Men's hoops notes: Nothing free

Tucker's free-throw woes continue; Badger reserves out-score MSU 21-2; On the block; Let 3s rain

MADISON—Just about everything went well for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team Sunday. Just about everything has to go well when a team dismantles the nation's No. 7 ranked team—Michigan State—82-63.

If there was one glaring blemish on the Badgers' sterling afternoon at the Kohl Center, however, it was miserable free-throw shooting.

UW was 14 of 30 from the charity stripe, shooting worse from the line (47 percent) than from the field (52 percent). In the second half, the Badgers made 15 of 20 field goals (75 percent) and 10 of 21 free throws (48 percent).

The prime culprit was junior forward Alando Tucker, who has played very well for the most part this season, and particularly of late, but just cannot make free throws with any consistency.

Tucker has shown statistical glimmers of hope. He was 9 of 12 in UW's loss at Pittsburgh Dec. 31. And he was 3-for-4 in the first half Sunday. The second half was comparatively miserable: 3 of 13, for an afternoon tally of 6-for-17.

At least the Badgers could smile about it after a 19-point win.

"I've had some people suggest the old, ‘Why don't you have Alando fake that he was poked in the eye and then bring in a free-throw shooter,'" UW coach Bo Ryan said with a smile. "I'm like, ‘Why would I want to do that?' That's not ethical, it's not the way the game is played. And you know he was streaky last year. I still say that as cold as he is right now he's going get that hot. I firmly believe that."

Tucker was extremely streaky last season. He made 18 of 36 over a five-game non-conference stretch and connected on just 61 percent in UW's first 19 games. But Tucker made 15 straight free-throws at one point in February and had a stretch where he made 47 of 59 (80 percent) late in the season.

Tucker is now 56 of 112 from the line this season, a painful 50 percent.

"It's not the facemask," Tucker said, referring to the protective mask he has worn for most of the season. "Can't make up any excuses… It is just mental. I just have to step up there, knock it down. Teammates are on me, joking, so that keeps it going. In tough situations you have to step up there and be confident enough to knock them down."

Tucker jokingly insisted that he would have made his free throws had the game been in balance.

"I know I told coach if the game was on the line, I would have hit the majority of them," Tucker said. "Seriously, I just have to step up. It's a total mental thing."

Badger bench shines again

It is becoming a broken record for the 2005-06 Badgers, but the UW reserves dominated their counterparts Sunday.

Wisconsin's bench out-scored Michigan State's 21-2, led by sophomore guard Michael Flowers' nine points. Marcus Landry chipped in six and Joe Krabbenhoft scored four in 11 minutes. Walk-on Kevin Gullickson added a bucket in mop-up time.

The Badgers' reserves not only out-scored MSU, but thoroughly out-played them on either end of the floor, helping UW to control the game. Perhaps most importantly, the bench sustained the Badgers' defensive intensity, helping to hold MSU to 35 percent shooting.

UW posts strong with the block

The Badgers blocked seven shots Sunday, bringing their season total to 61 in 14 games. All of last season UW blocked 62 shots in 34 games.

Against the Spartans, centers Jason Chappell and Greg Stiemsma and forward Brian Butch each had two blocks. Forward Marcus Landry added an emphatic rejection of MSU's Shannon Brown on a transition opportunity.

"It's helping us get stops when you have bigs like Brian and Greg and Jason who are clogging up the lane and getting blocked shots," junior guard Kammron Taylor said. "Blocked shots lead to a lot of fast-break points… A lot of our fast-break points come from our bigs doing a really good job of clogging the lane up and not giving up easy shots."

UW's length on the interior certainly helped fluster MSU Sunday. The Spartans poor shooting was accentuated by guard Maurice Ager, who was 5 of 19 for 11 points, and center Paul Davis, who was 1 of 6 for two points.

Good day for 3s

Butch, the Badgers' 6-foot-11 starting ‘4' man, made 2 of 5 3-point attempts Sunday and is now 10 of 30 this season. Ryan said he has no issue with the big man picking his spots on the perimeter. In fact, Ryan reminded Butch to take them if MSU played off him along the arc.

"In practice, he's hit four 3s, from that area, in a row," Ryan said.

Good day, part II

How good was Sunday for the Badgers? Ray Nixon banked in a 3 with 8:58 to play to give the Badgers a 62-43 lead. It was not a pretty shot, but it was one of six made 3s in the second half for UW. The Badgers made 10 of 21 triples for the game, including 6 of 9 after halftime.

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