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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chopping Up Green Bay

On a snowy Saturday, I made my way to the Kohl Center to cheer on the Badgers from the student section for the first time as an alum. In front of a mainly subdued home crowd, Wisconsin started a 17-0 run with 13 minutes left in the first half to erase a 15-7 deficit and bury UW-Green Bay, 70-52.

The biggest ovation of the evening wasn't for the team, but for Scott Van Pelt, who was spotted in the crowd with Andy North. He was gracious and bowed to the students, who returned the gesture. Beyond that, only a selection of the sparsely-populated student end of the arena got riled up for much of anything on Saturday. Unless you count the halftime performance by the Bucket Boys -- right up there with the gymnastics routine in my book!

As for the game, I was happy to see Marcus Landry dominate the first half by posting up, but disappointed that he was not utilized in the second half. Trevon Hughes was invisible. Jason Bohannon got plenty of open looks and struggled from 3-point land, as did his teammates. [box score]

Count me officially frightened by Hughes' poor free throw shooting. He plays more minutes than anyone on the team and handles the ball twice as much as the next guy. Shooting 5-of-12 on freebies just doesn't cut it. It got to the point where sinking both attempts was a genuine surprise. His misses are not "near misses."

So where did the victory come from? With the exception of Butch and Krabbenhoft, the Wisconsin bigs shot incredibly well. Krabby did make his mark on the offensive glass, with several one-handed rebound and put backs clustered together in the second half. He finished with six offensive rebounds and led a balanced scoring attack with 12 points.

The story, though, was Kevin Gullickson. He played a season-high 20 minutes against the Phoenix in light of Jon Leuer sitting out the game with an ankle injury. The former walk-on from Stillwater, Minnesota did not miss a single shot all night (4-4 FGs, 1-1 FTs). While Gullickson has had his ups and downs as well as plenty of fan criticism, what I love about him is that he wants to score. When he has an opportunity to take a shot, he gets himself into position and makes it happen. If the rest of the team shared Gullickson's approach, UW would be much better. I see too much passive play from Badgers not named Hughes or Butch.

In a related note, the most irritating storyline of the season continues: Tanner Bronson running out the clock at the end of the game. It is bad enough that he is the first scrub into the game at garbage time and that these players never get any burn. But what is so annoying is that he acts like he is the "good sportsmanship steward" who maintains order by not passing the ball to anyone else in the last 30 seconds, lest they -- gasp! -- find an open shot to take. All I ask Tanner is that you remember back a few years when you were the little fan favorite who everybody went wild for when you got to take a shot. That's all we want in the closing seconds, for someone else to get a chance.

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In other Big Ten news:
-Michigan's basketball program is in disarray. Michigan (4-7) lost to Central Michigan (4-5) at home and you cannot even find a story about the fiasco on the Detroit Free Press website.
-Young Purdue stops slumping Louisville.

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