Visit Bucky's 5th Quarter Get fresh Badger content from me at Bucky's 5th Quarter.
Subscribe to the new RSS feed Subscribe to my RSS feed from the new site.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meeting the Challenge

The current joy of being a Wisconsin basketball fan is being able to see your team silence a turbulent home crowd with a game-winning shot in a big road game for the second year in a row. In a scene vaguely reminiscent of Michael Flowers' game-changing final sequence against Texas last year, Trevon Hughes calmly glided down the floor in a tie game and nailed a tough floater in traffic with less than a second left to beat Virginia Tech. The basket struck an opening blow for the Big Ten in its annual quest for national respect against the big, bad Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Badgers had been unable to corral VT's A.D. Vassallo during the second half as he single-handedly dismantled a fairly comfortable Wisconsin lead down the stretch. Vassallo's 3-pointer with seven seconds left sent the home crowd into pandemonium, yet distracted the team from organizing its full-court pressure and anything else other than token defense. That same pressure had given Badgers like Hughes, Joe Krabbenhoft and Jason Bohannon fits for the previous minute, allowing the Hokies to chip away.

Virginia Tech's momentary lapse (or more likely, a deliberate strategy) proved to be serendipitous, as Hughes was unimpeded in his progress down court. He even appeared to get fouled prior to his release. Following a brief celebratory reaction themselves, Krabby gathered the team quick enough to ensure VT got no easy looks at a half-court heave.

First and foremost, this was a great college basketball game. At last, I think even non-Wisconsin fans could agree that it was truly enjoyable to watch. All the elements were there: star power heating up at the right time (Vassallo), a valiant comeback by an underdog, a slighted team with a possible chip on its shoulder (UW), and both teams shooting the lights out.

It is time to embrace the Badgers as a team of shooters; last year was no fluke. Virginia Tech hit 11-of-15 from behind the arc and 26-of-51 (51%) overall from the field. Yet Wisconsin one-upped the Hokies by connecting on 12-of-18 3-pointers en route to 51.1% overall shooting. [box score]

Vassallo was the great Hokie hope in the end, striking from 30-feet out on a few occasions as he posted 24 of his game-high 30 points after halftime, thanks to six treys. I kept yelling at the TV that #40 was the only guy the Badgers needed to guard, yet he kept getting great looks. Oddly, he was best guarded on his final shot that tied the game.

UW really needs to tighten up its perimeter defense before league play starts, but the problem seems to be that guys like Bohannon and Tim Jarmusz have to allow quicker players a cushion so they do not get blown by off the dribble. This is where the development of Rob Wilson comes into play. Wilson, by the way, provided a great early spark for the team in this game.

Jon Leuer gets my nod for UW's player of the game. He sank both of his shots from long distance and showed the offensive versatility and aggressiveness that has had fans (and coaches) salivating for about a year now. Even his attempted put-back dunk that rimmed out had me out of my seat. Leuer finished with 17 points on 11 attempts to go along with six rebounds and two blocks.

Landry missed only one shot and finished with another studly line: a team-high 18 points & 4 assists, plus two more blocks. Lo and behold, J-Bo knocked down three treys after missing his first couple of open looks. A great night all around.

The elephant in the room of course is the "Big Donut" put up by VT's Jeff Allen. Hampered by a few ticky-tack fouls (and some even dumber, obvious fouls), Allen played only 15 minutes and had two points.

Had Allen not fouled out, I think the dynamic of the game changes and as crazy as it sounds, it may not have been as close. With Allen in the game, maybe Vassallo wouldn't have gotten a chance to catch fire. Marcus Landry was holding his own -- and more -- offensively with Allen doing all he could to slow the goggled one. Landry went wild from outside, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts. He did not have to worry about guarding Allen himself, though, as Keaton Nankivil picked up the assignment to begin the game. But no doubt, Allen's absence allowed guys like Leuer a reprieve on defense.

Savor the flavor: replay of the last 12 seconds [video]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

Poll: Who will win the Big Ten?

Poll: Who was Wisconsin's first-half MVP (thru 16 games)?

Poll: How Many Regular Season games will wisconsin win in 2009-10?