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Monday, March 2, 2009

Badgers Marching Forward

Watching Wisconsin come out with guns blazing had me on the edge of my couch last night even though I was catching the Big Ten Network replay of the game. I already knew which team had won. Regardless, Marcus Landry was dishing to a cutting Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer was looking like Hakeem Olajuwon inside as Wisconsin built and maintained an eight- or nine-point lead in the game's first 13 minutes.

Then the Wolverines switched out of the 2-3 zone that the Badgers had shredded and into the 1-3-1. Wisconsin started throwing the ball out of bounds at times. And not only was Manny Harris active, but he was opening things up for his teammates offesnively. DeShawn Sims and C.J. Lee combined to score 14 points in a short span that saw Michigan take a 34-32 lead into the locker room.

So when UW put the clamps on Big Blue (only two points in the first 9:58 of the second half), my body decided it was lights out. Yeah, I missed out on how tight the game ended up. I missed Landry's continued clutch play, whether is be his passing (5 assts) or hard-earned 3-point plays. On the bright side, catching some shut-eye on the couch allowed me to bypass the shaky free throw shooting and an infuriating foul by Hughes.

Missing the drama of the 60-55 final just brought me back to earth. It was a game Wisconsin (18-10, 9-7) was supposed to win anyway. The Badgers have now won six of seven games since Leuer supplanted Keaton Nankivil as the fifth starter.

After getting shut out of the rebounding column in the loss to Michigan State, Joe Krabbenhoft was a man possessed against the Wolverines, hauling in 11 boards to pace the Badgers. [box score] Thanks in large part to Krabbenhoft's efforts, Wisconsin held a significant advantage on the glass over Michigan. Wisconsin simply matches up well with Michigan since the Wolverines are a perimeter-oriented team that lacks the inside fortitude to turn UW's lack of true height into a negative.

Besides the foul, Hughes somehow finished with zero assists and three turnovers. But Pop was an ultra-efficient 7-of-11 from the field in accumulating a game-high 19 points.

The win sets up one of the more anticipated rematches of the Big Ten season. When Minnesota ripped a win out of Wisconsin's grasp at the Kohl Center in mid-January, it sent the Badgers into a tailspin the likes of which Bo Ryan has never experienced in Madison before. The Gophers were riding high at 16-1. How times have changed.

Minnesota is only 4-7 since that fateful Thursday night, while Wisconsin has gone 6-5. Oddly, even with 20 wins, Minnesota may need this win more than Wisconsin. The victory over Louisville and at Wisconsin are the marquee feathers in Minnesota's cap, tempered by the team's soft non-conference schedule.

On Sunday, Krabbenhoft passed Larry Petty and likely cemented his place (7th) on Wisconsin's career rebounding ladder. Likewise, Landry surpassed Greg Stiemsma in career blocked shots at Wisconsin. I actually thought Landry should have been credited with one more block, but oh well. Goggles is only six blocks away from moving into fourth place all-time in school history. Both Krabby and Landry will move up a spot or two on the all-time offensive rebounding list before season's end.

Player - Career Rebounds (Season Total)
5. Kim Hughes - 806
6. Alando Tucker - 769
7. Joe Krabbenhoft - 719 (183)

Player - Career Off Rebs (Season Total)
1. Alando Tucker - 314
2. Mike Wilkinson - 311
3. Andy Kowske - 240
4. Sean Daugherty - 227
5. Joe Krabbenhoft - 223 (52)
6. Brian Butch - 222
7. Michael Finley: 205
8. Patrick Tompkins: 181
9. Willie Simms: 176
10. Marcus Landry: 173 (45)

Player - Career Blocks (Season Total)

3. Mike Wilkinson - 117
4. Kurt Portmann - 102
5. Marcus Landry - 97 (33)

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