Wisconsin, Marquette renew acquaintances

Kohl Center will host annual hoops showdown Saturday

Alando Tucker has been hearing a buzz on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Marquette is near.

"That's all the talk I hear walking on campus," said Tucker, the Badger men's basketball team's leading scorer. "I hear everybody talking about the Marquette and Wisconsin game."

Wisconsin (6-1) hosts Marquette (6-2) at noon today in the 112th meeting between the two in-state powers. With their respective campuses separated by an hour's drive on I-94 between Madison and Milwaukee, it is no surprise that the Badger-Golden Eagle competition creates a stir.

"It's always a game that the fans are up for," Tucker said. "I think the fans are more excited than we are."

Having played in three Marquette-Wisconsin games, Tucker, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, understands the passion the game evokes.

"We've just got to make sure we (are) able to control our emotions because we've got a lot of in-state guys," he said.

Nine of UW's 15 players are in-state products. Marquette has two in-state players, including freshman Wesley Matthews, a Madison Memorial graduate.

Brian Butch, one of Wisconsin's home-grown talents, said the intensity of the matchups with Marquette stands out.

"Just how hard each team plays," he said. "Both teams are good teams. We bring it every time we're out there. That's the important thing is the intensity."

Three Badgers grew up in Milwaukee: senior starter Ray Nixon and freshmen forwards Marcus Landry and Morris Cain.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and Marquette coach Tom Crean both accentuate the notion that players need to treat every game the same way.

"The way we prepare mentally for a game should be the same every time," Tucker said. "In reality, I think ‘cause we have a lot of in-state guys, guys are going to be emotionally high. And that's one thing that we have to do as a team… control those emotions…

"Guys being from Milwaukee, families are going to come from Milwaukee and I'm sure they are hearing about Marquette all the time. A lot of guys feel like they have something to prove, but I always feel like we have something to prove every night."

Fresh faces

The Wisconsin-Marquette matchup features quite a different look from a year ago.

Marquette starts three freshmen: Matthews and guards Dominic James and Jerel McNeal. Two transfers—sophomore forward Dan Fitzgerald and junior forward Jamil Lott—will also get their first taste of the rivalry.

"All we know is they are a good team," Butch said. "They are a typical Marquette team. A hard-fighting team that is good and ready to go."

Wisconsin's roster includes seven freshmen. Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft are among the top reserves and redshirt freshman DeAaron Williams is on the fringe of the rotation. Sophomores guard Michael Flowers and center Greg Stiemsma, key reserves this season, did not play in UW's 63-54 loss at Marquette a year ago.

Tucker's new look

After suffering a nasal injury during the Badgers' loss at Wake Forest, Tucker has worn a clear plastic protective mask the past two games.

He was grateful for the extra gear Wednesday, when he had to briefly leave the game after a UW-Green Bay player's hand collided with Tucker's face. Tucker was fine, the mask having prevented any further injury.

What has not been okay, however, has been Tucker's free-throw shooting. In UW's first five games he struggled at the line, making 59 percent (23 of 39) of his attempts. Since donning the mask, Tucker's has been an abysmal 4 of 14 (29 percent) from the charity stripe.

"I'm starting to get pretty used to (the mask)," Tucker said. "It hasn't given me any trouble. It's like the more I use it (the more) I'm getting used to it. I never really touch it. I never try to make any adjustments on it."

Tucker has not shied away from contact in the paint. He has scored 34 points in the past two games while shooting 50 percent from the floor.

Most importantly, Wisconsin is 2-0 since the mask made its first appearance.

"If we keep winning I might have to keep wearing it," Tucker said.

And if the Badgers lose?

"I might throw it to the sidelines for good," he said with a laugh.

In all seriousness, Tucker said he will wear the mask for at least as long as it is protecting him, perhaps longer. He expects to need the face shield for about six more weeks, at which point he could make decide to continue wearing it.

"I might feel a little weird without it," he said.

What: Wisconsin (6-1) v. Marquette (6-2)
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 12:04 p.m.
Site: Kohl Center (17,142), Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: Televised live on ESPNU and ESPN Plus. In Wisconsin, ESPN Plus is broadcast via WISC-TV Madison, WMLW-TV Milwaukee, WLAX-TV La Crosse, WEAU-TV Eau Claire, and WFXS-TV Wausau. The game can also be heard live on the Wisconsin Radio Network.
Series notes: Wisconsin leads the all-time series 60-51, including a 35-14 edge in Madison. The team's have split the past four matchups, with the home team winning each time… UW sophomore guard Tanner Bronson's mom, Jody, is the women's tennis coach at Marquette… former Badger Julian Swartz is a manager for MU.

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