Back on the Right Track

After barely pulling out a win in their last meeting with Northwesten, the Badgers again beat the Wildcats and avoid losing two in a row in the Big Ten Conference, something that could ill afford to do.

MADISON - In a victory that had to come following their first loss in over two months, the Badgers were successful by playing much bigger and shooting better than their opponent. The Wisconsin Badgers (21-2, 7-1 Big Ten) began their march to another possible win streak in the coming months by defeating the Northwestern Wildcats (11-10, 1-7 Big Ten) at home on Saturday 69-52.

The game really was a tale of two halves, with the first half the Badgers dominating heavily by their presence inside and shooting a much better percentage.

The Badgers shot 41 percent in the first half and hit three-of-seven three point shots. Not a particularly great first half, but compared with the Wildcats the Badgers played great basketball. The Wildcats shot 35 percent for the first half, including an anemic 1-of-9 from downtown.

The Badgers proved to be too much inside for the Wildcats, especially in the first half. During the first 20 minutes, the Wildcats committed ten fouls compared with four by the Badgers. Northwestern was only 0-of-1 from the free-throw line compared with 12-of-14 for Wisconsin. The 13 to 19 rebounding advantage that Wisconsin had proved their superiority in the paint.

"It's impossible because they are bigger and stronger, and I wasn't pleased at all with that," said Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody on how his team was beat up on the inside.

The lead grew much bigger to begin the second half with consistent production from the Badgers.

"To start the second half we couldn't stop them, they scored every single time they got the ball. I think we stopped them maybe twice in the first ten minutes," replied Carmody.

Wisconsin star forward Alando Tucker played very well pouring in his normal production with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 1-of-2 from three point range and an improved 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He led the Badgers in rebounding with nine.

After the Badger's great production in those first 32 minutes of the game, the Wildcats came roaring back. The game took a turn for the worse for the Badgers late in the second half.

With a lead as big as 24 dwindling down to just ten points, the Badgers couldn't afford an upset. The Wildcats run of 14 straight points with eight minutes left caused a huge scare for the Badgers.

Tucker also had a strategy to make sure that they wouldn't let the upset take place.

"We wanted to come and put them away early and I think we were really aggressive offensively and defensively I think we stopped almost everything they did," said Tucker. "For most part of the game we disrupted their off sets and frustrating them for awhile."

Northwestern was a team that Wisconsin did not want to overlook on the way to the Big Ten Tournament and beyond.

"They do the right things. Guys make good reads. Play solid defense." Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan said about his expectations in playing a tough game against Northwestern.

Much of Northwestern's run can be attributed to their own star, Kevin Coble. After missing the last meeting with an ankle injury, the freshman poured in 24 points in hitting 10-of-17 shots. He also led his team with seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals. He nearly made the difference for the Wildcats to win the game this time.

"Good offensive player, knocked down some shots. He got some good looks," said Ryan.

His own coach had remarks about him too. "I liked the way he was playing, he missed a few but he was aggressive, I felt that he was feeling good, and you know in the second half he was pretty good," Carmody said about Coble.

Wisconsin's own star, Tucker, was posting up repeatedly and scoring most of his points in the paint. The Wildcats were constantly trying to put pressure on him, but he was able to prevail in getting the victory.

Tucker had much help from his teammates as well. Guards Kammron Taylor and Michael Flowers combined for 27 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Marcus Landry was able to contribute off the bench from a multitude of ways. Playing 28 minutes while scoring four, grabbing three boards, two steals, three assists and one rejection.

The game was determined by the hustle that Wisconsin put forth to make sure they would not lose two consecutive games. Each player does what ever is necessary to grab the win, not matter if the player is a star or lucky to be on the court.

On one play Landry got a steal on the baseline, Tucker then dived to assure a successful pass to Taylor, who then lunged over a defender and missed a lay-up. Then, a hustling Joe Krabbenhoft got the offensive rebound off the Taylor miss, gets fouled and makes a 3-point play. It typified the game because the Badgers had just too much experience and skill for the Wildcats to handle.

The difference in the game was Wisconsin's superior physical presence. They grabbed 37 rebounds, shot 16-of-20 from the foul line, and committed only five fouls for the game. Compared to Northwestern's 21 boards, 1-of-2 from the foul line, and 16 fouls. The statistics tell you that Northwestern should never have been anywhere near pulling off the upset.

Wisconsin had to prove that they could close out a game in which they must win.

"I thought our guys played very mature and patient defensively in not giving up a whole lot of easy buckets," said Ryan about playing a game that he knew wasn't going be easy. "I thought we did a much better job the last three and half minutes taking away certain looks."

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