UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Gasser already has veteran's view of March

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Looking for an early indicator on how the Badgers might shoot the ball against Belmont here Thursday? Don't look at the ball. Focus instead on the four players without the ball. "You have to make all five guys on defense play,'' said UW assistant coach Gary Close.

That can be accomplished, Close emphasized, with better screening and more aggressive cuts. If there is little or no movement off the ball, the defense can take more liberties. "Then guys don't have to keep as close of tabs on you so to speak,'' he said. "They can take another step off.''

Offensively against Penn State, the Badgers were frequently playing two-on-five. "We relied on Jordan (Taylor) and Jon (Leuer) too much,'' Close said. "The other guys needed to get open and make some shots. It almost seemed like they deferred to them too soon and too often.''

Taylor and Leuer combined to take 37 shots. The other eight players who saw action in the game took a total of 14. "It doesn't necessarily mean you're going to shoot it,'' Close said. "But you have to be aggressive in trying to get open - or getting somebody else open - to keep the defense more honest.''

Contrast the Josh Gasser who scored 17 points on 10 shots against Ohio State with the Josh Gasser who took only one shot and went scoreless against Penn State. What happened? "I felt like I was active but I wasn't as aggressive offensively,'' he conceded. "I didn't have as many opportunities.''

How did he explain taking just one shot in 33 minutes?

"I didn't really try to create for myself,'' he said.

That goes back to what Close was saying about deferring - in this case a freshman deferring to upperclassmen. "I think we all learned from that game,'' Gasser said. "A lot of us were playing too passive as opposed to aggressive. It showed in the score and the outcome.''

You could say the Badgers have a score to settle in the NCAA tournament. "I'm just ready to get on the court and start playing,'' Gasser agreed. "That's why we came down here. That's kind of what this whole thing is about. It's something I've been dreaming about happening for a while. Now it's here.''

Welcome to March and the madness. "Moments last forever and this is what you play for all year,'' said Gasser, who still has vivid memories of Trevon Hughes knocking down the game-winning shot against Florida State in a first round game two years ago.  "As a fan, it's the best time of the year.''

Pausing, he added, "But I think it's a lot more fun being a player.''

In this respect, he feels blessed to have this opportunity coming off the Penn State loss.

"We get to play again - a lot of teams are done,'' he said.

The fact that it's now one-and-done is especially relevant to the seniors.

"I'm not only playing for our team and myself but I'm playing for those six seniors,'' Gasser said. "It goes back to my high school career when I was a freshman playing in the state tournament (for Port Washington). I kind of prided myself on playing for those seniors. That's what I'm going to do here, too.''

Does Gasser still feel like a freshman with the Badgers? "No, not at all,'' he said. "I just feel like a regular player and I wanted to be treated like everyone else on the team. I don't want coach (Bo Ryan) to treat me like a freshman. And I don't want the other players to treat me like a freshman.''

 Josh Gasser grows a day older today - on the grandest stage of all.

"I'm just going to go out there and play and give everything I've got,'' he promised.