March 29, 2010

Recapping the season: The highlights

MADISON - For a Wisconsin team that many thought would finish in the lower quarter of the Big Ten standings, the 2009-10 season didn't turn out too bad.

Whether it was Trevon Hughes exploding for a personal 15-0 run against Green Bay or leading his team to victory with a hot shooting display at Northwestern, Jon Leuer reeling off several 20-point performances or Nankivil's seven 3-pointer at Purdue, there were plenty of highlights from the 2009-10 season.

Now, after a somewhat disheartening loss to Cornell put an earlier than expected stamp on the season, BadgerBlitz.com unveils part two of its continuing recapping the season feature. This time around, highlights and dominating performances are the focus.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

Impressive wins:

Riddle me this. What other team in the country can say they beat all five winners of the ACC and Big Ten conference in the same season?

Not many.

With wins over Duke and Maryland as well as Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, Wisconsin had racked up plenty of big wins that helped it earn a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

All five of those wins, some in dominating fashion and others down to the wire, proved the type of talent and capabilities this team had. Then, if you throw in wins over Arizona, Marquette and Summit League champion Oakland, UW had plenty of success.

Plus, that Duke win early in the season has to be one of the more memorable moments in Badger and Kohl Center history.



Dominating moments:

Hughes at Green Bay:

-Following the win over Duke, Wisconsin traveled north to Green Bay for an in-state rivalry game with the Phoenix. In that game, Green Bay shot the lights out inside the Resch Center and had Wisconsin on the ropes for the majority of the second half.

But then Hughes took over, much like he did a week earlier when he dropped 27 points on Duke in that monumental victory. At one point, Hughes literally willed the Badgers back into the game by scoring 15 straight points for UW. That performance will always stand out to me as one of the better individual efforts I have seen in person.

Hughes down the stretch at Northwestern:

-For most of the game, Hughes was held in check by the stifling length and zone Northwestern was defending with. In fact, Hughes hadn't made a shot midway through the second half and his team was trailing 42-39.

But, then, like he did on multiple occasions over his career, Hughes took over. During the final eight minutes of the contest, Hughes hit 5-of-6 shots, including three from distance, to help spark a late Badger run that translated to a 60-50 win.

"After the eight minute media timeout I told myself to stop shooting," Hughes, who finished that game with 16 points said. "But when I sat down my teammates kept on telling me to keep shooting."

Nankivil at Purdue:

In a game where the rest of team shot a miserable 31 percent from the floor, Keaton Nankivil stepped up in a huge way. By the end of the game, Nankivil had torched the Boilermakers for 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. As if that shooting performance wasn't already impressive, when you realize seven of those nine field goals came from downtown, your jaw simply drops.

In doing so, Nankivil kept Wisconsin in a game that eventually saw Hughes attempt a running jumper shot near the end of regulation that would have given the Badgers a huge win inside Mackey Arena.

Nonetheless, though the performance came in defeat, Nankivil's hot hand was one of the best individual efforts of the season.

Taylor down the stretch against Penn State:

Surprisingly, Wisconsin found itself down 16 points midway through a January contest to a Penn State squad that had yet to win a game in the Big Ten inside the Kohl Center. The shots just weren't falling for a team that suddenly became reliant on the 3-point shot after the injury to Jon Leuer.

Then, after the Badger roared back to cut that lead to three with just eight minutes left to play, Penn State showed it had plenty of gas left in its tank. Eventually, the Nittany Lions re-opened an eight-point lead with just over two minutes to play.

UW looked dead in the water.

Suddenly Taylor, a player mired in a deep slump that hadn't seen him score in a number of halves, got hot.

The sophomore guard dropped 16 points over the final two minutes of regulation and overtime and helped the Badgers roar back for an exciting win inside the Kohl Center.

"I finally got one to go down," Taylor said after the game. "I didn't hit a shot in three, almost four halves so I figured one had to go down eventually. One went down and I just tried to keep shooting."

Bohannon against Indiana:

In the midst of a hot streak that saw Bohannon shoot over 60 percent from the field and over 50 percent from downtown, the Badger senior guard decided to take it out on lowly Indiana inside the Kohl Center.

In fact, he copied Nankivil a bit along the way. Just four games after the junior forward hit seven threes in a game at Purdue, Bohannon drilled seven of his own against Indiana en route to scoring 30 points, a new career high.

"Shots felt good coming off my hand," Bohannon said following the 28-point win. "A lot of them were off second chance points where (Mike Bruesewitz) is getting a rebound, kicking it out and finding the open guy or Trevon Hughes penetrates, kicks it out and finds the open guy.

"Those are always the best shots when you get a pass from inside the paint to the outside."

Leuer over UW's final four games:

Down the stretch, especially in the post season, it seemed as though Jon Leuer was more refreshed than the rest of his teammates. Obviously, if there is any benefit from missing nine games in the middle of league play, it would be the ability to regain your legs.

In UW's final four games, against Illinois (twice), Wofford and Cornell, Leuer was playing great basketball. During those four games, Leuer averaged more than 19 points on 53 percent shooting from the field.

Against Wofford in the opening round of the tournament, Leuer hit crucial shots down the stretch and played every minute of the game. Then, against Cornell, Leuer was the only one that kept UW remotely in the game during the first half as he scored UW's first 12 before eventually finishing with 23.

Moving forward, Leuer will be a staple in the Badger offense. Should he make a similar leap in improvement this off-season, UW will have a legitimate next-level player on its roster to start next season.

Wilson against Michigan

With his team trailing by nine against a feisty Michigan squad midway through the second half, reserve guard Rob Wilson came off the bench and splashed a three that ignited a 13-4 run that helped the Badger eventually get back into the game and claw out a hard-fought 54-48 win over the Wolverines.

In total, the sophomore guard chipped in 13 points off the bench, most of which came in the second half.

"We see glimpses of that in practice," Hughes said of Wilson's performance. "We know he's a great player. Anytime he comes over to the main squad he doesn't bring it. It's about time. It took him all season for him to come out and play with us and we needed it.

"He brought it tonight."

Shout outs to…

-Jason Bohannon's half court heave at the halftime buzzer at Michigan.

-Keaton Nankivil's powerful dunk against Purdue after reeling in three offensive rebounds.

-Jordan Taylor and his knack for dishing the ball without turning it over.

-Trevon Hughes and his over-the-head backwards pass up court to Jordan Taylor at Penn State for a lay-up.

-Team defense that limited teams to less than 60 points per game for the season.

-Team discipline that helped the Badgers become the team with the least turnovers in all of college basketball

-Mike Bruesewitz and his offensive rebounding ability.

-Ryan Evans and his flat top hairstyle.

-The fans during the Duke and Michigan State games. They were easily the loudest games the Kohl Center has seen in quite some time.

Check back Tuesday for part three of BadgerBlitz.com's season recap. That feature will focus on the players returning to the roster in 2010-2011 and what they were able to accomplish during the past year.





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