Sweep Complete

UW bests the Panthers and rounds out its victory run over in-state rivals behind 20 points from Alando Tucker

There was a point during the second half of the Badgers' 68-49 victory over UW-Milwaukee on Wednesday in which Alando Tucker got the ball around the baseline, jumped towards the rim while swooping his hands beneath those of a defender and then changed direction in mid-air as he soared toward the hoop.

The shot off the backboard – as a result of his own momentum – had too much on it and sailed long. But perhaps it served as a telling reminder.

Sometimes the only person who can stop Alando Tucker is himself.

Wisconsin (10-1) jumped out to an early lead at the Kohl Center, but made its definitive run of the game following an Allan Hanson jumper that clipped UW's lead to 14-11. Tucker and the No. 7 Badgers used the next 4:30 to open an 11-0 run and build a lead that would never drop below double-digits.

Asked what made the difference during that key stretch, Panther coach and former UW assistant Rob Jeter left no doubt.

"I think his number's 42," Jeter said of the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, Tucker. "That's why he's one of the best players in the country. He made some tough shots."

During that first half, Tucker unleashed the full arsenal from the floor, scoring 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He finished the game leading all scorers with 20.

There were the dunks: the first coming on a steal just outside the 3-point line from where Tucker drove the remainder of the court before soaring towards a powerful one-handed slam. The next one put UW up 30-16 when Jason Bohannon pushed a fast break on the UWM press and looped the ball over a defender. Tucker grabbed it on the far side of the rim with both hands.

Of course Tucker added the turn-around jumpers – usually off-balance and sometimes fading away after his typically powerful pivot and leap. During the 11-0 run, Tucker pulled up outside the right block and lost his dribble with a defender draped over him. He responded with a tough pivot both ways, eventually opting for a spin toward the baseline as he elevated and nailed the jumper.

"I just remember myself going like, ‘phew,'" said Kammron Taylor. "That's exactly what I did, like 'man.' I mean, he's hard to stop. Especially the height that he gets on his jump shot and how strong he is when he attacks the basket."

The Badgers took a 35-20 lead into the break with the three UW seniors – Tucker, Taylor and Jason Chappell – accounting for 28 of those points. Coming off the high of Saturday's road win over Marquette, the team veterans made sure there would be no letdown in potentially looking forward to a weekend date with No. 2 Pittsburgh.

"A lot of teams figure as big of a game as we played on Saturday, that we'd come and take it easy this game," Tucker said. "That's not the team we are. It had to come from the seniors."

After halftime, Wisconsin maintained its advantage with a balanced attack from its role players. Brian Butch hit 4-of-5 field goals for nine of his 11 points, and led the Badgers with eight rebounds. Michael Flowers and Jason Bohannon each scored five after the break, finishing with seven and eight respectively.

The Panthers never made a run and hit just 32 percent of their shots from the field. Paige Paulsen – the only UWM player to enter the season with at least one career Division-I start – led the Panthers with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, continued to reach the free throw line in bunches – making 15 of its 23 attempts on Wednesday. UW has attempted almost twice as many shots at the stripe as its opponents this season, which has made up for the fact that they are averaging just five 3-pointers per game, down from the 7.3 they made as a team two seasons ago.

Yet it was when the ball was kicked out twice in the second half that Wisconsin logically got its best perimeter looks. Tucker backed down a double team and found Flowers beyond the arc to make it 61-41 with 3:33 remaining.

Kicking back out once the interior collapses on Tucker is all part of the plan. And that attack-first priority devoid of idle standstill is what Jeter admired about UW on Wednesday night.

"It's fun to watch their movement," Jeter said "The way the ball rarely touched the floor with a dribble unless they're attacking the rim."

Jeter of course played and coached under that system with Ryan as his mentor at UW-Platteville, UWM and in the Kohl Center with the Badgers. This being the second meeting between the coaches on opposing ends of the sidelines, Ryan said he is getting used to it – even enjoying it the way one does a competitive game of golf or tennis with a friend.

"Do I enjoy it?" Ryan said. "Actually, I do, because I think it's good for both of us as coaches and teachers."

No doubt Jeter will enjoy it more when Tucker and his killer instinct have left the rivalry. In his curtain call against the Panthers, Tucker drew on previous experience to fuel the team's success once again.

"They're a team that can make something happen towards the end of games," Tucker said. "They have spurts where they feel that they can play with you.

"That's one of the things I wanted to concentrate on – making sure that we got a big lead, we got ahead and put the game out of reach right off from that point."


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