As it turns out, his teammates hardly missed him.
The Badgers (20-1, 6-0 Big Ten) recovered from a slow start to go on an 11-1 run late in the first half to knock all the momentum out of the Wolverines, beating Michigan 71-58 to notch their fourth 20-win season in the last five years.
With Tucker sitting on the bench, his running mates didn't let Michigan (16-5, 4-2 Big Ten) take advantage, shooting over 56 percent in the first half. The Wolverines didn't help their cause by being sloppy with the basketball, committing 12 turnovers, most coming on traveling violations.
"The turnovers, our inability to handle the basketball and to have good possessions on the offensive end really doomed us," Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker said. "It's no question that we had silly turnovers. When you play on the road, you have to take care of the basketball and we weren't very good at that tonight."
Even when Tucker returned to the lineup, the Badgers hardly missed a beat, creating more steals and owning the better assist-to-turnover ratio than their competitors. By holding Michigan to 58 points, eight below their average, Wisconsin has held its Big Ten opponents under their scoring average in all six conference games this season. With their contributions from the bench, Wisconsin was able to slowly put the game away without their star on the floor.
"That just shows how deep our team is," junior Brian Butch said. "Everybody is able to step in. Against Illinois, Greg [Stiemsma] came in and came up big. We have had that throughout the year and we kind of know of what to expect [from our bench]."
In Tucker's absence, Butch played a solid game in the paint, scoring 16 points and Kammron Taylor added eight for Wisconsin.
Tucker eventually got involved when he started the second half, scoring four points and an assist on the Badgers' first three possessions. For the game, Tucker finished with 16 points in 18 minutes on the floor.
Overall, the Badgers shot 54.2 percent and got to the free throw line 26 times, making 16 foul shots.
"We ran the swing, ran off cuts hard and tried to get whatever opportunity passes we could," head coach Bo Ryan said. "I thought we moved off the ball pretty well and worked the shot clock to the point where we got them a little antsy. They were extremely aggressive and you have to get to the line when players are being overly aggressive."
One of the Badgers' few negatives from their win last Saturday was their three-point shooting against Illinois. In their seven-point win in Champaign, Wisconsin shot a dismal 18.8 percent from the perimeter. Against Michigan, the Badgers were more selective of when to shoot the three. The result was the Badgers shooting 50 percent from the perimeter, giving them their best percentage from distance in the last six games.
"Give them credit for what they were able to do against us," Amaker said. "We have been a very good defensive team. Obviously tonight, we will not use any highlights for our teams in regards to defense."
The loss was a brutal blow to the Wolverines, who had been desperately looking for a signature win to add to their resume. Excluding tonight's game, Michigan has played just one ranked opponent all-season, losing by 37 at UCLA, and, despite their 16 wins, have garnered just two votes in the AP poll.
For a team filled with talent, the Michigan seniors, Lester Abram, Dion Harris, Brent Petway and Courtney Sims, haven't made the NCAA tournament, as Michigan last made the dance in 1998. Even so, head coach Tommy Amaker hasn't waved the white flag just yet.
"We're in the middle of the conference race and came here in second place," Amaker said. "We're going to be fine. Just because we didn't play well here tonight that we are going to tank our basketball team. We're going to have our heads up and compete."
But while the Wolverines are searching for that elusive signature win, the Badgers keep adding wins to their already impressive season. The Badgers 20-1 record is the best start since 1915-16 and Wisconsin has continued to defend their home floor, winning 17 straight at the Kohl Center.
"In a grand scheme of things, [our success] really means nothing this year," Butch said. "Don't get me wrong, those are all great things to achieve. Right now, we're on a mission and we need to take it game by game."