You hear the term "statement game" from time to time and it is often hard to define. But you know one when you see one. Marcus Landry made a loud statement Sunday afternoon during Wisconsin's season-opening roller coaster of a win against Long Beach State.
Landry's 23-point, three-block performance at the Kohl Center said, in essence, "You can count on me." This was not the same Marcus that got out to slow starts the past two years and traditionally starts out games innocuously. Long Beach Marcus was not laid back, with his mind on his money. He was fired up.
The senior from Milwaukee was money from three-point land though, hitting 3-of-5 smooth-looking shots behind the arc, including the backbreaker off a Trevon Hughes dish with 30 seconds left. Landry beat his chest and flexed occasionally to provide some Tucker-esque leadership. Somewhere, Alando was smiling.
The game will not land on many defensive highlight reels, except for Landry's clutch blocked shots. Overall, it was played at pretty slow pace that seemed to favor the Badgers. However, Wisconsin's defensive efficiency was only 103.2 for the game. Last season, UW went just 5-4 in the nine games it allowed the opponent to post an offensive efficiency over 100. After a hot start, LBSU cooled off from 3-point land (5-for-18 overall), where UW actually had an advantage (8-for-18), which would have you expecting a Badger rout. [box score]
But Wisconsin's entire team gave up too much inside to the relentless 49ers. Eleven of LBSU's 13 second-half field goals were either a lay-up, tip-in or dunk. Landry carried his weight offensively and defensively, but once Keaton Nankivil started to get a little offensive rhythm going, he was back on the bench, presumably because of something he was not doing defensively.
Joe Krabbenhoft had trouble in the second half bottling up guard Donovan Morris, who single-handedly brought his team back to within two, 57-55, with seven minutes remaining. Apparently Jon Leuer, who flew down the lane for an aggressive lay-in earlier on, was not an acceptable answer inside either.
Nope, Tim Jarmusz rounded out the crunch-time lineup. To me, this was an oh-uh moment for Nankivil and Leuer fans. Then again, Jarmusz was the only true freshman that Bo Ryan felt comfortable inserting into close games last season. TJ was his typical, chippy self contributing to another Badger win. Bo admitted after the game that he planned to send Nankivil in, but just couldn't:
"[Jarmusz] was hustling so hard that the guy had to tackle him to keep him from getting to the free throw line. I was going to put Keaton in there right before that but the way Tim was playing and their small line-up and they were running guys off of those screens ... He played big and with that kind of drive and hustle, I couldn’t take him out.”As for this year's freshman, Bo did not hesitate to insert Jordan Taylor when he saw Hughes make a few wrong moves. Taylor's 15 solid minutes included a beautiful alley-oop pass to Landry right before halftime. It underscores again the faith this coaching staff already has in its freshman floor leader. The knock on Taylor has been that despite being Big Ten-ready right now, he somehow has a limited ceiling. If he proves people wrong on that point each year, Taylor could wind up being one of the best pure point guards Wisconsin has ever seen.