Men's hoops notes: Flowers thrives

UW takes it to the paint; secure with the ball; Tucker steps up; free throw woes; Ryan's technical

You have to shoot the ball to score. So after UW-Green Bay used its jump shooting to hang tough with Wisconsin, Michael Flowers stopped them from even getting a look.

Flowers recorded a career-high six steals, five of them in the second half, as the Badgers eventually forced the Phoenix into a number of turnovers and missed shots in going on a 22-5 second-half run. The lead would never fall below 12 after that spurt as Wisconsin closed out its 82-62 victory.

In addition to his defense, Flowers went 4-of-7 from the field for 12 points and also led the Badgers with four assists.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said the sophomore guard provided much-needed energy for the team with his hustle and aggression.

"The definition of aggressive is the disposition to dominate, and Michael gets that in his head," Ryan said. "He's been pretty good defensively."

That defensive intensity helped hold Green Bay's second-leading scorer on the season, freshman forward Ryan Tillema, to a scoreless performance. Tillema never found a rhythm and Flowers prevented the young scorer from getting quality looks throughout the evening.

"Ray [Nixon] started off really good on [Tillema]," Flowers said. "I picked up on what Ray was doing to him out there on the court and I just tried to imitate that to the best of my abilities out there."

During the Badgers' big second-half run which stretched over 9:46, Flowers swiped the ball four times. Off a Simon Farine turnover, Flowers brought the ball up the left side of the court and quickly dished it to Marcus Landry on his right, only to get it right back and put a fast break lay-up high off the backboard and in. The basket opened up a 10-point lead that never fell below double-digits.

As a unit Wisconsin held the Phoenix to 29.6 percent shooting (8-for-27) in the second half while making 53.8 percent of its own field goals (14-for-26).

Finding the paint

The Badgers relied more heavily on interior scoring in the second half, scoring 22 of their 42 points in the paint, compared to just 12 in the first half. They also scored 12 points at the free-throw line in the second half, often as the result of taking it hard to the paint and drawing a foul.

After going 6-of-9 from 3-point range in the first half, more baskets after halftime came on drives to the lane and low-post feeds to the Wisconsin big men, who enjoyed a significant size advantage over Green Bay.

"If you have to guard shooters, then it opens up some other lanes," Ryan said. "What you need to do is have players gaining experience to know when and where the ball needs to go."

After a Brian Butch jumper at 16:04 of the second half, the remainder of the Badgers' 32 points came from either inside the paint or at the free throw line.

Taking care of the ball

Wisconsin committed a season-low seven turnovers in taking good care of the basketball for much of the game. After three giveaways in the first five minutes, the Badgers minimized their mistakes in enjoying their highest assist-to-turnover ratio (17-to-7) of the season.

No player gave up the ball more than twice, and Ryan acknowledged that allowed the offense to get the chances it needed.

"That's the whole goal on offense – to get more shots and get more of them than the other team," Ryan said. "If you're taking care of the ball you tend to get more shots."

Wisconsin's exceptionally low turnover tally came despite UWGB's use of a full-court press through much of the game.

Tucker steps up

When the team needs a spark, junior forward Alando Tucker usually finds a way to come alive on the offensive end. On Wednesday he said the team looked dead for a while and realized he needed to attack the basket and finish. Tucker told his teammates he would score if they got him the ball, and that is just what he did.

The junior made four field goals in the paint in less than three minutes during the second half. Three missed free throws and a near-make after an impressive inside move could have added more points during the span, but Green Bay coach Tod Kowalczyk said Tucker was the reason Wisconsin took control.

"That's where I thought Tucker's athleticism took over," Kowalczyk said. "I'd have to go back and look at the tape, but I think it was mostly him penetrating, making plays and posting up. We didn't do a good job guarding him during that stretch."

Free throw woes

Despite leading Badger scorers with 18, Tucker continued his struggles from the line in his second game wearing a protective mask.

He finished just 1-of-7 from the charity stripe on the evening, making him 4-for-14 in his past two games. While Ryan said that Tucker might need a mask he can remove during free throws, Tucker identified what he needs to work on to improve.

"With that on, I've got to focus on getting my head up," Tucker said. "The more I raise my head, the tighter the mask is…That's one of the things that I'm going to definitely work on. I've got to step and knock them down."

Flash of frustration

Officials issued a team technical foul to the Badgers after Ryan leapt out of his crouch to passionately refute a questionable no-call on the Wisconsin offensive boards.

After Butch got knocked down hard on the play, Ryan vented to the nearby official who promptly called the technical. Coaches continued discussion with referees during an ensuing timeout, but things calmed down afterwards.

"You're just trying to protect your players," Ryan said. "People see things differently sometimes and that's just all part of the game."

Tough night for Tillema

The talented freshman finished 0-of-8 from the floor including 0-for-4 shooting from behind the arc during his 31 minutes. A number of long jumpers rattled in-and-out for Tillema, who played with an injured thumb.

Kowalczyk said he was not sure until Wednesday whether Tillema would be ready to go. The taped thumb made catching the ball difficult for Tillema, who entered the game as one of just two players to average double-digits in points (10.7) for the Phoenix.

"I thought he would play, but didn't know until about 7:30 this morning when he got some treatment and was a little better," Kowalczyk said. "He had a hard time catching the basketball. That's where most of the pain was, was from catching. I don't think the pain was from shooting."

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