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Lucas at Large: Do you remember when?

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Do you remember when a mop-topped Zach Morley - the precursor to a mop-topped Mike Bruesewitz - felt like he could have "kicked" the basketball and "it would have had a chance to go in" during a rare win at Purdue?

Rare was an understatement.

2010_Purdue 016_sm.jpgOn Feb. 15, 1972, the Badgers manhandled the Boilermakers, 84-65, in West Lafayette, Ind. The offense revolved around Leon Howard and the Hughes twins, Kim and Kerry. Lee Oler and Bob Frasor were the guards.

The Hughes duo were in the sophomore class, along with Gary Anderson and Lamont Weaver. Little did they know at the time how challenging it would be to win another game in Mackey Arena; a challenge that spanned generations.

 In 1972, Richard Nixon was in the White House.

In 2005, Ray Nixon was in the UW rotation.

Purdue's dominance over Wisconsin at Mackey Arena amounted to 33 painful years. Between 1972 and 2005, the Badgers lost 29 straight times to the Boilermakers. The UW finally broke the ice - take that literally - on Jan. 5 of '05.

A nasty ice storm slowed traffic to a crawl on a Wednesday night in West Lafayette. The official attendance was 7,925. But there were far fewer people in Mackey despite the school offering free tickets to the Big Ten opener.

The Badgers fell behind 16-9 before regrouping on the strength of their 3-point shooting. Good thing because they couldn't shoot a lick inside the arc. They missed their first 11 attempts from that distance and were 2-15 in the first half.

"If you lose your composure in a game like that, you get buried," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "So I like the other option."

In this case, it was the 3-pointer. The Badgers made eight of 10 in the first half and their first six triples came from six different players: Sharif Chambliss, Nixon, Brian Butch, Morley, Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson.

Defensively, the Boilermakers were doubling Wilkinson and Tucker in the post and that left plenty of space on the floor for the 3-point gunners - like Morley, who scored 17 of his career-high 22 points in the second half.

Morley finished with six triples (6-of-8) in the 77-68 win. "It was one of those nights where I felt like I could have kicked it and it would have had a chance to go in," Morley said. "Every time it came off my hand it felt good."

Overall, the Badgers knocked down 14-of-22 shots from beyond the arc, outscoring the Boilers, 42-3, in triples. "We can't stop people," lamented Purdue coach Gene Keady who was completing his 25th and final season on the bench.

Purdue had a big edge in the paint, 42-14. Carl Landry was hampered by foul trouble but still scored 23 points. Dave Teague added 20. "But you have to learn how to win," Keady bristled. "And we don't know how to win."

The Badgers were giddy to leave with any kind of a win.

"It's going to be nice to walk up those steps to get on a bus and hold your head up just a little higher," Ryan said after ending the UW's long losing streak.

Added Tucker, "We had to dig deep and find out who had the heart and guts to battle with these guys. We hung in there."

Until it started raining 3s.

Lucas at Large: Do you remember when...

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Do you remember when a mop-topped Zach Morley - the precursor to a mop-topped Mike Bruesewitz - felt like he could have "kicked" the basketball and "it would have had a chance to go in" during a rare win at Purdue?

Rare was an understatement.

On Feb. 15, 1972, the Badgers manhandled the Boilermakers, 84-65, in West Lafayette, Ind. The offense revolved around Leon Howard and the Hughes twins, Kim and Kerry. Lee Oler and Bob Frasor were the guards.

The Hughes were in the sophomore class, along with Gary Anderson and Lamont Weaver. Little did they know at the time how challenging it would be to win another game in Mackey Arena; a challenge that spanned generations.

In 1972, Richard Nixon was in the White House.

In 2005, Ray Nixon was in the UW rotation.

Purdue's dominance over Wisconsin at Mackey Arena amounted to 33 painful years. Between 1972 and 2005, the Badgers lost 29 straight times to the Boilermakers. The UW finally broke the ice - take that literally - on Jan. 5 of '05.

