was a calculated risk. Chambliss, Taylor and Hanson entered Friday's game having made just 28 percent of their field goals the past nine games. During that stretch, the trio had only accounted for one double-figure scoring outing: Taylor's 11 points in a win over Purdue March 5.

The last time UW had two guards in double figures? A Feb. 2 win over Northwestern, which, incidentally, was also the last time Chambliss was in double figures.

Wisconsin's guards, though, rose to the challenge Friday. Chambliss knocked down 5 of 10 3-point attempts, Hanson hit 2 of 3 triples and Taylor made 2 of 5 from beyond the arc.

"Mentally, I know shots are going to go down," Chambliss said. "Sometimes you are going to shoot it, it might not go down… [I am thinking] the next one is going down."

UNI's game plan worked in one respect. Wilkinson and Tucker were each held to two points in the first half, making a combined 2 of 7 from the field goals. They finished with 13 points, on 5 of 14 attempts.

"This is the way it needed to happen if we were going to win this game," UNI coach Greg McDermott said. "We could not give up on the plan. We needed to keep taking Tucker and Wilkinson out of it."

"To hold Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson to 13 points combined and the team to 57, if you'd told me that before the game, I'd thought we'd have a pretty good chance to win," UNI guard Ben Jacobson said.

Feed the 3

The Badgers first seven shot attempts Friday were 3s. UW made its first three triples, including two from Chambliss, but missed the next three, including two by Chambliss.

Ray Nixon capped the seven-shot stretch when he made a triple from the left wing to give UW a 12-6 edge. After Nixon missed a short jumper, the Badgers went back to the arc, with Taylor's 3 from the right wing making it 15-8 about eight minutes into the game.

"We fed off them doubling the posts; we were able to use our inside-outside game and use our posts to kick it out to us and the shots just fell tonight," Hanson said.

"Guys did a good job of moving and cutting away from the ball," Wilkinson said. "It is easy to find guys away from the basket that are moving."

The Badgers hit 6 of 13 3-pointers in the first half, including 6 of their first 10. Their 11 made triples on the game gave them 228 3s this season, breaking a single-season program mark of 225 set in 1993-94.

Taylor dinged, makes quick return

The only thing that could stop Kammron Taylor in the first half was the Ford Center floor. The sophomore guard came off the bench and scored seven unanswered points to give UW a 19-8 lead midway through the first half.

Just moments after hitting a jumper to cap his scoring burst, however, Taylor collided with UNI guard Ben Jacobson as the two went for a rebound. Taylor bounced backwards and hit hard against the floor, banging his left elbow and hand. He was slow to get up, but he went to the Badgers' bench under his own power; Chambliss replaced him at the 10-minute mark.

Taylor was fine — he reentered the game with 6:04 left in the first half and scored nine points after halftime.

"I smacked the floor real hard," Taylor said. "I lost feeling in my pinky but it didn't last long because I got right back in there."

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