14 January 2010

Recap: Wisconsin 60 Northwestern 50

Wisconsin (14-3, 4-1 Big Ten) won a battle of wills against Northwestern (12-4, 1-3) down the stretch of last night's game at the Welsh. During a pivotal second half stretch NU failed to capitalize on Wisconsin's cold shooting and stretch a narrow lead. UW's stout defense played a part in that, but even Bo Ryan can't impose his indomitable will when opponents reach the charity stripe. And NU inexplicably failed on several occasions to knock down the freebies that would have netted NU some valuable breathing room. NU made 9-16 FTs which really, really hurt NU's chances at victory.

As predicted this was a slow paced brute of a game -- right up Wisconsin's alley -- that was close until the final two minutes. Northwestern's Jeremy Nash and Luka Mirkovic pace NU early as Wisconsin deployed their defensive forces along the perimeter and in John Shurna's general direction. Jason Bohannon stepped it up for Wisconsin to help keep the Badgers in the game and send the teams knotted at 27 points a piece at halftime.

The second half was a slug fest with neither team able to escape suffocating defenses for any appreciably length of time. Down the stretch Wisconsin was close the gap and then build an insurmountable lead (for this type of game) thanks to the efforts of Trevon "Phoenix" Hughes. Hughes had been held in check for the first three quarters of the game but ignited down the final five minute stretch. Despite scoring one point in the first 33 minutes he finished the game with 16 points including three consecutive bombs that were the collective kill shot.

Neither team substituted much in this game as it seemed neither coach trusted their bench in a game where every possession mattered greatly. There is much consternation about this in Wildcatland but Buckyville doesn't seem nearly as concerned about it. That just goes to prove once again that winning is a great salve.

There is no rest for the weary. Next up for the Wildcats on Saturday are the #6 Purdue Boilermakers who visit the Welsh. Purdue comes to town riding a two game losing streak including a home loss at the hands of Evan Turner and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Expect the Boilers to play with a great sense of urgency since Michigan State has raced out of the gates once again to a 4-0 conference start.