Lewis: Easy Cheese

Jason Chappell (a.k.a J-Cheezy) played big for the Badgers in the second half of their 69-64 win over Purdue

MADISON – The Badgers were plodding through the opening minutes on a string of missed shots when Jason Chappell caught the ball yet again wide open at the perimeter.

He made some sort of head jerk – an ingrained ball-fake that thankfully comes free of charge with every Bo Ryan lobotomy. But he did not appear to have a desire to do anything with the ball but wait to swing it to a teammate.

Of the three "big white guys" who SI's Luke Winn described as being part of the regular Badger rotation without ever having a desire to score the basketball, Jason Chappell probably stands out in front.

I have to admit that even though I've long been a fan of J-Cheezy and was plain giddy during his exhibition explosion this year, I wondered out loud after two or three of these possessions Wednesday whether Marcus Landry should be starting – seeing as how they both play defense but Landry is a budding offensive threat.

It didn't take more than a game for me to realize for the 10,734th time that Bo Ryan knows more about basketball than me, however. Like one of those girls you spend so much effort on chasing for days and weeks because you've seen some glimpse of flirtation, Jason Chappell finally called back to ask if I wanted to do something tonight – right after I'd almost given up hope.

What Chappell had in mind was a 13-point, eight-rebound, four-assist performance that was his brightest of the season and came at a time when the Badger supporting cast needed to step it up in the 69-64 victory over Purdue.

Don't get me wrong. I saw what Chappell did on Greg Oden. I've seen his defensive footwork make differences for this team, and I remember the move in the paint that gave Oden his second foul and kept him sidelined in the first half. I also know Chappell is a skilled passer for a big man, and brings plenty to the table that isn't conveniently layed out in a box score.

But I also remember last year when 18 men were guarding Alando Tucker at one time, and a few players were reluctant to shoot jumpers to make one of those defenders honest. When they did, the shots would come after an initial hesitation, no doubt aiding that paltry field goal percentage Wisconsin sported in March.

So when Chappell failed to pull a laughably wide-open trigger early in the game against Purdue, my lack of patience – (I'm a sportswriter) – inevitably led to questions and doubt. Luckily, the UW locker room did something about it for me.

Chappell's teammates told him at halftime to shoot the ball in order to extend a defense that was – surprise, surprise – collapsed on Tucker.

"I mean, I'm always going to look to take it if I get it open," Chappell said, before quickly following it up with, "Maybe not right away."

He was going to get the looks all night. Bo Ryan had prepared for that in practice, and Chappell had the same opportunities given to him by the scout team. Purdue coach Matt Painter admitted in so many words that it was a roll of the dice – limiting Tucker and Kammron Taylor as much as possible and seeing if the remaining field would cash in.

"I felt we had to take a couple risks in our game plan if we were going to have a chance to beat Wisconsin hear on their home floor," Painter said. "One of the risks was not guarding a couple of people – just flat out leaving them open."

That little locker room talked ended up paying out huge on the Badgers' end. Chappell was involved in Wisconsin's first four field goals of the second half – finding Tucker for a lay-up before nailing a 3-pointer, tipping in a Tucker miss and connecting again from beyond the arc. He narrowly missed a 3 the next trip down that would have given him 16 points, which would have been a career high.

He didn't score after that, but after Michael Flowers hit his wacky, off-balance lay-up that energized the crowd, Chappell forgettably stood solid in the paint on the other end in denying Carl Landry who would ultimately turn the ball over. The next Wisconsin field goal after that would again come on a Chappell feed.

Hidden from Chappell's own stat line is how he once again put the reins on a premiere Big Ten player. After Landry jumped out to score ten points early on, Chappell and company held him to just five the rest of the way, with two of those coming on an uncontested lay-in with under five seconds remaining.

Chappell said the key was pressuring Landry so he would not be in place to get the ball in scoring position. And if so, they would force him to go baseline with help from the top, as the Boilermaker star showed early on his knack for moving to the paint to get his buckets.

"I thought Jason Chappell and Stiemsma for a few possessions, Krabbenhoft for a few possessions and then Marcus, I thought they played him well," Ryan said, "and had him looking to go different ways, trying to get him to do different things to score."

Of course none of this means that the Celtics are going to start blowing games to take Jason Chappell with the first overall pick. I'm not saying this is the start of some unforeseen rise of Cheezy. This game just showed once again that the Badgers are finding ways to win as a team, just when you think you have them figured out.

If someone were to tell Matt Painter before the game that he would hold Tucker and Taylor to 7-of-26 shooting and would lose by just three on the boards, you'd have to think he would like his chances on the road. But different people just keep stepping up.

"Teams are going to try to make us search for other players to be able to score," Tucker said. "I'm not by any means worried, because I know we have players like Michael Flowers that can step up and Jason's been doing a great job. And we have Brian when he's hot, that's an extra out for us. We have other players that are going to be able to score. One of the things, I know I'm going to get a lot of pressure."

"We just have to stick to it and grind it out."

Badger Nation Top Stories