When David Lighty signed his NCAA national letter of intent to play basketball at Ohio State, Josh Gasser was in the eighth grade.

That was November of 2005.

Gasser_sm.jpgGasser and his UW teammates came of age Saturday at the expense of Lighty and the Buckeyes whose unbeaten season and No. 1 ranking are history.

There was one sequence in particular that turned out be very defining for Gasser and Wisconsin while spelling trouble for Lighty and Ohio State.

After the Buckeyes went up by 15 points, the Badgers started to chip away as Jordan Taylor scored and drew a foul on Lighty, his second of the game.

Seconds later, Gasser got tied up with Lighty. Consider the mismatch in experience: Gasser has played in 24 college games. Lighty has played in 145.

Yet, when push came to shove, the UW's true freshman refused to back down to OSU's fifth-year senior. A double foul was called at 12:36.

"That's fun, that's why I play the game - I enjoy getting down there and battling guys for position,'' Gasser said of his physical tug-of-war with Lighty.

"I kind of got into his head a little bit. I got him a foul, so now he has to be less aggressive. All of those little things kind of add up throughout the game.''

This one certainly did.

Lighty now had three fouls and OSU coach Thad Matta pulled him.

The Buckeyes led by 13 points when Lighty left.

They led by five points when Lighty returned.

Matta not only lost his inspirational leader during that stretch, but he lost one of his potential defensive options against Taylor for some critical minutes.    

In the first half, the Buckeyes checked Taylor with the 6-5 William Buford, the 6-6 Jon Diebler, the 6-5 Lighty and the 6-2 Aaron Craft, a true freshman.

When Taylor went on his scoring spree - sparking the Badgers on a 15-0 run - he took advantage of Craft's inexperience and overpowered him.

"You wouldn't want anyone else as your point guard,'' Gasser said of Taylor. "That guy has so much heart. He's got guts. And he's tough as nails.''

Taylor led the charge. Despite falling behind 47-32, Gasser said the Badgers retained their faith thanks to a number of influences on the floor and off.

"At that point, you're just trying to stay mentally strong and focused,'' Gasser explained. "A lot of teams would break down and fold. Ours didn't.

"Coach Ryan and our team leaders just told us, 'Keep playing and chip away at the lead and we'll get back in this thing.' And that's what we did. The crowd got back into it, and then there wasn't much stopping us.''

Gasser did his part by going 3-of-3 from beyond the 3-point arc.

"They were really trying to take away Jordan on ball screens and the bigs on the pick-and-pops,'' said Gasser. "So I knew I would get a few open looks.''

In addition to scoring 11 points, he had seven defensive rebounds.

"Keaton (Nankivil) and Jon (Leuer) had a big task in containing (Jared) Sullinger,'' Gasser said. "Their job was to get a body on him and not let him get rebounds. Other guys were going to have to come in and clean up a little bit.''

Gasser ran into Sullinger during a loose ball scramble.

The 280-pound Sullinger stuck out his arm and flattened Gasser.

After getting up, Gasser said, "I couldn't feel my face.''

He didn't get the license plates, either.

"I don't know what he hit me with,'' Gasser said. "I don't know if he hit me that hard. But let me tell you, it had a lot of force behind it. He's a great player.''

Once again, though, Gasser didn't back down. Late in the game, he attacked the offensive glass and kept the ball alive resulting in a Leuer rebound.

"It was a huge play when Jon got it,'' Gasser said, "because it was another possession for us and we got to run a little more clock which is the biggest thing you want to do when you have the lead.''

From start to finish, Gasser felt energized by the crowd.

"It was awesome - that's college basketball right there,'' he said. "I wasn't nervous at all. I was just enjoying the moment. The guys were saying this doesn't happen very often (playing No. 1) so enjoy it, and embrace it, and I did.''

Sullinger and Craft have been important components in Ohio State's success this season. To a lesser degree, so has Deshaun Thomas.

All are freshmen.

