Same old song: Tucker needs help

Badgers' supporting actors must step up in order to advance past Friday

PHILADELPHIA — Breaking news: Opposing teams are focusing their defensive energies on Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker.

This, of course, is nothing new. But it is the singular detail the Badgers most need to overcome in order to advance in the NCAA Tournament, which begins Friday at 11:30 a.m. for UW.

Tucker has been the subject of frequent double and triple teams this season. In fact, after Wisconsin's 61-56 loss to Indiana in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament last Friday, Hoosier coach Mike Davis effectively said that devoting the utmost attention to Tucker was the beginning and ending of IU's defensive game plan.

"Our defensive strategy was to make sure that when Tucker had the basketball that the closest defensive player to him would just kind of stand in the gap so he'd see him," Davis said. "We wanted to make sure we had two spies on Tucker all the time."

Tucker still nearly took that game over, but to no avail. He scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the second half, but the rest of the Badgers struggled mightily to find their shot.

Asked about how UW's backcourt was held in check, with guards Michael Flowers, Ray Nixon and Kammron Taylor combining for 4-for-27 shooting, IU guard Marshall Strickland said, "I think their guards were kind of passive and really wanted Tucker to take over the game."

Asked this week about Strickland's comment, Taylor singled himself out for criticism but vigorously defended his teammates.

"With myself, I got in foul trouble early and I let that get to me," he said. "I got back in the second half and I picked up a foul and I never regained my focus. I can't let that happen. Because getting into foul trouble, that's never really happened to me this year so I didn't do a good job of dealing with that."

Flowers was particularly aggressive early in the game, driving to the rim with gusto. But his shots did not fall. He went 3-for-13 and Nixon was 1-for-8.

"Michael, I think he was like 3 of 13—I don't think that's passive," Taylor said. "I think Ray took like eight or nine shots, which he doesn't usually shoot that much.

"We just weren't knocking down the shots, so it looked bad. But I don't think that guys were passive at all."

As the shots continued to clang, the Badgers' guards did begin to look more tentative. But passive or aggressive, or whatever one calls it, UW needs to make shots to take pressure off of Tucker.

"That is the difference. There is no other way around that," Taylor said. "We are not hitting shots. People want to say that we're being passive but the shots just aren't going down. But you know when the shots are going down everybody wants to congratulate you or whatever.

"We just have to start knocking shots down so people can't say things like that."

Obviously, better shooting tends to equate to more wins. But there has been absolutely no middle ground for UW in its last 14 games. In the nine losses, the Badgers have shot 41 percent or better just once, a 45 percent showing at Michigan. The other eight games have all been 40 percent or lower, with seven outings below 39 percent, including startlingly dreadful showings of 33, 29 and 22 percent.

Meanwhile, UW shot 46 percent or better in four of its last five wins. The only exception was a 39 percent game at home against Penn State, when UW shot the lights out in the first half and was up 40-18 at the break.

"We just have to step up and when we take those open shots, we have to make sure we knock them down because if we knock them down, that gets the defense frustrated when they're doubling Tuck," Flowers said.

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