Stiemsma stands tall

Reserve center flustered Iowa with his defense and did an impressive job setting up his teammates

MADISON—If a basketball player does not take a shot, does he still make a sound?

In the case of University of Wisconsin center Greg Stiemsma Thursday night, he roars like an F-16 breaking the sound barrier.

"I didn't really have that much stats or whatever, but stats aren't important," Stiemsma said following the Badgers' 66-52 win over Iowa. "I'm just glad I could help the team in any way I could."

Actually Stiemsma had a plethora of stats, he just did not score any points. Forget scoring, Stiemsma never attempted a field goal. He did miss the front end of a one-and-one free-throw attempt, but that was an incidental footnote on this night.

The 6-foot-11 sophomore was everywhere in his 17 minutes off the bench. He had five blocked shots, three steals, four assists against just one turnover, and four rebounds.

"He could of scored minus-three points and it wouldn't have mattered," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "When you have that many assists, that many blocks."

"In high school I wasn't really much of a scorer so I just tried to do other things to get involved, tried to get my teammates involved in the offense," Stiemsma said. "Defense has been what I've been working on for so long."

With starting center Jason Chappell in foul trouble early, Stiemsma hounded Iowa forward Greg Brunner. Along with defense from Chappell, reserve forwards Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft, and solid help defense from forward Brian Butch, Brunner was held to eight points—including six between the 4:44 and 3:48 marks in the second half—on 2 of 8 shooting.

"I thought it was a good combination of playing a… 6-6, a 6-7 and a 6-11, 6-11," Ryan said, referring to his myriad post defenders. "The way they subbed for one another and helped one another, I thought they worked it pretty well."

Stiemsma was particularly impressive. He blocked two consecutive Alex Thompson shots late in the first half to help spring Kammron Taylor for a fastbreak layup that made it 34-32 Iowa. And he made his presence felt soon after entering the game in the second half, rejecting Adam Haluska's attempted layup. His last two blocks came against Brunner.

"It wasn't like he was flying around trying to make blocks, putting himself out of position or putting us at a disadvantageous position defensively," Ryan said. "They were well timed, 90 percent of his defensive movement. And I just thought he played real well on the hedges. I thought he played real well on the glass, on the floor. Wow. He did a lot of good things. And he passed the ball well."

Said Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker: "He's being aggressive inside and he alters so many shots. If he's not getting blocked shots—he had like five blocks—but if he's not getting the block, he's altering the shot. So that's big for us."

Stiemsma's steals were even more impressive than his blocked shots. Late in the first half, Iowa's stellar senior point guard, Jeff Horner, came off a screen and tried to dribble to the Stiemsma's right. But the big man reached down and poked the ball away from the 6-2 guard, then beat Horner to the loose ball and drew a foul.

Just more than four minutes into the second half, Stiemsma combined perfect defensive position on the low block with aggressiveness and alert play. He lunged out to steal an entry pass from Haluska and then called timeout as he lay on the floor. The Badgers scored on their next possession to take a 40-35 lead and never looked back.

Just for good measure, Stiemsma swiped the ball away from Horner again midway through the second half to spark a transition layup for Tucker.

Stiemsma may not have scored himself, but he did garner a career-high four assists. He had three assists in the first half, setting up a Tucker jumper, a Michael Flowers 3 and a Kammron Taylor 3.

"Anyway I can get my teammates involved in the offense that's something I'm going to try to do and just make guys around me better," Stiemsma said. "If I can add to their game, that just makes them more versatile."

As Tucker alluded to, a year ago Stiemsma was an afterthought on UW's bench, a little used true freshman learning the ropes.

"When you talk about great teams and players knowing their roles, Greg is one of those guys," Tucker said. "He doesn't care… about scoring. If he can get out on the floor, I'll bet he's happier this year than last year, when he was watching from the sideline. He got better and he's working on it."

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