March 13, 2010

Good, bad and ugly from Illinois loss

INDIANAPOLIS - When looking at the stat sheet for Wisconsin's quarterfinal loss to Illinois, the shooting misfortune the Badgers endured immediately jumps out. But other than the most obvious flaw in that loss, there were a number of other shortcomings that eventually doomed the Badgers in the Big Ten Tournament.

Now, as UW awaits its fate for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, takes a look back at the good, bad and ugly from Friday's loss.


The comeback:

When D.J. Richardson hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock buzzer sounding to put Illinois up 46-30, everything hinted towards an easy Illini win. Unfortunately for Illinois, somebody forgot to tell the Badgers that.

"I think we always feel like we have a chance," UW sophomore guard Jordan Taylor said following the loss. "Even when we're down 16 with seven minutes or whatever. Trevon Hughes hit some big shots and obviously we got the crowd and our bench behind us. We got some energy, but we just couldn't pull it out in the end.

"I think we waited too long to get desperate."

Taylor started the Badger run with a long-range bomb and Jason Bohannon echoed the sentiment with a three of his own to cut the Illini lead to 10 with just less than five minutes to play.

Following a couple of treys, Jon Leuer hit a 12-footer to cut the lead to eight. Only then did Demetri McCamey drill a desperation three at the shot clock buzzer to give the Illini another double-digit lead.

"You give a player credit if he gets things done," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "We still tried to do some things to disrupt him and still tried to do some things to get him to turn the ball over. He had eight assists, he gave the ball up and didn't force a lot of shots.

"I thought he was well within his game. He played within himself. Maybe he didn't do that on Sunday. I don't know, I can only coach one team."

Even after that desperation make, Wisconsin stayed relentless on the attack and that helped Hughes get hot. Trailing by 12 with just less than two minutes to play, Hughes drilled a three from the wing.

After Mike Tisdale only hit one of two free throws, Hughes repeated the same thing with a deep bomb to cut the lead to seven. UW got the ball back following a defensive stop before Leuer hit one of two free throws to make it a six-point edge.

Then, as was the case a number of times in the second half, Illinois seemed to put it away. After Leuer's second miss, McCamey led a fast break and dished to Mike Davis who finished and hit an and one to open Illinois' lead back to nine.

But then Hughes got it going again. On UW's next possession, the senior guard banked in a three from the top of the key to cut it to six. Following a Bill Cole turnover, Hughes drilled another three from the top of the key.

With all momentum on its side, it seemed like UW was going to pull off a miraculous comeback. When Jeff Jordan only connected on one of two shots, UW's Jason Bohannon had an open look to tie the game with approximately 15 seconds left, but it came up short.

Illinois got the rebound and hit one of two free throws to seal the much more dramatic finish than most anyone saw coming.

"I thought it was Michigan State all over from two years ago," Ryan said. "I really thought that once we got it down that we could close that. Sometimes the other team is on their heels and get a little tentative. They didn't. They took care of the ball."


Start of the second half:

Down only nine points after shooting 18 percent from the field in the first half, Wisconsin had an opportunity to cut into the Illini lead early in the second half and really set the tempo for the remainder of the game.

Instead, UW started off the frame missing its first six shots. Four of those six shots occurred before Illinois scored any points in the half. There was a window there for the Badgers to get right back into the game and dictate the tempo of the second half.

Instead, Illinois opened up a double-digit lead that it didn't give up until much later in the game.

"It's tough," Bohannon said. "They missed some shots and we played some good defense. Going back the other way we got some good looks, they just weren't falling easier. Anytime you're on the defensive end and get some stops, you've got to make them pay on offense. We didn't do that tonight.

"That really cost us."

Not capitalizing on turnovers:

If somebody had said the Illini were to cough up the ball 17 times and still manage to beat Wisconsin, you probably would have thought they were crazy. But that is exactly what happened.

The Badgers only mustered 13 points off 17 Illinois turnovers and never really made the Illini pay for being so careless with the ball. A bucket more here or there during that stretch would have paved the way for a much different outcome.

But when the entire team is struggling to find ways to score the ball, what else can you do?

"What did they end up with, 17 turnovers?" Ryan quipped. "Come on. You put a team into that position with a difference of 12, you've got to be on the other side of that. When you're not you lick your wounds and go to next."


Senior struggles:

Friday's game might have been a first for UW under Bo Ryan. Both senior guards, the two players that have unquestionably carried this Badger team throughout the season and their careers, were completely off.

In fact, Bohannon and Hughes were so off that it took until the combined 19th shot between the two for one of them to score a basket from the field. Granted, Hughes' heroics down the stretch were a main catalyst in the Badger comeback bid that fell short, but would UW have even been in that situation if either one had hit shots on a regular basis during the game.

Hughes finished the game 4-of-16 from the field and all four of his field goals came in the final minutes of the game.

Bohannon finished 1-of-10 from the field in one of his worst shooting games of his career.

Hopefully for Badger fans, coaches and players alike, Friday's cold shooting display got out of the team's system.

"As poorly as our seniors shot the ball, they were still the ones that were igniting some good things that were happening," Ryan said. "So their leadership was still being exhibited with our full court pressure and trying to get them to make some tough decisions.

"We did."

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