Leading up to Saturday's matchup in Madison, that's all everybody was talking about, too, Ohio State's talented freshmen, namely Sullinger and Craft.

"I tried not to listen to that stuff, but it happens,'' said Gasser, the freshman that nobody was talking about. "Their roles are a little different than mine. Sullinger is their main guy. Craft is their point guard.''

That being said, Gasser added, "I tried to show that I can play as well.''

Done deal.

"You want to say it's just another game,'' Gasser continued. "But this was a big one, a huge game for us. We needed to win not only because they were the No. 1 team but we needed to win to get back into the Big Ten race.

"We're only two games back, so we know that we still have a shot. And we're going to keep grinding it out and see what happens at the end.''

Lucas at Large: Catching up with Jason Bohannon

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While some UW fans might have had a heightened level of anxiety at Iowa watching the Badgers hurl brick after brick at the basket during the first half, Jason Bohannon wasn't sweating a few misses. JBo has been there, done that.

"You just have to have the confidence to shoot the next one when it's there," said Bohannon, the former Wisconsin sharpshooter, who had games when he wasn't all that sharp. His remedy? Just keep shooting.

Bohannon_Jason_12_31_09a_sm.jpg"They'll be a lot better in the second half," Bohannon promised at halftime of Wednesday night's game in Iowa City. Poor shooting, he confirmed, can be contagious, having a snowballing effect on a team. One miss, all miss.

"But it's the same way when you make a couple of shots - one make, all make," Bohannon added. "There were a couple of times in the first half where they had an open shot and hesitated. That's not good for any kind of shooter.

"Coach (Bo) Ryan will do a good job in the locker room at halftime and the second half will be different. When those open looks are there - like they were in the first half - they just have to have confidence in themselves to keep shooting."

Bohannon was spot-on with his commentary (he might have a future on the Big Ten Network). In the second half, the Badgers shot 52 percent (15-29) and they also made half of their attempts in overtime to claim a 62-59 win at Iowa.

Bohannon had a good seat for the comeback - second row behind the UW bench. He walked into Carver-Hawkeye without drawing boos, too. That was the usual reception when the former Mr. Basketball in Iowa played for the Badgers.

What's Bohannon doing today?

"I'm in between jobs," he said.

Basketball jobs.

Bohannon, a Marion native, was on the roster of the Iowa Energy, an NBA Development League team based in Des Moines, Iowa. While appearing in 12 games, he was averaging a little less than five minutes of playing time.

"I got a lot of good practice time and competition - and some minutes here and there," said Bohannon, who was recently put on waivers. "They have a lot of veterans like Curtis Stinson (Iowa State) and Courtney Sims (Michigan)."

And that made it more difficult to find his niche. "Now I'm looking to get over to Europe," Bohannon said. "I want to play basketball as long as I can wherever it may be. I really don't have it out of my system yet."

To this end, Bohannon's backcourt partner last season, Trevon Hughes, had an initial bump - he was cut by a team in Slovenia - before finding a home on a roster in Latvia. Such are the vagaries of the profession.

When his playing days are over, Bohannon believes coaching might be an option. "I don't know at what level," he said. "But I definitely have the itch to stay around basketball. A lot of players can never get that itch out of their system."

Bohannon is a good frame of reference for the development of a former UW teammate - Jordan Taylor, who's one of the top point guards in college basketball. Bohannon has seen a steady growth in Taylor's overall game.

"Even as a freshman, he came in and handled himself with a lot of poise," Bohannon said. "He's always had a kind of swagger about him. He always knew to make the right decisions. Plus, he was strong and he took care of the ball."

There was also a leadership quality to Taylor. "Maybe it doesn't come out right away with young players but you can see it in their personality," he said. "It's not so much verbal but how they handle themselves and direct people.

"Seeing his growth from his freshman year - even seeing his growth from last season to this season - is amazing. And all of the guys on the roster when he was a freshman knew what he was capable of doing."

