In what is beginning to sound like a broken record, Wisconsin's defense and offensive presence in the paint is why the Badgers are making a splash on the national landscape.
Not to mention tormenting their fellow state schools.
Rising to No.7 in the polls this week, the Badgers continued to pester the opposition with their big bodies in the post and their speed on the perimeter. Whether they're playing a strong ACC school or a 2-10 UW-Milwaukee school, the Badgers put a bulls-eye on the back of every opposing player they face.
After holding the other two in-state schools to under 40 percent shooting, the Badgers achieved the hat trick with their most impressive defensive performance yet against the state schools, holding Wisconsin Milwaukee to 32.1 percent shooting (18-for-56). The Badgers also shut down the paint, forcing the Panthers to shoot 22 perimeter shots.
"They have a very good team when they are able to attack the basket with their guards," Tucker said. "That was one of the things we were concentrating on in practice, to not let [UWM] get to the lane. Every time they did, we wanted to get out chest up and contest their shots as much as possible. That's a team that has been struggling recently and we didn't want to let them come in here and get confidence early."
While the Badgers closed down the paint for the Panthers, Wisconsin was able to find some openings in close on the other end of the floor. The Badgers doubled Milwaukee's output from the paint, scoring 28 points to UWM's 14. A portion of the Badgers' scoring from the paint tonight came from Jason Chappell. Chappell broke out of his prolonged scoring slump to score six of his eight points in the paint, his biggest output since Wisconsin's 53-point win against Southern.
State of Domination
After Wisconsin's 68-49 over UW-Milwaukee, the Badgers won their fifth victory, including exhibition play, over in-state opponents. Since Bo Ryan came to Madison, Wisconsin is 15-2 against Division I teams from the Dairy State.
While the fact that UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee having down years may taint the record slightly, the fact still remains that basketball in Wisconsin continues to improve on a yearly basis. UW-Milwaukee has made it to the NCAA tournament two consecutive years, Marquette surprised most critics by playing solid in the Big East and the UW-Green Bay Phoenix continues to rise and build their program.
"[Playing in-state school] is what it should be, plain and simple," UWM coach and former Badger assistant Rob Jeter said. "It's basketball against quality teams here in the state. There's a lot of pride and tradition at every university. We're all competitors, we all like to have fun and the fans like to see it. It's a privilege and it's an honor. I enjoy it and look forward to playing the teams in the state."
Panthers on the Prowl
With the victory, Wisconsin now sets their sights on their second breed of cat this week. On Saturday, Wisconsin welcomes in a well-rested, and undefeated, Pittsburgh team that will be televised nationally on ESPN. While the younger players may recognize the hype of the game, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan claimed to be unaware of the situation.
"Pittsburgh ranked," Ryan joked. "OK. Now I know that."
While Ryan refused to go into great detail, senior Kammron Taylor acknowledged that the game against the ranked Panthers, although well-hyped, needs to be taken as any other game this season, which is easier said than done.
"It's a big game for our program, but we played a big game last week against Marquette," Taylor said. "We are definitely going to make sure that are younger guys don't get caught up in the highly-televised game. We have been on television before. You just have to stay focused and come ready to play."
"It's another chance to prove ourselves," Tucker added. "We're always talking about the respect we want to get as a program. This is an opportunity to get that respect. You can't ask for a better opportunity than this."
Player of the Game
Once again, Alando Tucker reigns supreme in another Badger victory. Tucker led the Badgers in scoring for the eighth time this season, scoring a game-high 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting, including two thunderous dunks to bring the Kohl Center crowd to their feet.
With the Badgers clinging to a 14-11 lead after the Panthers countered with 9-2 run early in the first half, Wisconsin manufactured a solid 11-0 scoring push of their own to comfortably push their lead to 14.
Who, pray tell, was the reason for the Badgers scoring run? None other than that Alando Tucker guy, who spin and spun his way in the lane to score six points during that scoring run.
"I think his number is 42 [that helped them out]," Jeter said. "I thought Alando Tucker, during that key stretch, hit a few turnaround jump shots and a couple plays like that. That's why he's one of the best players in the country."
Stat of the Game
For the eighth time this season, Wisconsin made more free throws than their opponent's attempted. Against UWM, Wisconsin made 15 free throws with Wisconsin Milwaukee attempting only 10.
If Marquette was the most anticipated match-up on Wisconsin's non-conference schedule, the rematch with the No.2 Pittsburgh Panthers has to be a close second. The Badgers will get their chance for another big non-conference win Saturday morning when undefeated Pittsburgh comes to Madison for the first time since 1971.
Wisconsin leads the all-time series against Pittsburgh 10-7, including an 8-2 record in Madison. Even so, the Panthers have won three straight against Wisconsin, including a 59-55 victory in the second round of the 2004 NCAA tournament and a nine-point victory last season.