Leuer's Golden Touch Leads UW

Coming off a surprising defeat Wednesday and with in-state rival Marquette looking to extend its modest recent dominance over the Badgers, junior Jon Leuer's hot start made sure Wisconsin got back on the winning track, as his 24 points helped No.20 UW lead wire-to-wire in a 72-63 victory over Marquette.

MADISON - Dropping a then career-high 25 points in his first Big Ten Conference game his freshman year, Jon Leuer admitted that playing that game was at times like throwing a beach ball into the ocean. But being underweight and pushed around in the post during the subsequent two seasons, Leuer mapped out his goals during his junior off-season, determined to put on more weight, refine his shot and become an impact player.

Although he hit double figures in seven of eight games to begin the season, it's hard to disagree that Leuer saved his best career performance for Saturday to help Wisconsin silence its most hated rival.

Leuer scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, grabbed 12 rebounds and had three blocks to help No.20 Wisconsin shake of Wednesday's defeat to lead in-state foe Marquette for all 40 minutes, dispatching the Golden Eagles, 72-63, at the Kohl Center.

"We definitely knew that we wanted to get the ball inside against these guys," Leuer said. "We want to do that every game. We get high percentage shots from there. The guards did a great job of getting the ball down low and it's our job to try and make something happen."

Admitted to playing as low as 212 pounds last season, forcing him to be a key bench player for much of the campaign, Leuer weighed in at 230 pounds to start the season, having added a solid 15 pounds of weight. The result, in the eyes of Marquette coach Buzz Williams, is distinctly noticeable, especially after the junior diced up the Golden Eagles in the first 20 minutes.

Leuer was effective in all areas in helping UW (7-2) build a 17-point first half lead. He scored six of his points in the paint, got another three points from the foul line after creating contact in the paint and grabbed six rebounds, a steal and a block.

"I told our guys when we brought up number 30, he's a pro," Williams said. "He was really good off the bench last year. I told our guys that he's really good. His length, his skill set, his intelligence level is a really hard matchup."

The move forced Williams to switch junior defender Jimmy Butler, who quarantined senior Trevon Hughes for most of the first half, to Leuer. Leuer was semi-quiet after halftime (8 points on three made field goals), but Hughes added nine of his 13 points and reserve guard Jordan Taylor added seven of his 13 in the second half to pick up the slack.

"Our game play was to get into the post," said Hughes. "Marquette's first two losses (was) because they were coming out and taking bad shots. We seen them on the tape (and) Jon was making tough shots and at the same time, getting the bigs in foul trouble. We had a size advantage and that was one of our game plans all week."

"We didn't do a good job on (Leuer), no matter who guarded him," added Williams.

Just like the Duke game and the polar opposite of Wednesday's Green Bay upset, the Badgers came out red hot to dictate the tempo, making 11 of its first 18 shots (61 percent) and had only one turnover in a 13 minute, 2 second span.

"Anytime you can jump on a team the way we did tonight, it helps," Leuer said. "The main thing was we were executing better than we did at Green Bay. We were able to force them into some tough shots."

The Badgers shut down seniors Lazar Hayward in the paint and Maurice Acker on the perimeter in the opening half, but the rim began to rattle when Darius Johnson-Odom sparked the Golden Eagles back to a working margin at halftime, nailing 3 three-pointers to spark a late 17-5 run to bring MU (7-3) to a manageable nine-point halftime deficit.

The UW lead was only double digits two more times the rest of the way, as UW's 58.3 percent first half field goal percentage plummeted in the second half (9-of-28 for 32 percent) due to point-blank misses and wayward layups, allowing the Golden Eagles to close the lead to 57-54 on a Joseph Fulce lay in at 7:40.

It was at that point Wisconsin unscrewed the lid on the basket. The Badgers scored eight points on their ensuing 10 possessions (four coming off the hands of Leuer), holding the visitors scoreless and pushing the lead to 11, 65-54, with 4:55 left.

Easy come, easy go for UW, who came up empty on its next four possessions and saw Hayward and Acker go on a 7-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by Acker (eight points) at 2:14 to cut the lead to 65-61.

That was as close as Marquette could get, as the Badgers, who were done in during the Green Bay game by missing 11 free throws, made seven of their final 10 attempts to effectively end MU's two-game win streak in the series.

Hayward scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Johnson-Odom added 13 points before fouling out for Marquette, which committed 13 turnovers to UW's seven. Marquette has now lost three of its last four games and is now 1-3 against BCS teams.

"You can't play from behind against a great team," Williams said. "You can't let a team attempt 33 free throws."

The already-heated rivalry between the two schools is about to intensify, which could be clearly noticed in the first row behind the Marquette. Sitting right next the parents of MU freshman Jeronne Maymon was Madison Memorial senior Vander Blue, who committed to Marquette in mid-October after initially pledging his commitment to Wisconsin.

With Maymon, his parents and Blue hearing it from the crowd, Hughes made sure the nation's onlookers heard Wisconsin's message loud and clear after over looking Green Bay.

"We knew we had to win to this game," Hughes said. "You can't lose two in a row first of all and second of all, you can't lose two in-state games. We've got bragging rights for the year."

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