Bohannon is anxious now to see how the UW matches up with No. 1 ranked Ohio State. "Everyone had their doubts about them," he said of the Badgers who were picked for the second division of the Big Ten. "It's always like that."

J-Bo has been there, done that, remember.

"A lot of publications don't give the Badgers the best pub," Bohannon went on. "That's kind of sad considering what they've done under Coach (Bo) Ryan, which is a tribute to him since they always manage to beat the predictions."

The Voice: To repeat feat vs. No. 1, Badgers need it loud

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgHere we go again. On Saturday afternoon the Badgers will host top-ranked and unbeaten Ohio State. Sound familiar? Could the basketball team work the same magic that occurred in Camp Randall Stadium on October 16?

Yeah, I know, first things first, such as a very challenging road assignment Wednesday night against an improving Iowa squad.

That is hardly coach speak. First-year coach Fran McCaffery has his team playing well, winning three of its last five games. Included in that stretch is a 20-point whipping of Michigan State, a beatdown very similar to what the Badgers accomplished on Sunday afternoon.

Junior Matt Gatens has been very solid, averaging 14 points a game in conference play, while a couple of newcomers have been instant contributors. Freshman Melsahn Basabe has given the Hawks a good inside presence, while junior college transfer Bryce Cartwright dishes out 5.5 assists a game. At Indiana on Saturday, he knocked down the game winning shot, and against Michigan State Cartwright scored 12 points and added 10 assists.

So, yes, the Badgers will have their work cut out for them on Wednesday. I also know fans who have tickets for Saturday's game against OSU can't wait for tipoff. Can you blame them?

Maybe it was only poetic justice.

The last time Clark Kellogg was at courtside for a UW game, the opponent couldn't miss. Or so it seemed. Cornell shot 61 percent from the field, 53 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and 13-of-16 from the free throw line.

That was in the second round of last season's NCAA tournament.

Kellogg was at courtside Sunday at the Kohl Center. And this time, he saw the UW shooters at their finest as the Badgers shot 59 percent from the field, 65 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and 25-of-26 from the free throw line.

The result was a convincing 82-56 win over Michigan State.

Taylor_2011.jpg"That's as impressive of a performance as I've seen all year long in terms of efficiency and doing the things that play to their strengths," said the 49-year-old Kellogg, the lead analyst for CBS's coverage of college basketball. "When you make shots like they did that obviously adds to it."

What did Kellogg like the most about the UW's dominating performance?

"I liked their versatility," said Kellogg, who succeeded Billy Packer and has made a seamless transition to being Jim Nantz' partner on the Final Four. "I liked the fact that they have two go-to guys in (Jon) Leuer and (Jordan) Taylor. I also liked what (Keaton) Nankivil adds and brings to the table."

Taylor and Leuer combined to make 16-of-27 shots and scored 50 points, or six fewer points than Michigan State did as a team "Taylor and Leuer are the kind of guys you have to have," Kellogg said, "to make a significant tournament run. They are players who can make plays when you need them."

When it was suggested to Kellogg that Taylor, who finished with a career high 30 points, has drawn little or no recognition nationally for his overall play as a point guard, Kellogg laughed and said, "It's almost kind of like Bo (Ryan)."

Kellogg then shared his observations on Taylor, who scored baskets on Kalin Lucas, Keith Appling, Durrell Summers, Mike Kebler and Draymond Green.

"I love his strength and poise," Kellogg said Taylor. "He doesn't really ever seem to be out of control. He has a comfortable pace that he plays with. But his strength is the big separator to me because when you're that size and that strong you can play through contact especially at this level.

"If he gets smaller guys like he had out there today - Lucas and Appling - those guys aren't strong enough to deal with him."

Kellogg, who starred at Ohio State, was a first round draft choice of the Indiana Pacers. Knee injuries cut short his NBA career. Given the exposure that Leuer received over the summer against the pros, what's his perspective on Leuer's future? Does he believe that Leuer can make it at the next level?

