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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rewinding Wisconsin-Texas

The first thing that came to mind as I left the Kohl Center a week ago was something my friend Mike said during the game -- that Texas got its points so much easier than Wisconsin did.

While the Badgers strained to get more of their baskets, the Longhorns made things look easy. Pulling down 38 rebounds (15 offensive) to UW's 22 rebounds was the primary culprit. Of course, the silky smooth jumpers that A.J. Abrams dropped over, around and through tight Badger coverage seemed like a dream too. But the combination was a nightmare for Bo Ryan's club.

The game's flow was stilted by too many whistles from Ed Hightower. On the Wisconsin side, both Marcus Landry and Jon Leuer were saddled with foul trouble. However, Texas was just as affected, if not more. Enormous center Dexter Pittman and skilled big man Connor Atchley both sat the majority of the second half after picking up their third and fourth personal fouls, respectively. What a shame too -- I thought watching Atchley and Leuer go at each other would have been a great comparison.

Damion James picked up the slack, notching his second straight double-double (18 pts/15 rebs) against the Badgers. Gary Johnson added 16 & 8 in 33 minutes to Abrams' game-high 21 points as Texas dominated Wisconsin in the front court matchup. [box score]

No one other than Abrams impressed me from the Texas back court. Trevon Hughes was superb for the Badgers, but his 18 points, 4 rebs, 3 assts and 1 steal were not enough by itself. That stat line will always be overshadowed by Hughes' ill-fated drive for two points when Wisconsin trailed by three points on its final possession. The whole state is still shaking its collective head on that one ...

The remarkable thing really is that Wisconsin was still in the game at the end. The Badgers shot the lights out in the first half, finishing 9-of-19 behind the three-point line (compared to Texas' 3-of-16). Yet the team still trailed at the break thanks to an"alley-oop" by Texas that could have easily been offensive goaltending. Add that to Johnson's banked jumper late in the shot clock after a great defensive stand by UW and you have a game where the luck was simply on the side of Texas. The Badgers only turned the ball over once after halftime, but the game came down to free throws. Texas was unconscious, missing only one freebie the entire game (15-of-16); Wisconsin was only average (14-of-21). The result, a five-point loss as predicted, could have been reversed with a swing of a few free throws on each side.

Looking back, UW got nice games from Jason Bohannon and Hughes, but nothing from the bench, the seniors and little in the paint. Landry was a non-factor and Joe Krabbenhoft had a terrible night. His bad pass at midcourt right out of a timeout in the latter stages of the game was a huge shift in momentum at a crucial spot and was one of four Krabby turonvers in the game. Bo's Badgers can only go as far as those two seniors take them.

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