Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Badgers open season on writing note

The Wisconsin Badgers opened their regular season by winning the 2002 NABC Classic Tournament defeating Northern Illinois 84-56 at the Kohl Center Saturday. The Badgers faced Eastern Washington Friday, moving past the Eagles 81-55 on their way to Saturday’s championship game. The Badger victories have earned their team its first 2-0 start since the 1998-1999 season.

In Saturday’s championship game, the Badgers got off to a slow start but were energized by sixth-man Alando Tucker’s emergence off the bench. Tucker entered the game three minutes in and consistently moved to the basket, making strong slashing moves to the hoop. The freshman took care of his first-game jitters to lead the Badgers with nine points at the break.

“You’re so anxious for the first game, my first game,” Tucker said. “Coach told me to just play my game, just come out there energized, contribute where I could, and don’t try to do too much.”

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Senior Kirk Penney continued to dazzle the Kohl Center crowd, using quick penetration into the lane to score and draw fouls. Penney also hit the boards, finishing the game second on team with seven rebounds while junior Dave Mader recorded eight rebounds in only 15minutes of playing time.

The Badgers capitalized on six Northern Illinois turnovers in the final nine-and-a-half minutes of the first half to key an 18-7 scoring run with the Badgers taking a 15point lead into the break, 35-20.

“We put a nice streak together,” head coach Bo Ryan said. “They telegraphed a couple passes, and we took advantage of that.”

The Huskies opened the second half with a full court press while the Badgers ran off a 17-4 scoring run behind the offense of Freddie Owens and never looked back. Owens used his quick dribble and left-handed advantage to spark the run, making good use of the spin move and finishing strongly. Owens, who was awarded the tournament-MVP award, finished the game tied with Penney for the team scoring lead with 19 points.

“When [Northern Illinois] stepped up the pressure a little bit, we answered it,” Ryan said. “When we did attack, we got them stretched out and got some good shots and had some good finishes at the rim.”

The Badgers only finished with 11 assists as a team against the Huskies, but coach Ryan did not see the statistic as cause for much concern.

“It all depends on how a team is playing,” Ryan said. “If [the opposition] is overplaying the wings or really pressuring the ball, you put the ball on the floor. There’s not going to be an assist on that. It looks bad, under other circumstances, but by the way [the Huskies] were playing defense that’s okay.”

Marcus Smallwood and Eugene Bates carried the scoring load for the Huskies, contributing 13 and 11 points apiece. Northern Illinois defeated Winthrop 56-50 in the first game of the tournament on Friday to move onto Saturday’s championship.

“I spent five years in the Big Ten, and that’s a team that can compete at the top of that league,” Huskies head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “They have a lot of pieces. I really like the way Harris and obviously Owens played tonight. You need to have good guards in the Big Ten, and they have guards that have size. [The Badgers] have a go to guy in Kirk Penney and a lot of pieces that are all there.”

Friday, the Badgers used a 17-4 run to end the first half to beat a more experienced Eastern Washington team, 81-55. The Badgers moved to a smaller lineup in the last six minutes of the first half, with forward Mike Wilkinson being the only big man, to push the ball and out run the opposition.

“It’s similar to how we played last year when we put Kirk at the four,” Devin Harris said. “It’s just basically a quicker lineup out there. It just makes it easier on me and the other point guards if we have four guys out there who can handle the ball.”

Harris finished the game with 14 points, five assists and four steals, leading the Badgers at the point, spreading the ball around as the Badgers had four players in double-figure scoring. Penney led the way for the Badgers with 25 points and seven rebounds, while Owens and Wilkinson chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively.

Both Penney and Owens were named to the All-Tournament team, while Owens won the tournament-MVP award. Both players led ferociously on offense, moving to the basket with power and authority, and looked quicker and stronger than most of the opposition. Owens played particularly well on the defensive end, being handed the toughest defensive assignments each night.

“We still know we have improvement that is to be made,” Penney said. “We got a lot of guys in there and got a lot of them to contribute, so it’s a good starting point for us.”

The Badgers look to continue their winning ways as they host in-state rival UW-Milwaukee next Saturday night at the Kohl Center.

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