Small Matchup Makes Big Difference

The heated competition between Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes and Marquette's Dominic James revealed just how important point guards are for a team. With James playing the better game, he was the biggest reason for the 81-76 Golden Eagle win at the Kohl Center on Saturday.

MADISON - Point guards manage a team's confidence, leadership and, usually, the team's chances for victory in every game. UW's Trevon Hughes and MU's Dominic James are the primary reason that the state boasts two of the best teams in the country.

"Last year, I got into him so I guess he had something to prove," said Hughes.

Hughes and James statistically matchup well against each other. Hughes averages slightly better numbers – 16.7 to 14.7 points, 3.0 to 3.2 assists, 4.6 to 2.0 rebounds and 2.3 to 2.7 steals – but James has the experience advantage. The junior has been a three-year starter compared to Hughes, a first-year as starter as a sophomore.

Both players are around six feet tall and create with explosive drives, dribble penetration and use their athletic ability as much as possible.

Last year at the Bradley Center, Hughes used Marquette as his first opportunity to prove himself. Hughes posted a season-high 18 minutes along with five rebounds, three steals and two assists. This time around, he didn't use this rematch as another opportunity to showcase his abilities.

"I don't come into this game prepared as I was last year," said Hughes. "I took it as a joke and I never shoulda did that."

The game did not start off particularly well for Hughes. After a turnover off a bad pass and blocked shot underneath, James began the day with the advantage. The exclamation point came when Hughes badly air balled a three-point shot and on Marquette's next possession, James nailed one himself from downtown. The play resulted in a momentum shift and Hughes being pulled by Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan.

Even after his early struggles, Hughes continued to make several bad decisions. At the end of the half, he posted five points while shooting 2- of-9 from the field and 1-of-5 from three-point range. Most of his three-point shots were forced and he never seemed get into a solid rhythm.

However, the highlight for Hughes came at the end of the half when he nailed his only three-point bucket with just 29 seconds to give keep Wisconsin in the game.

The best moment for James came late in the first half when he took a steal and dribbled nearly the full length of the court, drove the lane, got the foul, put the shot and made the following free-throw.

James continued his superior play against Hughes with lunging steals and hesitation drives that resulted in easy buckets for teammates and himself. His numbers – 11 points, four assists while shooting 4-of-8 from the field – clearly showcased how the first half belonged to James and Marquette.

"We wanted to rely on our drive-and-kick game to get open shots," said James. "Try to get them away from the basket because they're pretty big down low."

The second half began with much excitement for Hughes, as he confidently stepped back and hit a deep three-point shot. The next big play from Hughes would result in quite the heated moment.

With Hughes driving the lane, James threw a vicious elbow to the midsection of Hughes resulting in a harsh foul. Hughes, upset by the force of foul, got into a verbal and physical exchange with James.

"That type of play happens every day in practice. It's just two guys competing," said James. "Trevon played great, he's tough nosed and I'm tough nosed. I'm looking forward to playing him again."

After both benches had cooled, James and Hughes received technical fouls and play resumed. Yet, throughout the rest of the game, neither team would have a large lead and the crowd had officially been aroused from the near fight at the Kohl Center.

One of the missed opportunities for Hughes and the Badgers came when James sat out from the eight minute mark and returned with five minutes remaining in the game. The lead went back and forth, but really Wisconsin never took advantage while Marquette's leader was off the floor.

Once James had returned, both Hughes and James displayed a remarkable exchange of one-upping each other. On two occasions, one of them hit a shot after the other had made a bucket.

If you listen to his coach, Hughes understands his role, but he doesn't have enough experience yet.

"Some of the (point guards), when they're younger, they just get away from a comfort zone," said Ryan. "Trevon has gone through that and he's gotta learn to understand some things. It's not his fault as one person, but that's a big part of it."

With Marquette up by five points, Hughes drove the lane and was fouled by James. After missing one of two free-throws a few minutes before, Hughes drilled both this time to get Wisconsin within three points.

The next play would not be so kind for Hughes. He dribbled around and really found no openings anywhere and possibly showing his lack of experience, he forced a tough shot that missed and basically ended Wisconsin's chances to win the game.

Overall, the second half was much better for Hughes, but he still put on a porous performance against James. He totaled 16 points, four assists and four turnovers. His shooting was well below his standards as he shot 4-of-15 from the field, 1-of-6 from three-point range and 7-of-13 from the free-throw line.

James and Marquette won the battle, as he posted he posted a game-high 20 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals. His shooting was much better with 7-of-15 from the field and 5-of-8 from the free- throw line. He was the main reason for the win, and decidedly took his matchup against Hughes to prove that he was the better player.

The game was not a total loss for James, as he can look back at this game as something to improve upon.

"Trevon Hughes is trying to be a point guard," said Ryan. "As he learns to settle into this kinda competition and pressure, he's gonna show that he's a much better player."

To ask Hughes about it, he thinks that how he played directly controlled who won the game.

"It starts with me, I'm the point guard," said Hughes. "He scored 20 points on me and came up with the win. It hurts."

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