March 16, 2010

UW senior guards key for tourney success

MADISON - When Trevon Hughes was asked about the game film from last Friday's loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals it didn't take long for him to respond.

"You have to look back on that game and we have to get better," Hughes said. "You have to watch the good and the bad. That was ugly.

"We know what we've got to do."

Essentially, after participating in a game where his team shot a miserable 18.2 percent from the field in the opening half, Hughes used a perfect word to describe that opening 20-minute performance.

Ugly.

If somebody would have said Hughes and fellow senior Jason Bohannon would combine to shoot 0-for-13 in the first half-a number that ballooned to 0-for-18 before one of the senior guards hit a shot-the person listening probably would have been hard pressed to believe them.

Senior guards are supposed to show up in big games and guide the team to victory. Senior guards are supposed to hit the shots when things aren't going well. They are supposed to defend, create opportunities for teammates and will a team to victory.

It's essentially how one defines the word leader in relations to his mindset on the hardwood.

As that game wore on UW eventually scratched and clawed its way back into contention in a game that looked about as bleak as a cold Wisconsin winter night is a welcome sign. Most of that credit can be handed to the senior guards who finally got hot offensively and created things through defensive pressure.

But looking back at the game film, one thing jumps out more than anything else.

"Shot selection basically," Hughes said. "Stick to the game plan and stop straggling off a little bit and just maintain the focus for all 40 minutes."

Now, as the team prepares to open NCAA play against a first-time tournament darling in Wofford, the next 40 minutes could be the last of a season that has featured many highs and only a few lows.

Another putrid shooting performance and this team could bow out of the tournament almost as quickly as it started it.

But with a pair of senior guards in Hughes and Bohannon-two players that brought the team to where it currently resides as a No. 4 seed-conducting the train, UW head coach Bo Ryan is comfortable in his team's chances to make a run.

"That always gives you a pretty good chance," Ryan quipped about having two senior guards. "You take all the percentages and say what is it in tournaments? Guard play is extremely important, rebounding and defense will give you the best chance to stay alive.

"Then you've got to have some players who are shooting at a pretty good percentage."

With Jon Leuer back in the lineup and Keaton Nankivil playing at a higher level after picking up the void left when Leuer was injured, Wisconsin has a couple of frontcourt players that can both rebound and score.

With Hughes and Bohannon running the show, along with sophomore Jordan Taylor, UW has a few guards more than capable of driving this train deep into the tournament.

Throw in a couple of energetic wing players like Ryan Evans, Tim Jarmusz and Mike Bruesewitz, along with a sweet shooting Rob Wilson and the Badgers depth is solid as well.

But as is usually the case, this team will only go as far as the senior guards will take them.

"If you just take a look over the years, I know there is a lot of people that subscribe to the theory that talent is really important," Ryan said. "But that's not always true. You need defense to keep you in it and you need some players to get hot offensively. I haven't seen a team advance without a combination of those things.

"We've got senior leadership and we've got some guys that can potentially be very hot in a game and score at a high rate of efficiency.

"I like this group and I can't wait to get into the NCAA tournament with this group. We've just got to get it done between the lines."



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