No Longer Laughing

A year after admitting to not taking his match up against Marquette seriously, junior point guard Trevon Hughes is more focused on his game and his defense, something he plans to showcase today at the Bradley Center.

MILWAUKEE – A year ago, it was all a joke to Trevon Hughes.

Whether is was a slip of the tongue or Hughes being over confident, the then-sophomore point guard drew the assignment of guarding Marquette guard Dominic James and implied by his post-game comments that he took the assignment as ‘a joke.'

When the game was over, James was the only one laughing.

James scored a game-high 20 points and jump-started the Golden Eagles' offense, dishing out a game-high six assists, as Marquette won for the first time since 1997 in Madison and sent the Badgers to their second loss in three games.

"They were hungrier than us and we can't let that happen again," Hughes recalled. "The pressure got to us a little bit and it started with me."

A year older and a year wiser, Hughes, who leads UW with 13.9 points per game, has matured into the point guard role and his defense has improved along with character.

So when the Badgers travel to Milwaukee to take on 25th-ranked Marquette in the annual in-state battle tonight, James, now a senior, will be in for a defensively-sound Hughes, who hasn't forgotten what happened to him last year.

"I take it personally," Hughes said of James' performance. "At the same time, I don't want to be too over prepared. I need to play my game, the team game, and stick to our concepts."

Although James' scoring numbers are down compared to a year ago, the senior guard has gotten plenty of help from his classmates. Marquette (6-1) is led by senior guard and Madison native Wesley Matthews and his 22.0 points per game followed by senior Jerel McNeal's 17.4 points per contest.

Marquette leads the conference with a scoring average of 87.9 points per game. That mark, which includes a pair of 100-point efforts in back-to-back games, currently ranks eighth in the nation through games, as the Golden Eagles have reached the 10-point plateau in a single contest this year.

But the offensive all starts with James, who leads the team in assists per game (5.6) and steals per game (2.7).

"Against Wisconsin (last season) Dominic was really good," first-year Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said. "I don't know how I would compare his game as it relates to Wisconsin. I hope he plays the same way. He's doing a much better job of getting his teammates the ball where they can score right away. He's not just ditching and then they have to do something to score. He's getting the ball to guys where all they have to do is just catch it and score."

One concept the Badgers have been preaching this year has been team defense, especially with Wisconsin losing its best defensive player (Michael Flowers) to graduation last season. In seven games, the Badgers have limited their opponents to less than 42 percent shooting four times and Hughes has started to slowly fill the shoes of Flowers.

In UW's last home game against UW-Milwaukee, Hughes guarded Avery Smith, the Panthers leading scorer at 16 points per game. In 25 minutes of play, Hughes limited Smith to just two points on three shots, defending him so well that he didn't score until 6 minutes, 17 seconds remained in the game and the Badgers were leading by 24 points.

Although Hughes is the odds on favorite to be the next Michael Flowers, the junior point guard is quick to dismiss the role as a shutdown guard, acknowledging that it's going to take more than one person to pick up the slack left by Flowers.

"I don't think it's my role right now; I think it can be," Hughes said. "I think we've got a bunch of guys that are trying that spot out right now, filling Michael's shoes, but it's going to be hard filling Michael's shoes. He's one of the greatest defensive players that ever came to Wisconsin and I think it's going to take all 17 guys to fill his shoes."

Two of those teammates (sophomore Tim Jarmusz and Rob Wilson) have provided that defensive lift, which in turn has allowed the Badgers to go deeper into their bench. With UW playing as many as nine or 10 players deep in their rotation, defensive players like Jarmusz and Wilson have afforded the Badger starters a necessary breather while keeping the production high on the court.

"We knew that they could do that. I am impressed with how they bought into the team concept right away," Hughes said. "They are athletes and they can go out there right away and bring the intensity and hustle to the floor. All of us together probably equal Mike and that has given us a boost."

Thanks to Hughes' game-winning shot Monday, the Badgers have got some road momentum on their side, especially with Saturday being UW's fifth road game in the past 16 days.

"That's good momentum and a good monkey off your back, especially going to Marquette," Hughes said. "We have to be aggressive from the opening tip because we know they are going to be aggressive with their three senior guards. I like playing in games like this because it gets your adrenaline going and that's why people play college basketball.

"Every time you try to make a play to make the crowd go quiet … and that's what we're going to try to do to go out there and get a win."

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