"I think so, he's a pick-and- pop guy," Kellogg said. "He has excellent skills. He moves well and shoots well. And he can rebound. He's got a little back-to-the-basket game, too. He's going to have a chance to play in the NBA. Will he be a rotation player? I look at him as one - a top eight on a decent team."

The Badgers were picked for the second division of the Big Ten by the so-called basketball experts. Why do they continue to excel under Ryan?

"They have a terrific program here and anytime you have that you're always going to be competitive," Kellogg said. "They're always going to be in the first division of the Big Ten because of the players that Bo gets and the way that he develops them. How people perceive Wisconsin is going to fluctuate."

The one thing you can count on from Ryan-coached teams, Kellogg said, is  the Badgers "are going to end up being in the upper division of the conference every year and now and then they're going to play to win the Big Ten."

Who's going to win the national championship this season? Kellogg listed a handful of teams that fall in the upper tier: Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Duke. "Outside of them, there's not a lot of separation," he said.

Everyone else looks pretty much the same, Kellogg said, listing BYU, San Diego State, Florida, Washington, Arizona and Wisconsin as teams that fall under that heading. "You could pick a dozen to 15 teams," he said, "that based on the matchups could make a two game or three game run in the tournament."

Lucas at Large: Do you remember when?

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Do you remember when UW coach Bo Ryan called a timeout with 11.7 seconds left to set up a play revolving around a ball screen for Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker on the final offensive possession against Michigan State?

Do you remember who took the game winning shot?

The  No. 1 ranked Badgers were coming off two straight road losses; one to the Spartans and the other to Ohio State during which they had lost Brian Butch to an injury in a heartbreaking 49-48 defeat against the No. 1 ranked Buckeyes.

Taylor_Kammron_MSU_shot.jpgYes, that's right both teams were ranked No. 1 making the showdown in Columbus even more epic and historic. The Badgers were No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and Ohio State was No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.

No one was hurting more afterward than Taylor, except maybe Butch who was dealing with more physical pain after dislocating his right elbow in a nasty fall. Taylor was hurting because he came up short twice against the Buckeyes.

The Badgers were leading 48-47 with 20.3 seconds left when Taylor, the team's most reliable free throw shooter, stepped to the line. Taylor hadn't missed a free throw in the last six games, but he missed the front end of the bonus.

That opened the door for the Buckeyes, who following a timeout converted at the opposite end on Mike Conley's off-balance runner in the paint. The Badgers quickly inbounded and Jason Bohannon knocked down a 3-point shot.

But it was waved off because Ryan had already called a timeout to set up a final play with 3.9 seconds remaining. The Buckeyes took away Tucker so Taylor drove the lane only to have his shot blocked by Ron Lewis as time expired.

While Ohio State celebrated its second-consecutive Big Ten championship, the UW players were left to pick up the pieces and wonder what if ...

"It's real disappointing when you get the first No. 1 ranking in school history," said Wisconsin senior Jason Chappell, "and then take two straight losses. But we have to put that behind us and look forward to the future."

That was the backdrop to the 2007 regular-season finale between the Badgers and the Spartans at the Kohl Center. Not only would the seniors be honored - Tucker, Taylor and Chappell - but Taylor would get his redemption.

With 1:25 to play, Michigan State's Drew Neitzel, who had scored 28 points against the Badgers at the Breslin Center, drilled a clutch 3-pointer that pushed the Spartans into a 50-49 lead.    Each team then came up empty in a possession.

With 11.7 seconds left, Ryan drew up a play in the team huddle - a ball screen revolving around Tucker and Taylor, who had missed a jumper on that previous possession that could have put the Badgers ahead.

"The set play wasn't particularly for me," said Taylor, who had made only one of his eight field goal attempts in the game, just 1-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc.  "It was for me to make a good decision with the ball."

The Spartans shaded their defense to Tucker and that provided Taylor with the look that he needed to drain a 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds on the clock. "It would be a lie if I said I didn't want to take the shot," Taylor admitted.

