Badger fans got their first glimpse at some fresh faces, and welcomed back a couple more, as the Kohl Center opened its doors for the annual Red-White scrimmage. The White side took the preseason tune-up in the final minute, edging their Cardinal counterparts, 72-69.
Freshman guard Trevon Hughes pulled the White team within two points as he nailed a deep 3-pointer off the dribble with 52.5 seconds remaining. From there, the mostly youthful White relied on the assertive leadership of its veteran, Alando Tucker, as well as the high-flying defensive heroics of Marcus Landry, to ultimately secure the victory.
Tucker rolled through the lane to tie the score at 69-69, and Landry stuffed Jason Chappell at the glass on the other end for the biggest of his four blocks on the evening. Two made free throws by Landry off of two loose balls all but cemented the game, as junior Michael Flowers heaved up a last ditch 3-point miss at the buzzer to make it official.
The winning side featured an underclassmen rotation with the exception of Tucker, who led all players with 22 points on 10 of 14 shooting. Sophomores Kevin Gullikson and Greg Stiemsma started alongside Hughes and redshirt freshman guard Mickey Perry, who combined for 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Landry came off the bench along with freshmen Jason Bohannon and J.P. Gavinski.
"I thought it was kept very equal simply because the younger guys really played well," said Head Coach Bo Ryan. "I thought they played better than expected for the first time out on the floor."
On the other side when the ball tipped were four Badgers who started at least one game last year. Chappell and junior Brian Butch led the Red with 18 points each. Senior Kammron Taylor and junior Michael Flowers filled the guard spots, and sophomore Joe Krabbenhoft rounded out the starting five. Tanner Bronson, Morris Cain and freshman walk-on Brett Valentyn came off the bench for the Red side.
While the Red squad hammered the ball into its big men, getting a combined 30 shot attempts for Butch and Chappell, the much expanded guard rotation highlighted the evening. A backcourt that was in need of some assistance last season will look to get it from the addition of shooters in Perry and Bohannon. In addition, Hughes gives the Badgers a tough, pure point guard.
"I thought those guys looked very competitive," Ryan said. "The guard play was extremely competitive."
The evening began with a beaming Hughes smiling ear-to-ear at the sight of his personalized video clip on the big screen, played as he was introduced to the Kohl Center crowd for the first time. But after displaying both his quickness and perhaps an overexcited nature early on, Hughes settled in enough to feel confident in pulling the trigger in that pivotal possession in the final minute, rather than looking to the team's floor leader in Tucker when things looked to be slipping out of reach.
In addition to freshmen debuts, the significance of Landry and Stiemsma returning from academic ineligibility was on display by way of some high-flying Landry antics and six defensive rebounds for Stiemsma. Landry, who the Badgers hope to be a Tucker-in-training, also added 11 points and three steals. Between all the new and returning faces, the highly touted Badgers figure to have the depth of talent they were crying for late last season, as the team returns having only lost senior guard Ray Nixon.
The game was competitive throughout, with the White team jumping out to a 13-point lead early on, but the Red coming back to tie things at 37-37 by halftime. The second half went back and forth, with an inspired Chappell covering the floor for the Red team as he finished with the game's lone double-double – adding 11 rebounds to his 18 points. Flowers added three steals, three assists and six boards in the losing effort, and his backcourt counterpart, Kammron Taylor, finished the game with four assists to just one turnover over 36 minutes.
In the end, it is tough to take much away from the team's most extensive action to date on the Kohl Center floor. They had performed some drills on the floor and ran a bit on Monday, but Tuesday's scrimmage was by far the most formal play the Badgers have engaged in on the main court.
Tucker looked just at home as he did when he led the Big Ten in scoring a season ago. He showed off some of the perimeter shooting he worked on in the off-season, and displayed his well-known ability to penetrate the lane and pull up from just about anywhere. "Tucker's still tough to stop," Ryan said.
The key will be how and when all those other pieces fall into place.
LANDRY LANDS TWO PERFECT SCORES
The team dunk contest, which followed the scrimmage, was a mostly lackluster affair short of the two casual but impressive dunks by Landry. It was another chance for the budding young star to display his tremendous leaping ability, and he was also the only participant to nail both attempts.
"I don't know," Ryan kidded. "I thought you had to make dunks in order for it to be a dunk contest."
Taylor, Bohannon, Hughes and Cain also took part in the informal competition, but it was Tucker who stole the show afterwards. Urged to display his own hopping talent after the event, Tucker gladly obliged with a reverse dunk to the delight of the 3,925-person crowd, most of whom were still on hand.
SAME OLD KRABBENHOFT
The always banged-up sophomore found himself scraped yet again in the second half and had to leave the game. Ryan said afterwards that he was unaware of whether Krabbenhoft would need stitches.
"I would have liked to see Krabbenhoft be able to finish it off because he was doing some good things on the glass and hustling on defense but he got wacked in the eye there," Ryan said.