UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Jarmusz, Badgers ready to renew rivalry with Spartans

Tim Jarmusz was a little bit foggy on the exact details. But one of his earliest memories of the Wisconsin-Michigan State series involved Devin Harris hitting a clutch basket at the Breslin Center.

Harris had a flair for the dramatic.

In this case, it was a cold-blooded Harris 3-point shot from the top of the key that tied the game and wound up sending the Badgers and the Spartans into overtime on March 2, 2004.

Harris then dominated the extra session with six points and a key assist on a Clayton Hanson triple that sealed the UW's 68-64 win and prevented MSU from claiming the Big Ten title.

The Spartans never got a chance to unfurl the championship banner hanging from the rafters.

"That's the game I'll always remember,'' said Jarmusz, a senior from Oshkosh.

It was the last time Wisconsin won in East Lansing.

Overall, though, the Badgers have won 12 of the last 17 meetings.

Tuesday night, the rivalry will be renewed at the Breslin Center.

Jarmusz said that the players must adjust to the environment any time they play on the road. "And Michigan State definitely has one of the better crowds in the Big Ten and possibly the country,'' he conceded. "But it's exciting and it gets you that much more pumped up to play. It's a good thing.''

There are no secrets between these two highly competitive programs. "We know they're going to go to the glass hard and try to be physical,'' said Jarmusz, adding that the Badgers have to match the intensity at both ends of the floor. "It's definitely going to be a battle.''

Jarmusz is accustomed to battling - whether it's for playing time or respect. Lately, he has been earning large doses of both.  In last Wednesday's start against Michigan, he took only two shots and scored just two points (on free throws), but he had four assists and zero turnovers.

Jarmusz was on the floor for 35 minutes.

Literally - it seemed - on the floor.

Seconds into the game, he dove on the floor for a loose ball which kept the possession alive for the Badgers and resulted in points. At the opposite end, he drew a charge on Michigan point guard Darius Morris, a penetrator, who has been one of the most improved players in the conference.

"When the ball came loose, I wasn't going to let the Michigan guy get it, so I did whatever I could to dive on the thing,'' Jarmusz said. "Coach (Ryan) always says when you get a charge on a guy early, it takes away some of his aggressiveness. That's why I tried to do, and I was able to get it.''

Morris came into the game averaging 15 points and seven assists. On paper, it looked like a mismatch athletically. But Jarmusz hounded Morris into some critical mistakes (four turnovers), while limiting his touches and shot opportunities (six). He finished with eight points.

"I tried to force him to our help, make him hit tough shots and put him in situations where he was not comfortable.'' Jarmusz explained." And I tried to take some of his quickness away from him.''

Always easier said than done. Especially against a guard-oriented team like Michigan State. "All their guards are tough,'' he said. "They've played in big games and gotten the national attention.''

Does Jarmusz prepare any differently when he's starting? "I do not,'' he said. "You have to be ready when your name is called and I go into every game trying to do what I can to help the team, whether I'm coming off the bench or starting. I just want to continue to prepare the same.''

Jarmusz, who has appeared in 103 career games (29 starts), admitted that his role has changed somewhat this season. "I'm playing a little more '2' (guard) than I did last year,'' he said. "I'm still trying to play good defense, but I'm getting a few more shots and trying to be a little more of a leader.''

The Badgers have a large and diverse collection of seniors - starters and non-starters - who have been sharing their experience with the underclassmen. "We're just trying to bring the young guys around,'' Jarmusz said, "and keep their heads right and have them prepared to win every night.''

Ball-security has become a defining characteristic of this season's team. The Badgers have had single-digit turnover totals in each of the last four games, including all three in conference play.

Jarmusz tapped his knuckles on the wood floor.

"We've been very good handling the ball and you've got to credit Jordan (Taylor) with that,'' he said of the UW point guard, who has 72 assists and only 17 turnovers in 15 games. "He's been unbelievable, while the rest of us have been able to make good decisions with the ball.''

Jarmusz, to this credit, has contributed to the success with 18 assists and only 2 turnovers. "We take pride in our decisions to get at least one shot every time down the floor,'' he said of the collective attitude. "When you're not turning over the ball, it helps your chances to win, especially on the road.''

Not that he has emphasized one facet of his game over another.

"It doesn't matter to me as long as we're winning, I'll do whatever helps the team,'' Jarmusz said. "If we end up beating Michigan State and I have zero points and five assists that's totally Ok. Or if I have 10 points and zero assists - whatever we need to do to get the job done - it's Ok with me.''

Jarmusz is looking forward to his final trip to the Breslin Center. "That's what you strive for,'' he said of playing good opponents in front of hostile crowds. "That's what you grew up wanting to do. You want to play against the best - because to be the best you have to beat the best.''

Nothing wrong with adding a little Flair to his game; Ric Flair who coined that phrase, "To be the man, you have to beat the man.'' Either or, it translates the same way.