Neitzel's long 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer giving the Badgers a dramatic 52-50 win and Taylor a much needed confidence boost. "What a great way for Kam to walk off the court here for the last time," Ryan said.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo agreed.

"He made a heck of a shot," he said of Taylor. "He hasn't been making many lately (6-of-27) and, to his credit, I guess that's the way it's written in Hollywood when you're a senior. He deserved it, and they deserved it."

Providing a spark: Evans key in Badgers' win

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After Ryan Evans stepped out of the UW locker room and volunteered an "I was due" sigh, he was greeted with a "Welcome back, Ryan" grin.

Evans returned the grin. "It feels amazing being able to get back out there," he said, "and stay consistent with what I do in helping my teammates."

Evans_Purdue.jpgHe added that his timely contributions in Tuesday's night win over Purdue were a product of his teammates "just believing in me" during the rough stretches this season.

"It feels really good to get back," Evans said.

The feeling was mutual for his teammates who have been waiting for Evans to be a factor in the rotation like he was during his redshirt freshman season.

"It was awesome," said Jordan Taylor. "I'm so excited for him. I hope he keeps it going. That's a big confidence booster. We've been talking about it all year how we've got weapons on our team that people don't know about yet."

Taylor confessed, "I don't even know what he was averaging."

Through 20 games overall, Evans was averaging 2.7 points per game.

Through eight Big Ten games, Evans was averaging 0.8 points per game.

Evans scored 10 against Purdue.

Was Evans pressing? "Oh yeah,'' he said. "You put so much work in, and you put a lot of pressure on yourself. But my teammates and the coaches have continued to believe in me, and I'm just fortunate for that.''

With the Boilermakers leading 49-43, Evans came through with his first meaningful play of the night - a dunk on an assist from Taylor. "Dunks always give me a spark," said Evans, a sophomore from Phoenix, Ariz.

On the UW's next offensive possession, Wquinton Smith got into a tug-of-war over the ball with Purdue's Lewis Jackson. Pound for pound, Smith is the strongest player on the UW roster, and he didn't flinch when D.J. Byrd pulled him off Jackson and Byrd and Smith got into a clinch that the refs had to break up.

It was also a meaningful moment for the Badgers in their rally. Especially after Smith later drew a charge on E'Twaun Moore. "When Q (Smith) got into that little tussle with Jackson that gave the whole team a spark," Evans said.

Taylor agreed. "Q got a little spark going," he said. "He came in and handled the ball and took the big charge. And anytime you can mix it up like that (with Jackson and Byrd) -- while staying smart and not costing the team - it got the crowd going and it got us a little amped up."

With 50 seconds left, Evans put the UW into the lead, 60-59, for good with a short jumper. "I saw JaJuan (Johnson) coming out and I know he has long arms," he said. "So I figured I'd give him a pump fake, go to the middle and pull up."

That's a shot that he made with more consistency last season. "I've made it in practice on and off this year," Evans said. "But in the games I haven't been consistent. I think it has to do with putting too much pressure on myself."

Observed Taylor, "He stepped up and made that big shot with confidence, If he keeps playing like that, which we know he can, it's going to be huge for us."

Evans wasn't done contributing. On Purdue's subsequent offensive possession, Johnson missed a jumper and Evans shielded the Boilers from collecting a loose ball which wound up in the hands of Jon Leuer, who was fouled.

"They always tell us to box out and get a body on somebody," Evans said. "Doing that allowed Jon to get the rebound; he's always active on the glass."

Evans still wasn't through. With the Badgers protecting a 63-59 lead, he got a tie-up with Moore which resulted in a Wisconsin possession.

All in all, everybody was happy to welcome Ryan Evans back.

"That's what coach (Bo Ryan) stresses all the time - come off the bench and add," Taylor said. "Ryan did that tonight. That's what he can bring to the team. And he can even bring more."

You could tell that Evans was excited to be back in the mix. "I'm just trying to be consistent and persistent," he said, "and hopefully I can build on it."

