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Young reserves step off bench, out of shadows on Saturday

first_imgMILWAUKEE — The students showed up really early, but Marquette’s guards didn’t wake up until it was too late. In front of a record crowd of 19,020 at the Bradley Center– the largest to ever watch a college basketball game in Wisconsin — the No. 11-ranked Badgers held off the No. 17 Golden Eagles 70-66 in the latest installment of the bitterest Dairy State rivalry.”If it wasn’t such a big deal, it wouldn’t hurt so much,” Marquette head coach Tom Crean said after his team’s loss.Senior forward Alando Tucker was dominant for Wisconsin (9-1, 0-0 Big Ten), pouring in a season-high 28 points on efficient 13-of-22 shooting — dipping, dunking and driving around a Marquette (9-2, 0-0 Big East) team that at times looked helpless to stop the Wooden Award candidate. “We just kept feeding the ball to Tucker because he had the hot hand,” senior guard Kammron Taylor said. “Tucker was hot, and he carried us.” “We didn’t do a very good job at all guarding his dribble,” Crean said. “It’s hard to guard him. He made big plays.”The 113th meeting between the two schools, located just over an hour apart from each other, may have been the most anticipated ever. Marquette students showed up at the Bradley Center at 6 p.m. Friday night to wait in line for seats that were handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis, braving single-digit temperatures overnight. At about 8 a.m. those souls who were still in line were let into the arena by Crean, allowing the students to watch the teams shoot around — as well as watch “Dumb and Dumber” on the arena’s video board. The students responded appreciatively, creating an extremely hostile atmosphere as the students and band combined to create a cacophony of noise that UW hadn’t had to deal with all season. “Their crowd was ready in warmups,” Tucker said. “There was no doubt about that. They were going to bring their energy and intensity and we just had to keep our composure.” “Both schools had a great crowd; it was a fantastic atmosphere,” Crean said. Wisconsin appeared to have some early jitters in their first true road game of the season, turning the ball over on three of their first eight possessions and falling down 7-2 by the first media timeout. “Early we got a little anxious, I think,” Tucker said. However, the Badgers responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead with 13:55 left in the first half — a lead they would never relinquish. In fact, in the second half, Marquette never drew closer than four points. Much of that was due to Wisconsin’s superior defense on the much-ballyhooed Golden Eagle guards. In the first half, Marquette’s Dominic James and Jerel McNeal combined to shoot 2-13 from the field, and while Wesley Matthews had seven points, he would only tally two more points the rest of the game. “It was a matter of frustration,” said McNeal. “It was a matter of us moving the ball and getting the shots that we wanted, especially in the first half. It’s hard playing from behind, especially in the second half against a good team.””We stressed it all week, [that] it was going to be a team effort [stopping the guards],” Taylor said. “It was just a team effort. A lot of credit probably goes to Mike Flowers, who’s probably our best defender.”Marquette’s perimeter players picked it up in the second half, however, and in a big way. James hit eight of his 11 shots for 17 points, finishing with 19 points overall. And when the Golden Eagles made their last gasp run with time running down, it was keyed by McNeal, who scored 14 points in the final 7:04.”You’re not going to stop a team like Marquette … James gets hotter a little sooner, we might be already on the way back (to Madison), on the right-hand side,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said.With 1:45 left in the game, McNeal stripped Taylor at midcourt and took it all the way for an easy dunk, making the score 62-58 and forcing Ryan to call a timeout. After the teams returned to the court, Tucker once again put the team on his shoulders.Tucker took the ensuing inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast to put Wisconsin back up six. Tucker then added another layup on the next possession to put UW up seven, all but sealing the game. “I was going to make them foul me, or I was going to score,” Tucker said. “I’ve seen a lot of good things that he’s done over the years,” Ryan said. “He answered the bell.”It was Tucker’s fifth and final game against Marquette (barring a post-season tournament matchup) and he saved his best for last. “We played a ranked opponent that is a great team,” Tucker said. “It shows a sign to me that the team is maturing, that Wisconsin is maturing as a program.”last_img

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