Bench Turns Negatives Into Positives

The Badgers are able to Alando Tucker's time on the bench into a lead because the role players made key players when the team needed them most.

MADISON - The Wisconsin Badgers' bench decided midway through the first half against Michigan to help pick up the slack when their star was out. With Pre-Season Big Ten Player of the Year, Alando Tucker, on the bench for the last 12 minutes of the half, the bench went on a tear. They not only erased a deficit, but also took the lead, never to be down again for the rest of the game.

"The other guys picked it up and they did a good job of it," Badger coach Bo Ryan said when Tucker had to sit out because of foul trouble. "The guys picked him up."

For a key five minute stretch in the first half, most of which Tucker was on the bench, the Badgers started off being down 0-9, and turned it into a 17-15 lead. With Marcus Landry making many critical plays during the half. First, an emphatic block of a sure lay-up, then on the next play an assist underneath to Brian Butch, and then two rebounds, all within five consecutive possessions.

"I thought Landry played tough, their front line guys were physical and they got the ball inside," said Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "That just shows you how good they are."

Undeniably, Tucker and Butch contributed heavily towards the win, with 16 points each, but the role players made key plays while they were out. The bench grabbed 10 of the 14 first half rebounds, played 43% of the minutes for the first half, and outscored the Michigan bench by 23-13 for the game.

The reserves not only contributed heavily, but also did what has become expected of each player from previous games. Of course, there were Landry's contributions of dunks, assists and blocks, making him an incredible sixth man for the team. Greg Stiemsma had a great block and made an elbow jumper, just like the two he made versus Illinois. Jason Bohannon made a deep three-pointer to ignite the crowd before the half ended. Jason Krabbenhoft had four first half rebounds to lead the team. Many of these plays came during times when the momentum was supposed to be favoring Michigan, but instead Wisconsin capitalized.

With the Badgers in the first half shooting 50% on their free throws, commiting 12 turnovers and 11 fouls, the Badgers should have being losing at the end of the first half. The totals for the game really aren't that impressive, but it's more important that Ryan was able to put them in and they were successful. Without them, it's likely Wisconsin would have been down going coming out of halftime.

In the first half the Badgers clearly looked like they were in danger of early upset, but the effort by the bench proved they can be successful without Tucker if need be. In the second half with Tucker back in the game, the Badgers' lead never dropped below seven, and mostly hovered near the 20s. While the bench was carrying the team, everyone who watches Wisconsin basketball realizes that if the bench is this good, with Tucker staying out of foul trouble, great things can happen come March.

"Certainly you would like to think that we could do better than what we did, but they are deep, they are talented without Tucker," Amaker said. "Obviously, with Tucker they are something special."

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