A Moot Point

Wisconsin won the turnover battle, kept it close on the glass and kept Demetri McCamey relatively in check. A winning recipe usually but a final result that went awry because the Badgers simply couldn't put the ball in the bucket.

INDIANAPOLIS - The Wisconsin basketball team forced 17 turnovers, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to Illinois' two and showed poise coming back in the final minutes befitting their senior leadership.

And none of it matters if you can't hit shots.

Wisconsin fell 58-54 at the hands of the Fighting Illini Friday almost solely because the Badgers failed to put the ball in the basket.

Sounds like an oversimplified explanation? With statistics this appalling, it is not that hard to argue.

UW missed 27-of-33 field goal attempts in the first half (18 percent shooting), hit merely 28.6 percent for the game, started the second half with a five and a half minute scoreless stretch and only scored eight points in the second frame's first 10 minutes.

Making matters worse, the Badgers played virtually turnover free, only giving the ball away five times.

They simply missed shots.

"You know, we were getting some decent looks and they just weren't falling," UW junior Jon Leuer said. "But we had to work a little harder to finish inside. Obviously we missed some bunnies, but for the most part we were getting good shots, it was just a matter of us finishing."

While certainly not the only culprit, Trevon Hughes inability to finish in the lane may have been the most damaging.

The senior guard finished the contest with a respectable 14 points, but shot only 4-of-16 from the field and missed all six of his two point attempts.

Four times Hughes found the lane and four times the senior left the layup attempts short.

"How many shots did he miss around the basket?" Ryan asked rhetorically after the game. "A couple times he could have pump faked, could have been at the free-throw line for a few more ... But we didn't. I think he was expecting some contact. He didn't get it."

Still, despite the North Pole cold shooting, UW had a chance to tie the game with 26 seconds left on the strength of a harassing defense and sheer will.

So could the Badgers have pulled the game out even with grade-school shooting percentages?

According to Ryan, absolutely — as long as they were given a little free help.

"When you're in a game like that where you're not hitting shots, you need 20-plus free throws, and you need to turn the ball over anywhere between five and nine times," Ryan said. "We lost by four, and you look at the two statistics that I just gave you, the five to nine we took care of. We didn't get to the line enough (eight-for-14)."

It also didn't help that the Badgers experienced Deja vu at the hands of Mike Tisdale.

Falling to Illinois in their first matchup at the Kohl Center, the Illini exploited the match-up problem of a sweet shooting big man by finding seven-foot Tisdale early and often for midrange jumpers.

One month later, nothing has changed.

The formula is a simple one. First team All-Big Ten guard Demetri McCamey starts with the ball at the wing and, using Tisdale for a pick, drives middle towards the lane. Tisdale pops out and waits for McCamey to draw the defense in far enough, before finding himself open for an 18-foot jumper.

At the Kohl Center, Tisdale finished the game with 19 points on eight-of-11 shooting. This time around it was 21 points on eight-of-10 shooting.

"We gave him too easy of looks and let him get comfortable. He just got on a roll, and he's a good player," Leuer said. "He knocked out some shots. Sometimes you've just got to tip your hat when a guy can do that."

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