"I think we're young where guys are kind of shocked and thinking this is the end of the world because we lost two games; we lost to North Dakota State on our home court," junior forward Alando Tucker said. "You can't look at it like that. I look at it as a positive. We're going to learn from this."
Tucker is unquestionably the most veteran presence on the Badgers' roster—a seven-man rotation that includes one senior, three juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. Before this season, only Tucker and point guard Kammron Taylor had averaged more than 12 minutes a game over the course of a season.
Before Saturday's loss to the Bison, UW had not lost consecutive games in nearly two years and had not lost a non-conference home game in more than three years. This is foreign territory for most of the Badgers' players.
"I was doing a lot of talking (in the locker room) and telling guys that's not the end of everything," Tucker said. "We have to look forward. And I told them about the past teams that we've been on and the team that we won my freshman year, when we won the Big Ten. I told them how we started bad. We started out very bad but we came together. You just have to overcome the adversity."
Tucker started as a true freshman in the 2002-03 season. That year the Badgers opened Big Ten play with a pair of road losses—to Michigan and Illinois—by a mere seven points combined. Wisconsin rallied from that humble beginning to win five straight and 12 of its next 14, winning the conference championship outright.
Coincidentally, UW's only other losing streak in the past four seasons also came in road games versus Illinois and Michigan, a pair of losses on Feb. 18 and Feb. 22, 2004. The Badgers followed that skid—if it can be called that—with an eight-game winning streak that included a run to the Big Ten Tournament championship and a first-round NCAA Tournament victory. Tucker and senior forward Ray Nixon are the only current players who were part of the rotation that season.
"That's what I was telling the guys. I'm here and I remember doing that," Tucker said of the consecutive losses in 2004. "But I remember how we bounced back after that."
Tucker said under coach Bo Ryan's tutelage—and with the players he has seen at Wisconsin over the years—he cannot imagine the Badgers letting this latest losing streak grate on them. And he is not worried about the defeat to the Bison having any lingering effects.
"Me knowing the players, (we're) not going to let this bother us and affect us to the point where this is going to be a turning point in our season where we're just going to play mediocre the rest of the way," Tucker said. "I know we're going to pick it up and it starts with me."
Tucker pulled no punches in discussing his performance Saturday. He was disappointed in himself following a 2 of 18 shooting day. NDSU took him out of his comfort zone and Tucker missed several makeable shots. It was an outing that will motivate him as the season continues.
"I'm a guy that I've seen a lot and I just know about my play, and I'm not worried," Tucker said. He was held to 11 points, eight below his scoring average. "I know I had a rough game. I'm not going to have any more games like that. I can't. I can't afford to."
"When times get tough like this—we've had a tough week—when it gets going like this my teammates are looking at me," Tucker said. "I've had the most in-game experience. So I have to step up and make the plays and that's one thing I didn't do tonight."