Friday, January 11, 2008

Overly Close?

Wisco's ten point victory over the Fightin' Fibs was fraught with a little too much drama for me. Illinois has been in a bit of a swoon, which is attributable to a temporary (unfortunately) dearth of talent and some injury problems. As a brief aside, their recent struggles are not due to coaching or some other problem. I may dislike (intensely) the University of Illinois, but Weber is a native son of Wisconsin and a fine, fine coach.

Anyhoo, since the Illini had been struggling (losing to Penn State and Miami of Ohio at home) the hope was for the Badgers to deliver a semi-serious beatdown. But it was not to be, at least not until about four minutes were left in the game. Though Wisconsin had several leads of 8 or more points, Illinois played a plucky game, with guys like Trent Meacham and Calvin Brock hitting bit shots. Plus, Wisconsin had two serious issues that kept Illinois in the game: the Hoft and Flowers got into foul trouble; and Bucky got beat, badly, on the boards.

Flowers and Krabby are the teams' two best defenders and its secondary and tertiary ballhandlers. They're probably the two headiest players on the team, and two huge leaders. So understandably, if you go back and watch, Illinois made their runs toward leveling the score when Michael and Joe were out of the game. Neither guy fouled out, but both got two whistles quite quickly and sat a large chunk of both halves; Michael got four pretty early as well.

Krabby's absence exacerbated the second issue-- a poor rebounding performance. Joe is one of the best rebounding guards (if you can call him a guard) in the nation, and probably the second best rebounder on the team, after Butch. But even when he was in the game, Bucky just got straight out beat on the boards, in embarrassing fashion, something that hasn't happened in quite a while. The stats bear this out-- Illinois missed 34 field goals, and the Badgers only garnered 20 boards. That means Illinois got 40% of its own misses. Conversely, the Badgers missed 23 field goals, but pulled down only 4 offensive boards, getting less than 20% of its missed shots. Those are terrible percentage to give up. And what's odd about this, is that the Badgers have been one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. Their calling cards have been playing good defense and holding teams to one shot, and following their own misses to get second chance points. Maybe they missed the physicality that Gullickson could have provided, had he not been benched for underage drinking (only six more weeks to 21, Kev).

I guess it was good that the Badgers could fail to do something that they've been doing well all season and still come out with a win. That seemed to be due to three things-- they shot very well, over 50% for the game, Hughes especially nailing jumper after jumper; they continued to play solid defense, though they didn't rebound well; and they didn't turn the ball over-- only 9 times on the game. The shooting percentage and the turnovers are impressive stats considering that Illinois is a solid defensive team. Butch's performance (16 points) was impressive as well, coming against Illinois center Shaun Pruitt in large part, who was the best returning low post threat in the league.

Also, as the media has made clear, this was definitely Hughes' best game of the year. He had six steals, shot lights out, made several great passes and played under control,
giving up only two TOs, one of which was Butch's fault. Plus, he played a ton of minutes with Flowers in foul trouble. It was interesting to hear Weber, after the game, differentiate between Hughes and the rest of the Badger team, talent-wise. He said something like "Hughes has what we're missing, and the rest of the guys are just good, solid college players."

1 comment:

Papa Sal said...

The win doesn't look so bad after seeing the Hoosiers struggle against Illinois at home alspo.