Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Supporting cast produces winning streak

[media-credit name=’MEGHAN CONLIN/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]butchforreal_mc_416[/media-credit]"We can rebuild him. We have the technology." That is the famous line attached to the television series, "The Six Million Dollar Man."

When the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team went into their Jan. 18 game against Ohio State, the team, as players and fans knew it, was wrecked. It had lost three players, leaving the team in similar shape to Steve Austin after his plane crash.

Not all was lost, however, as every starter was still present and accounted for. The team could rebuild itself. It had the personnel.


The Badgers began to lean more and more heavily on the talents of star forward Alando Tucker and electric guard Kammron Taylor. The two juniors had been the conductors of the swing offense symphony up to that point, but now they were forced to pick up an instrument too.

Over the course of the next six games, the Badgers lost five contests. In all five defeats, Taylor and Tucker combined to score more than half of the team's points, three times picking up 63 percent or more of the scoring.

After a crushing upset at the hands of Purdue, however, things changed.

"It was a gut-check, for sure," sophomore forward Brian Butch said. "We knew we needed to make a statement … it put us in our place."

UW stopped trying to rebuild and simply focused on playing what the Badgers like to call "Wisconsin basketball."

So what exactly is playing "Wisconsin basketball?" According to the players, it's playing with confidence and as a team, not hinging success on the abilities of one of two players.

"Confidence in some of our guys [is much higher]," Tucker said. "You can see the kind of swagger that we walk out to the court with now. We actually had to go through the tough stretch to make us better, I believe."

"Guys are stepping up, and when they shoot they ball they feel like they are going to make the shot now."

Since the low point — and turning point — of losing to Purdue on the road, UW has won three straight, and in all three of the games, the supporting cast around Tucker and Taylor that had been so noticeably absent has played a major role. The twin offensive dynamos have not combined to score over half of Wisconsin's points in any of the games during the winning streak and haven't even been the top two scorers in any of the contests.

During the revival, senior Ray Nixon and Butch have made some of the biggest plays and are fast developing into the third and fourth consistent scorers the team has so desperately needed.

"It's definitely important," Taylor said, explaining that when opposing teams scout the Badgers, they now have to focus on multiple offensive threats, which wasn't the case during the losing streak.

In fact, two Big Ten coaches divulged that they had even resorted to playing a "Triangle and two" defense against UW, a tactic rarely seen in collegiate play. The strategy has two players guarded man-to-man while the rest of the defenders set up in a triangle around to basket, leaving much open space to the rest of the offensive players.

"Its definitely been key for us," Taylor said. "The last couple games we've been having other guys score, and that has taken the pressure off of [Tucker and I]."

Nixon has emerged as a solid offensive option, playing more aggressively on the scoring end than he has at any time in his career.

"Ray Nixon, he's hitting big shots," Taylor said. "I really think he's stepped his game up these last couple games. He's a senior, and now he's starting to show that senior leadership."

Butch has also stepped up his game significantly. After being hobbled in the Ohio State game that started the slide, Butch was a non-factor in several of the Wisconsin losses. However, since sitting out most of the blowout win over Indiana, Butch has begun to play at the level he was recruited to play at, when he was one of the most sought after prep-stars in the nation.

"He's very important; he gives us a presence down low," Taylor said. "When you have a presence down low, it helps out the perimeter guys."

Although Jason Chappell hasn't put up buckets of points, his play has also taken a turn for the better. He netted a career-high seven assists to go along with nine rebounds at Penn State and corralled an additional seven boards versus Ohio State.

"At times during that stretch he didn't even look to shoot it, he wasn't even a threat," Tucker said. "But now, he just does a lot of other things. He doesn't worry about going out and scoring 10 or 15 points a game … He's not looking to score. That's one thing Jason never did. He's looking to just do anything he can to help us on defense and offense."

According to Taylor, even Ryan has lifted up his game to bring the Badgers back to the front of the Big Ten.

"With all the things that have gone on with our team this year, with guys leaving and other off the court issues, he has definitely stepped up his coaching and got the players to step up their game and raise their game to another level," Taylor said. "This is definitely one of his best coaching jobs since he's been here."

With the rebirth of the balanced Badger attack, Tucker, Taylor and their supporting cast are reveling in the position they find themselves in, proving doubters who said Wisconsin was in a rebuilding year wrong.

"I know a lot of people were writing us off in the beginning of the year, but once again Wisconsin is up there with the top teams," Taylor said.

They never had to be rebuilt at all; they just had to find the chemistry.

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