Alando on My Mind

After a sloppy, 11 turnover first half by his teammates, Alando Tucker puts his buddies on his back once again, scoring a game-high 29 points in the Badgers' 64-54 victory over Georgia.

ATHENS, GA. – Coming into the season, it was clear that the success of Wisconsin would be based on the health and effectiveness of fifth year senior Alando Tucker. Tucker, who finds himself a candidate for every major college basketball award, hasn't disappointed, averaging 21.2 points per game (18th best in the nation) and leading Wisconsin to their highest ranking in school history.

What's more impressive is that the bigger the game or the larger the crisis, Tucker is there, like any good senior leader would be, to help his teammates and take control of the situation.

This game would be a prime example of one of those instances.

With Wisconsin trailing early in the second half, Tucker went off on the Georgia Bulldogs (8-4), scoring 12 of Wisconsin's 19 points during an eight minute stretch to help the Badgers (14-1) take control of the game and defeat the Bulldogs 64-54.

While Tucker's 12 points put the Badgers ahead for good, it was his final bucket of the afternoon that proved to be the dagger. After back-to-back Bulldog free throws cut the Wisconsin lead to two, Tucker, with Georgia senior Levi Stukes closing fast, buried a clutch three pointer in the corner to give the Badgers a five-point lead.

"Our players rely on Alando to make those shots," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "That [shot] shows how far Alando has come. To hit that shot in that situation was huge."

In Wisconsin's three toughest games of 2006 (at Marquette, Pittsburgh and today at Georgia), Tucker has registered his three highest scoring totals of the season, scoring 28, 32 and 29 respectively. It's no sweat off Tucker's back, as being the playmaker is something that comes natural to him.

"I always want to take the big shots and be a big game player," Tucker said.

While Tucker's shot was the dagger, Marcus Landry was the icing on the cake down the stretch. Landry went 5-for-5 from the line in the final two minutes and registered a thunderous dunk off a half-court pass from Kammron Taylor that sent Georgia fans to the exits and the large upper-deck contingent of Badger fans to their feet.

"That final two minutes from Marcus was pretty good," Ryan said. "You can't ask for much more than that."

After a sluggish first half that saw him commit three turnovers, Taylor slowly turned it around in the second half, scoring nine points, finishing with 14, and committing only one additional turnover.

"I wasn't in the game mentally in the first half and my play showed," Taylor said. "That's basketball sometimes and you have two halves to play. I got myself mentally ready to play the second half."

"I think maybe [Kam] was on sick leave for a half and then came back," Ryan joked. "He was trying but some things got away from him."

Wisconsin built a 12-2 lead to start the contest, a lead that was build on the Bulldog's inability to find the net and hang onto the basketball. Georgia didn't score their first field goal until their 11th possession, shooting 0-for-7 in the process.

After building their lead, Wisconsin let their hosts, particularly forward Takais Brown, regain their traction and outscore Wisconsin 30 to 19 the rest of the half. Georgia's inside man used his aggressiveness in the post to score 11 points in the first half. If Brown wasn't having a hard enough time, Wisconsin played it sloppiest half to date, letting Georgia dictate the tempo.

Wisconsin turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, allowed the Bulldogs to swipe nine steals and were out-rebounded 19-12, with Brown grabbing a season-high 10. Brown, a 64 percent free throw shooter, finished the game with 20 points, including making 10 of 11 free throws.

What was said at halftime in the Badgers' locker room seemingly worked, as Wisconsin fixed their problems, limiting their turnovers to just three in the second half.

"In the past, like last year's team, [correcting the turnovers] might not have happened," Ryan said.

One of the overshadowed heroes of the game was junior Michael Flowers. While he scored only four points, Flowers played top-notch defense on Georgia's speedy guards, grabbing five steals without committing a personal foul.

"Mike Flowers getting five steals and no fouls is pretty good," Ryan said. "It just shows you that he is going about it the right way."

But without Tucker's performance in Athens, the Badgers would be leaving with their second loss of the season. Instead, Wisconsin leaves Georgia, and 2006, with another impressive victory that will not only boost their RPI, but their spirits heading into the Big Ten conference season.

"I always want to be able to put the game on my back," Tucker said. "After the first half, my teammates were telling me to take over the game. They were looking for me the whole time and that's the confidence they have in me. This is a great win to take back home."


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