December 3, 2009

Against Duke, Hughes elevated game to elite status

MADISON - Over the course of his career, Wisconsin senior guard Trevon Hughes has had flashes of greatness.

Immediately, games against Virginia Tech in 2008, Florida State in the NCAA tournament and Ohio State in 2009 come to mind as games where he literally willed his team to win.

But on Wednesday night, against one of the most recognizable and well-respected basketball institutions in the country, Hughes was better than great. He was elite. And it didn't go unnoticed.

Then again, how could it?

"He played in a game against us a couple of years ago that in the grand scheme of things doesn't mean that much," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said following Hughes' 26-point, two assist and zero turnover effort against the Blue Devils. "I thought he was good then. Now he's two years older and he's really good.

"He's a damn good player."

Considering Krzyzewski's credentials as a coach, that is some fairly high praise. It would be far fetched for him to say that about any player for no good reason. Hughes dominated UW's 73-69 win at times. He made incredibly difficult shots look easy by shooting with an eloquent touch that barely moved the net when it went through the rim.

He answered Kyle Singler's first half showcase with a 19-point second half outburst himself. He played with a confidence and poise that any senior leader should.

It was evident he was coming to play against one of the nation's best.

"It felt good," Hughes said after the game. "But it was a team effort. Without these guys I don't think we could have gotten it done. We needed this win, that marquee win to get us going."

Obviously Hughes was quick to point out his teammates following such an emotional win and rightfully so. But as much as Hughes needed them, they relied on him that much more.

As a senior, he simply put together his best performance to date in one of the biggest games of his career, especially when it comes to non-conference tilts. And with the help of fellow leading scorer Jon Leuer, who chipped in 17 points, UW was able to elevate their play.

"When you have two veterans who are really good players playing like that," Krzyzewski said. "The other guys play better. They just play better. They were very, very good. We lost to a team that played, I thought, an outstanding game.

"It's a night where Wisconsin fans should feel pretty darn good because they should feel pretty proud of their basketball team."

Perhaps the most incredible and telling statistic of Hughes' night was the way he took care of the ball. In playing 38 minutes against a team known for incredible pressure defense, Hughes did not commit one turnover.

He ran the offense, made crisp and smart decisions with the rock and set his teammates up for success. He was the court general the team needed, and it's something that can be built upon as the calendar continues to draw closer to the opening of Big Ten play.

"Experience, being there before, especially playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium, I just felt like I can't get rattled," Hughes said after the game. "I'm a senior now and if I look like I'm rattled maybe my teammates won't believe in me or have trust in me. So I had to stay calm, especially playing against Duke, because they are fueled off fear. They can sense it, I think."

For one night at least, the Badgers did away with any fear. And it started with the man in charge of running the offense.

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