Three-for-all: UW wins record 26th
JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo
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by Dave McGrath
Monday, February 19, 2007
The Wisconsin men's basketball team might be currently ranked No. 3 and may soon jump to No. 2, but in the annals of UW history this team will go down as No. 1. With Saturday's 75-49 victory over Penn State at the Kohl Center, the Badgers picked up their school-record 26th win of the season, improving to 26-2 (11-2 Big Ten).
"I'm so happy for these guys," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "It's a heck of an accomplishment what these guys have done to this point. … Give credit to these guys."
Senior Wooden Award candidate Alando Tucker again led the way for the Badgers with 22 points for his sixth consecutive 20-plus point game. Tucker also paced the team with six rebounds. Senior guard Kammron Taylor (18) and freshman Jason Bohannon (11) also scored in double figures for UW, while Geary Claxton's 15 points were the team-high for Penn State (10-15, 1-11 Big Ten).
Wisconsin's record-setting 26th win was won with a decidedly different blueprint, as the Badgers made a season-high 52 percent of their 3's — tying a season high set against Gardner-Webb with 12 makes — and set a season-low for free throws attempted, only stepping to the charity stripe 15 times.
The perimeter explosion came from several sources as Tucker, Taylor and Bohannon all made at least three treys.
"When they do that and they can score around the basket so well, they are really hard to stop," Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis said. "It's a double-edged sword."
It has become a common theme this season: a TBA player stepping up and providing UW with a third scoring option. Saturday it was Bohannon, who scored a career-best 11 points, hitting 3-of-4 from the outside, also dishing off a pair of assists and playing solid defense.
"Unbelievable," Tucker said of Bohannon's performance. "We see it all the time in practice. … It's nothing new to us — we just were waiting for him to get in his groove."
The Badgers were able to pull away early and take an 11-point lead into the half on the strength of their deft perimeter shooting and Penn State's generosity with the ball, as the Nittany Lions committed 12 turnovers in the opening stanza.
"Well, we had 18 turnovers in the game; that is hard," DeChellis said. "I don't think it was anything special, we just weren't good with the ball. You can't come on the road and turn it over 18 times and not get any good shots."
Penn State actually matched Wisconsin three for three early on, hitting 5-of-9 perimeter shots in the first half against UW's 7-of-12. However, while Wisconsin's hot shooting persevered, the Nittany Lions weren't able to keep it up, misfiring on all six of their second half 3-point attempts.
Making the Badger's first half lead even more impressive was that the team had managed to build the advantage despite a slow first half from Tucker, who was just 1-of-6 from the field with just six points to his name.
"I knew coming into the second half that I couldn't have a worse half than I had," Tucker said. "It kind of renewed my confidence."
The senior came alive in the second half, however, hitting on 7-of-9 shots and putting up 16 points, sparking the Badgers to pull away.
"Tucker is obviously a very good player," DeChellis said. "He made some shots in the second half, got some rolls to go, and felt a little better about himself and that got the team going."
"[My teammates] come to me and they always tell me to lead the team, and that's what I did," Tucker said. "I let everything slow down, and I started taking the shots that I wanted."
While players expressed feelings of pride at becoming the "winningest" team in UW history, they also made it clear that the team had more yet to accomplish.
"I keep telling our seniors that we don't want to stop here," Tucker said. "We've just broken the tip of the iceberg."
"We have a heck of a lot more we'd like to do," Ryan said.
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