That's the great, in a few months will be late, Alando Tucker's current career point total at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, second most all-time in the history of the men's basketball program to 11-year NBA veteran Michael Finley. Currently, he's just about 150 points shy of Finley's record. A-Tuck is set to crack the 2,000 point barrier on Saturday against Iowa (at a game where I and the very curly haired wife will hopefully be in attendance), and if he (hopefully, knock on wood) stays healthy and productive over the remainder of the season, he has a legitimate shot at becoming the highest scorer in UW basketball history.
Finley and Tucker are an odd pair. Both from the greater Chicago-land area, both semi-unheralded coming out of high school. Finley's the taller of the two, a legitimate 6'7", whereas A-Tuck can claim to be 6'6" after a full nine hours of sleep. While both players could be called "slashers" and both are phenomenal athletes, Michael's game veered more toward the perimeter. In particular, I remember his odd foot stance when he'd initiate a jump shot, with his feet angled outward in a "V" shape, instead of both directly pointed at the basket. It's fair to say that a lot of Michael's 2,100 odd points came from beyond the arc. Alando has gotten his points a bit more conventionally-- "slashing" yes, but often posting up opposing players, then flipping in highly contested jumpers, lay-ups and floaters from the paint. And getting fouled and heading to the line. Tucker's a high school power forward, who has tried, somewhat successfully I think, to develop into a three, and Michael was a natural three, who turned, quite successfully, into a two-guard. If Alando goes as late as Michael did in the draft, maybe they could play on the same team, and thus give me a legitimate incentive to care about an NBA franchise. This phenomenon occurred briefly when Devin and Finley were both on the Mavericks, but since Michael has moved to the Spurs, my interests were split and my attention to the pros has waned.
Alando threw in his 1,999th career point in a semi-testy 71-58 victory over Penn State in the Valley of Happiness yesterday evening. As the media reports (available via the links to my right) noted, this game was quite competitive, until a fun little series with about a dozen minutes left. Michael Flowers, perhaps attempting to put the lie to the "Wisconsin has no three-point shooters besides the guy who looks like Chris Rock" theory, hit two 3's, shortly after Bohannon hit a relatively deep 3-ball from the left side. Combined with one basket from the now-extinct Nittany Lions (they are extinct because "Nittany" refers to a local mountain range by State College--since there are apparently no longer mountain lions in that range, said lions are now extinct), this turned a one-point lead into an eight point advantage. A-Tuck then hit on two "old-style" three point plays while throwing in contested lay-ups, and there it is, a double-digit lead that we, as per usual, nursed until the final horn. Besides Alando ending up on 1,999, a few intriguing things about this game:
First, this was another game in which we're going up against a smaller team, and either do not try to, or cannot for whatever reason, take advantage of our superior height. Penn State started one guy, the Eastern European #41, who was 6'10". Another guy, the skinny white kid, played--he's 6'9" (if you saw the game, he's the guy who sort of dunked in the second half). No other player who saw the floor for PSU was taller than 6'6". You think this kind of situation would call for Chappell, or Butch, or the Stiemer (hereafter known as "CBS"), might stand near the basket, demand the ball up high, and try to throw it in. And to his credit, Butch tried to do this a bit, in his limited minutes (13). But the Stiemer never saw the floor, and Chappell never got the ball in the post, scoring only basket on a scrum after an offensive rebound. Perhaps this was due to the defense (a 2-3 zone nearly the entire time) making it difficult to post up as multiple players would swarm anyone in the post. A 2-3 appears to push teams toward taking outside shots. But for whatever reason, we did not try to exploit our size, and instead ended up matching PSU's smaller line-up with one of our own.
Second, Michael Flowers had a statistically fantastic game-- 12 points on 80% shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 foul, and zero turnovers in 35 minutes. He also played solid defense on PSU's best player and leading scorer, Geary Claxton, helping him into a 31% shooting night, and drawing his third foul (a charge) that put him on the bench for the majority of the first half. His 3 threes, and impressive drive to the basket for his other field goal, should help folks who are a bit concerned about the team's offense for next season, like myself, relax a bit.
Third, Joe Krabbenhoft, aka "the Hoft" needs to be more aggressive offensively. He's a fine defensive player, though he had a tough time with a hot Cornley, PSU's second best player, last night, hustles a lot, and rebounds well. But he's tentative offensively. Oftentimes we'll be working the ball around, probing like usual, and the ball will come to Joe, and I'll think "this is it, this is the good shot opportunity that we've been working towards." And way more often than not, Joe hesitates, then the moment's gone, and Joe looks to pass. This is a guy from South Dakota, who you know was the best player, hands down on his team, if not his whole state. I'm quite sure he knows how to score, or at least knows how to shoot. He just needs to accept open looks and take them without spending so much time thinking them over. I think the Hoft is a bit symptomatic of the main drawback of Bo's offense--not turning the ball over and taking good shots are such a priority that it can make guys overly tentative.
I think the team's really great players have managed to get over that. What I mean is that at some point in their development, the players under Bo who turned out to be excellent, like Devin and Wilkinson and Alando, valued the ball, but also managed to be aggressive offensively. Taylor's seemed to realize that this year (with his timely drives to the basket, which seem to draw fouls more often than not), and so has Flowers, to a lesser extent. I guess it takes time to incorporate all of Bo's lessons about protecting the ball, which would naturally tend to make one tentative on offense, and then relearn how to play smart, but aggressive offense while valuing the ball. Joe's in rhythm 3-ball made me feel better, as did, oddly, the charge he drew down low in the second half. I think he's starting to get it, and I think you'll see him become more and more comfortable and less tentative as this season continues.
Next up is Iowa on Saturday. It should actually be a tough game, as Hawky's been playing pretty well absent their frigid shooting night against us 11 days ago. And Haluska's got great hair for a white guy. I also saw this neat SI piece following the men's team around the day of the PSU game, for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.
I was going to comment on the Badger's football recruiting class, but given the length of this post, that will have to be saved for another day. I'll leave you with this link to a Cliff Christl article from the end of the 2005 season, anointing John Clay, the Racine running back and new Wisconsin signee, as one of the best running backs in state history.