Those comments were uttered two seasons ago. It's amazing how much can change in that short of time.
The Badgers wanted a home game in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, they got the Blue Devils and they out 'duked' the sixth-rank team in the country.
Wisconsin (5-1) wasn't supposed to compete with All-Americans and the prestige but not only did the Badgers compete against the Blue Devils, they never trailed, made the Blue Devils play their tempo and did what no other Big Ten team could do against them in the Challenge, beat them, registering a 73-69 victory Wednesday night.
Not bad for a team picked no higher than seventh in the Big Ten
"I am really happy for our guys, students, fans to get a game here like this and to deliver," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "Our guys delivered."
Nobody said it would come easy for the Badgers, and few things could be classified as such, especially against a Duke team that led the ACC in scoring offense (84.5 points per game) and scoring margin (26.3 points) and hung its hat on defense, leading the nation in field goal percentage defense coming in and were allowing an average of 58.2 points in their first six games.
Although ranked tenth in the conference in scoring offense, the Badgers second-ranked scoring defense did a number on Duke players not named Kyle Singler. The Badgers limited Duke's other four starters to a combined 8-of-22 and 29 points and the Blue Devils couldn't make a field goal during an eight minutes, 45 seconds stretch in the second.
"They did a good job overall, I thought, defensively," Duke senior Jon Scheyer said. "There really just wasn't much there. I don't think we did a good job of just staying patient. They did a good job, didn't give us a lot of open looks and there just wasn't much there."
With the Blue Devils struggling, the Badgers built a lead thanks to Hughes, who scored 19 of his career-high 26 points in the second half and, at one point, eight straight UW points to build an 11-point UW lead to 5:08 remaining.
"He's just a really good player," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Hughes. "I thought he was good then. Now he's two years older and he's really good. He's a damn good player."
"They played a real veteran game. The last eight minutes, we put ourselves in position where we couldn't win."
Even then, it wasn't going to be that easy, especially when freshman Andre Dawkins starting heating up from the perimeter. Dawkins his three three-pointers in four possessions, bringing Duke to within two with 1:46 left on the clock.
But unlike so many times last season when the Badgers let a victory slip through their fingers in the final minutes, Wisconsin answered the bell.
After senior Jason Bohannon and Scheyer traded two free throws, Leuer made one of two free throws and Singler followed with a bucket to cut Wisconsin's lead to 70-69 with 5.7 seconds left.
Hughes, as he was all second half, was clutch, hitting two free throws after he was fouled to extend the lead to 72-69 with 4.9 seconds left and got a gift when the sure-handed Singler miss fired an inbounds pass out of bounds at mid-court. That allowed Jordan Taylor to sink one free throw to ice the game.
"It's real important for confidence," Nankivil said about finishing. "It shows a lot for what Pop, JBo and Jordan can do as far as controlling the game in those situations. I felt like we always had control with the pace and what we wanted to do."
After a desperate three-point attempt from half court fell well of its mark, the Badgers, celebrating in their own right, were surrounded by a deafening student section that stormed the court after making its presence known all night.
"I had to make sure I stayed up. I didn't want to get trampled," joked Hughes. "It was fun. It was good for the fans."
The Badgers out rebounded Duke 34-32 (12-8 on the offensive boards) and got contributions from Leuer (17 points) and Bohannon (10), but the undercard performer of the night was redshirt freshman Ryan Evans' second-half defense on junior forward Kyle Singler. Leading all scores with 28, Evans held Singler to only four points in the final 10 minutes.
"Ryan Evans did an unbelievable job on Kyle Singler," Ryan said. "He killed us a couple years ago at his place … The harder you make a guy work, the better your chances are that somewhere down the line, he'll be a half-step behind."
Wisconsin registered 17 assists to only five turnovers, a stark turn around from the 18 turnovers UW committed the last time these two teams played, an 82-58 blowout two years ago in a challenge game in Durham, N.C. Unlike that game when the Badgers, according to Hughes, played, ‘110 miles per hour,' Wisconsin stayed the course, didn't get rattled and smartly milked the clock.
"It's a point of pride to know that we had something to do with that in a game a lot of people probably didn't think we were going to win," Nankivil said. "It was pretty special."
Wisconsin opened the game by making its first five shots from the floor, shooting 58.3 percent (16-of-30) in the opening half, but led by only six at halftime thanks to the stellar efforts of Singler.
Averaging 15.3 points over Duke's first five games, Singler scored 17 of Duke's 32 first half points, frustrating the Badgers with his ability to gain penetration in the paint. The rest of Duke was just frustration, as the Blue Devils shot 20 percent from three-point range, got no points from the bench and leading scorer Nolan Smith (18.5 ppg) was limited to seven points and two turnovers.
"If the second half was like the first half, we would have been blown out of here," Krzyzewski said.
With Illinois' 76-74 rally over Clemson (the Illini were down 20 at halftime) and Ohio State's 77-64 victory over Florida State in the final game, the Big Ten won the 11-year series for the first time, 6-5.
"I'm proud to be a part of the conference when they win something," Ryan said. "We're in it to try to win it."
More importantly, the Badgers get a signature win, beating a top 10 opponent for the first time since December 2007 (No.9 Texas) and have beaten four straight ACC opponents for the first time in school history.
"We needed this one, that marquee win to get us going," said Hughes.