Senior Spotlight

With all four seniors bringing production on Senior Night, No.10 Wisconsin beat the Nittany Lions by what Wisconsin basketball does best.

MADISON – As the Nittany Lions dribbled out the final seconds of game clock, waving the white flag of defeat, the rumblings started to vibrate throughout the sold out Kohl Center.

When the clock final struck zero, the eruption finally exploded.

The Wisconsin Badgers, a group of 16 hardworking, blue-collared individuals, who were thought to be mediocre at best without its scoring leader did something no Wisconsin basketball team had done in five years - clinched at least a share of a Big Ten conference championship.

"It's absolutely awesome," senior Brian Butch said. "Point blank. That's all you can say. This is why we play. This is why we run the hill and do all the stuff that nobody likes doing. It's for moments like this."

Wisconsin's 77-41 win over Penn State, its 11 straight victory over the Nittany Lions in Madison, was a perfect snapshot of how the Badgers have won a program record 15 conference games in 2008.

Possessing the top scoring defense in the country, giving up only 54.9 points per games, Wisconsin (25-4, 15-2) had little trouble dominating a team missing its two leading scorers.

With Geary Claxton already out with a torn ACL (the injury that ironically happen against Wisconsin) and point guard Jamelle Cornley not making the trip after sustaining a knee injury, the Badgers made easy pickings of Penn State (14-15, 6-11), who started three freshman and a sophomore.

By holding Penn State to a season-low 41 points, making PSU the eighth opponent to score a season-low against UW, the Badgers are now 25-1 when holding opponents under 60 points.

"We just could not make a shot and we couldn't guard them in the second half," said PSU coach Ed DeChellis, as his team shot 29 percent for the game. "You can't come in here, shoot like that and expect to be in a game with these guys."

A trademark of a Bo Ryan-coached team, the Badgers were aggressive on the boards, using their height to an advantage and made more free throws than their opponents attempted.

Out rebounding Penn State by a margin of 39-25, Penn State only shot four free throws while the Badgers went 11-for-15 from the free throw line.

But while the seniors had plenty of moments to bask in the limelight of their first conference title as a group, junior Marcus Landry had no problems stealing some of the spotlight.

Leading all scores with 15 points, Landry sparked Wisconsin from the start, scoring the team's first five points, and was effective shooting from the floor all night, finishing 6-for-8 from the field in only 23 minutes on the court.

Landry ignited the Badgers in the first half, scoring the team's first seven points, and kept the Badger offense rolling in the second half, scoring UW first four points.

"Those are things I do everyday and practice and obviously, my teammates have faith in me to come out and have those types of starts," Landry said. "Those are the type of starts I like to have every game. Whether it is defensively or offensively, I feel I can contribute to the team in a lot of different ways."

In the end, however, it was all about the seniors, most of whom had the best night of their careers.

Senior Michael Flowers dished out nine assists and had no turnovers, Butch scored 12 points while grabbing five rebounds, four on the offensive end and Stiemsma chipped in with 10 points (tying a season high), six rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in a career-best with 21 minutes on the floor.

"It all kind of seems surreal," Stiemsma said. "It is senior night, the last game of our careers (here) and those are pretty big things to look at. It really has not set in yet but to go out like we did, I think it is really special. It doesn't seem like it should happen that maybe it is fate.

"I don't know if it's fate or whatever it is, but things fell into place for us and we took care of it on our end."

But what made the evening that much more special was after senior Tanner Bronson nailed a deep three-pointer from the top of the key, resulting in the entire Wisconsin bench springing to their feet. Taken out to a standing ovation by Brett Valentyn at the next whistle, Bronson was embraced by Ryan when he reached the sideline, as the head coach had to wipe the tears from his eyes.

"It's just as good (winning) the third time. I don't care how many times you say it," Ryan said as he removed the tears from his eyes.

Yes, it was truly was a magical night in Madison yet again.


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