Rewriting the Same Story

Wisconsin basketball was in control and six minutes away from advancing to the Big Ten Semifinals for the seventh time and anxious for another shot at Michigan State. But as the story has been much too often this year, Wisconsin failed to finish, resulting in another painful defeat in what has been a frustrating year.

INDIANAPOLIS — Twelve losses this season. Nine of them, when lumped together into a nice little group, will keep Bo Ryan and his coaching staff up at night for a very, very long time.

And we won't even know until Sunday in which tournament – that of the NCAA or NIT variety – the University of Wisconsin will have the opportunity to add a tenth comeback loss to that dubious list.

The Badgers have found many different ways to lose this season. With the exception of blowout defeats to Connecticut and Purdue, and a just-falling-short comeback at Illinois, all of those losses have had something in common: Wisconsin was in the driver's seat to victory.

But once again on Friday, when UW looked primed to put it away, it faltered instead, leaving the Badgers stunned and wondering once again.

"We just have to get the job done," junior guard Jason Bohannon said. "We get shots and we're not hitting them. The other team's making plays and we're not. We need to fix that to win those close games.

"We've had stretches where we've had droughts and that's cost us (wins)."

Yes, the offensive droughts are disconcerting. But it's on the other end of the floor that really raises eyebrows.

Wisconsin is used to turning up the defensive heat late in games to snuff out these potential comebacks – earlier this season after a loss at the Kohl Center, Michigan coach John Beilein said "trailing Wisconsin by six or seven feels like you're trailing by 15".

But without a defensive stopper like Michael Flowers, UW consistently allowed opposing individuals to take over games late.

Northwestern's Craig Moore. Minnesota's Lawrence Westbrook (twice). And on Friday, on a neutral floor at the Big Ten tournament, it was Ohio State forward Evan Turner who ensured UW would sweat it out on Selection Sunday.

"Turner made plays down the stretch and we didn't," Bohannon said. "When a player's getting hot like that, making big plays, we've got to counter it in some way and we didn't."

Sure, the Badgers had better moments this season. A losing streak-ending win at home against Illinois for one, a nice holding-on victory at Penn State for another.

Oh, and there was the only previous meeting between the Badgers and Buckeyes this season, a very similar game to Friday's with a far different result: a Wisconsin win.

"It's like the last Ohio State game, we were back in the same situation, back and forth all game," Krabbenhoft said. "The last couple minutes, we made some pretty big plays. Today, we put ourselves in the position to make those plays, and we just didn't finish."

Finishing a game effectively has eluded the Badgers all season, and while Ryan has been under heat for not preparing his players for these late situations, Krabbenhoft took responsibility for his teammates, as nobody has stepped up as a go-to scorer or a defensive stopper in crunch time this year.

"It sounds pretty simple, but five minutes of executing basketball isn't easy, but we're capable and we didn't do it," Krabbenhoft said. "The players didn't get the job done."

How can Wisconsin reverse the trend?

"I don't know," said Krabbenhoft, shaking his head and looking tired of the question. "We've been talking about this all year. Hopefully we can get a chance to reverse it."

The Badgers will. But the question is, will they be wearing dancing shoes or not when the time comes? Or will they be where no Bo has gone before: NIT-land?

Wisconsin blown leads in 2008-09

Opponent, date, lead, time remaining

at Marquette, Dec. 6, led by three, six to go

vs. Texas, Dec. 23, led by one, 2:43 to go

vs. Minnesota, Jan. 17, led by 12, five minutes to go

at Iowa, Jan. 21, led by seven, 12 minutes to go

vs. Purdue, Jan. 24, led by five, three minutes to go

at Northwestern, Jan. 31, led by two, four minutes to go

vs. Michigan State, Feb. 23, led by 12, 12 minutes to go

at Minnesota, Mar. 4, led by five, two minutes to go

vs. Ohio State (BTT), Mar. 13, led by seven, six minutes to go

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