Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Streak’s legacy lives on

[media-credit name=’Ben Smidt/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]izzotom_bs_416[/media-credit]In the immediate aftermath of Wisconsin’s Tuesday night loss to top-ranked Illinois, the buzz from within the Kohl Center raged as the underbelly of the arena teemed with reporters.

With questions of national import abounding, pundits speculated on a number of issues: How did the Illini succeed where so many had failed? What will this result mean for the greater Big Ten picture? And, last but not least, can anyone halt the Illinois juggernaut?

During the game, however, the candor proved much more homogenized.


“What?” “Huh?” “Come again?”

As the cardinal and white faithful arrived Tuesday night sporting a more-than-usual frenzied demeanor, a deafening roar settled over the building and scarcely subdued until the final minute of play.

As the combined voices of 17,000 penetrated the air, analysts huddled together, technicians adjusted their equipment and point men screamed orders to their teammates. Even the boisterous Dick Vitale couldn’t elevate beyond an inaudible murmur.

In fact, had a bomb gone off in some emptied corridor during the heat of action, John Ashcroft likely still wouldn’t know about it.

In a word, the atmosphere from within the Kohl Center that fateful night was absolutely, and unquestionably, raucous.

Even though the streak has now become a thing of memory, Badger players and fans can take comfort in the fact it took perhaps the most dangerous college basketball team of this young century over 38-and-a-half minutes to bring it to an end. Furthermore, if Illinois’ path winds toward a national championship — or possibly through the first undefeated season since the 1976 Hoosiers — let the Kohl Center be remembered as a critical impasse.

Now, although I’m fundamentally opposed to sports columns that stray from the path of, well, analyzing sports, I can think of no better occasion to do so. Contained below is a list of my all-time favorite streak moments. May it spark a few memories of your own.

Dec. 11, 2002: I must say, among all of the state slogans some civil genius might dream up, nothing could ever top New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die.” On that note, it seems logical that if one sought to find the New Hampshire Wildcats squad the Badgers locked down in Madison two years ago, six feet under might be a good place to start.

In a game in which nine Wisconsin players registered double-digit minutes, the Badgers walked into halftime with a 49-16 lead. With the prospect of a good basketball game already annihilated by that point, the bored fans required something else to maintain attention. A certain group of juniors in the lower deck — noticing the Wildcats’ horribly sloppy play — resolved afterward to watch the game on the replay broadcast and take a shot for every NHU turnover, all 25 of them.

I don’t remember what happened after that.

March 5, 2003: To this very day, the grudge match between Wisconsin and Illinois to close out the 2002-03 regular season shines through as the finest Badger State exhibition in recent memory. To the victor went a Big Ten title and bragging rights for another year. Eventually the night saw a Wisconsin win, but not before voiding the warranties on a few pacemakers.

Who could forget the final minute? Not I, and certainly not my Illini compatriots in town for the evening. After reviewing the foul drawn by point guard Devin Harris with 0:00.4 left on the game clock at least 15 times, I’m absolutely positive the Wisconsin star scripted that whole finish. Free-throw shooters of that caliber never miss on the title-winner — Harris knew the importance of a second shot.

Jan. 10, 2004: Some folks say Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has a penchant for bellyaching. Some folks would be right.

While many didn’t realize it at the time, due to the horrific funk the Spartans were in coming out of their non-conference schedule, the Wisconsin-Michigan State matchup carried great importance. Well, Izzo knew — the grumbling helmsman was in rare form that night.

Over the course of play, the Spartans committed 27 fouls (Izzo hotly contested all but maybe two). Although the Badgers largely failed to capitalize on the Spartans’ overly physical play — shooting just 24-for-35 from the charity stripe — Izzo’s responses drew the ire of the Kohl Center crowd, which hit a roar toward the middle of the opening stanza.

The Wisconsin players fed off the energy and took control of the game with a 15-3 run to close the half as the Badgers rolled to hand Izzo his third of six-straight losses during the Ryan administration.

Feb. 4, 2004: In the one-man-band performance of the year, Harris poured in 38 points (shooting 10-for-12 from the field, 5-for-7 from the arc and 13-for-14 from the line) as Wisconsin sailed past Minnesota in an otherwise uneventful game. With the Badgers atop the conference standings and the Golden Gophers firmly occupying the cellar, few paid any attention until stars Harris and Minnesota center Kris Humpries locked horns in a scoring duel.

Now, how, exactly, a player scores 38 points in the swing offense I’m not sure. I guess hardly ever missing can’t hurt. Whatever the case, Harris pulled it off that night — Humphries, on the other hand, finished with a sorry 24.

Jan. 11, 2005: I would be remiss not to give Ohio State head coach Thad Matta credit for the Buckeyes’ impressive turnaround this year. However, when Matta and his squad took the court in the Badgers’ Big Ten home opener, something else caught my eye. One of Matta’s assistants arose from his seat on the Buckeyes’ opening possession with a dry-erase board that read “16-hickory-split” (or something equally ridiculous).

At first I wasn’t sure if the coach was trying to call a play or just ordering a drink. I turned to Cardinal basketball writer and columnist Eric Schmoldt to see him equally perplexed. For the remainder of the game, Schmoldt and I proceeded to try to crack Matta’s code, with limited success. Anyway, the match surprisingly turned into a rather good game, with Wilkinson’s career-high 29 points sealing the deal for Wisconsin.

Well, all good things must come to an end, but at least the Badgers made it such an end. Despite the loss, the Kohl Center remains one of the more daunting destinations in all of college basketball — this one blemish can’t taint that legacy.

So let’s raise a glass to the old streak fallen, to the new one beginning and all future ones to come.

And, as always … On Wisconsin.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *