March 8, 2009

UW caps regular season against Indiana

MADISON, Wis. - A combined 376 career games played, 138 starts, a regular season conference crown and Big Ten tournament championship will all be celebrated later today as four Wisconsin seniors will take to the Kohl Center court one final time.

When Indiana, the Big Ten's last place team, comes to town, Marcus Landry, Joe Krabenhoft, Kevin Gullikson and Morris Cain will have one more opportunity to get a win where winning has become almost second nature.

But after a loss to Minnesota earlier this week, the game against the Hoosiers has great implications in regards to prolonging the four seniors' careers even more. With a win, the Badgers will secure the four seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament.

"Very important," Landry said. "Since I've been here, every senior that I've known on senior day has gone out with a win. It wouldn't be right if I didn't go out with one. It's real important to me."

The Hoosiers, who only have one conference win to this point, have nothing more to play for than pride. And under the helm of Tom Crean, it would be safe to assume the Badgers will be in for a dogfight.

Earlier in the week, Indiana took Michigan State, the regular season conference champions, to the wire before eventually losing by five.

"It's the next came and it's the most important one," Krabbenhoft said. "Of course it would be nice to go out in front of the home crowd in style and in fashion and that's the way we plan on doing it. We just have to go out and execute."

Both Devan Dumes (12.7) and Verdell Jones III (10.1) average double-digit scoring with fellow teammate Tom Pritchard nipping at their heels with 9.9 points per game.

Over its past two games, IU has lost by a combined eight points in losses to Penn State and MSU. The Hoosiers are starting to play better basketball as the season starts to conclude.

While Indiana has no hope, other than winning the Big Ten tournament, of getting into postseason play, the Badgers have everything on the line as one of the nations bubble teams. Needless to say, today's game is a must win for UW.

"I don't feel pressure because I feel the same way I do going into every game," Krabbenhoft said. "That there's a target on our backs, we're the defending champs and we've got to go out and prove it. We've been up and down this year and we want to finish up.

"That means winning the ball game."

Earlier this season, Indiana played UW tough in the first half and only trailed by one point at the break. However, behind 21 points from Trevon Hughes and a career high 18 from Krabbenhoft, the Badgers pulled away and eventually won by 17 points.

On senior day at the Kohl Center, one would think much of the same could be in order.

"It's kind of hard to get caught up in those things," Landry said. "For the simple fact that the year has not been the way we wanted it to have been. Now we are at the point that we have to prove ourselves worthy.

"We have to prove it to everybody else and we have to prove it to ourselves more importantly that we can play and that we are better than what we have shown."

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