During his postgame interrogation, Purdue coach Matt Painter said, "I thought the difference tonight was Josh Gasser and Ryan Evans. Those two guys stepped up and that's what you need."

Gasser went 4-of-4 from the field, including 2-of-2 from beyond the 3-point arc, to finish with 11 points. Besides the spark that Gasser, Evans and Smith brought to the Badgers, there was an unexpected contributor, too.

"Biddy announcing that we're not going to have class tomorrow," a grinning Evans said of UW chancellor Biddy Martin, "also gave us a spark."
Mike Kelley's school record 275 career steals - 92 more than the runner-up on the list (Tracy Webster) - is a testament to his anticipation, among other things, as college basketball player.

With this in mind, Kelley anticipated the question before it was asked.

"If you're calling to find out if I ever had a triple-double, I can confirm that I didn't," said Kelley, laughing. "The only thing I sniffed in double-digits was minutes (played)."

Kelley_FinalFour.jpgTrue enough. He wasn't much of a scorer. But he was a difference-maker for the Badgers, whether he was locking up an opponent, distributing the ball or stealing it (he had 10 against Texas).

In addition to finishing his career with 344 assists (fourth highest in school history), he was a key component in the UW's run to the Final Four. In five games, he had 21 assists and four turnovers.

Kelley continues to milk his passion for hoops by serving as an ESPN analyst on Big East games. Recently, he was asked to bring some context to Josh Gasser's triple-double, the first ever at the UW.

"I would suggest a conference as established as the Big Ten - with scouting reports being as good as they are and the familiarity with each other - doesn't make it any easier," he said. "You're not likely to get into a game where people are just trading punches and playing fast and loose. It's more of a cerebral game. But it's not easy to pull off at any level in any conference."

Kelley's television schedule has worked out to the extent that he has been able to watch a lot of Badger games. "What impresses me the most about Josh Gasser is that he stands in there and he takes the good with the bad," said Kelley who grew up in Menominee Falls and prepped at Milwaukee Pius.

"He's willing to throw punches - figuratively - and he's got mettle and the moxie you need to be a contributor as a freshman. You just can't step in and do it on talent alone. You have to have the heart and the mental wherewithal to do it, and that's what he has got. That's what I love about the kid."

Kelley recalled the challenge of competing in the Big Ten as a true freshman. "The team that I was on wasn't all that good, either, so we took some poundings," he said. "You went out there and performed the best you could, but there's no doubt it takes its toll. Having some success helps."

A first-year player has a tendency to "defer" to his older teammates, Kelley acknowledged.

"In general, I played that way," he said. "Some guys aren't wired that way. But as a freshman I think typically you're going to recognize that there's a pack mentality and you have your leaders who were in place before you got there and you're just trying to co-exist peacefully.

Gasser_action.jpg"It comes down to, 'What do you want? What are you looking for?' If the team needs you to score then deferring isn't a good thing. If they need you to take care of the ball, then you give them that. When you have an All-American (Jon Leuer) and one of the best point guards (Jordan Taylor) in the country, how do you not feel like you should defer? That just seems natural to me."

As a former point guard, he has great admiration for Taylor's development in that role.

"I've seen Jordan mature this year into a player who's not deferring in situations," Kelley said. "It's not easy to go from a player who looked more to create to a player who can find his own shot. But off the pick-and-roll, he's a threat to knock down that shot or drive.

"His strength is incredible and it's absolutely a huge factor in being a successful guard in the Big Ten. It's an underestimated part of playing that role - how strong you need to be, not just in a given game, but over the course of the season. If you're going to be skinny in this conference, you're going to have to be really talented and really quick like a Devin Harris.

"Jordan Taylor's confidence in looking for his shot is outstanding. He just 'gets it.' Even last year, you could see that he was a coach on the floor and Bo (Ryan) had trust in him to make the appropriate pass at the appropriate time and deliver all the things you need out of a leader and a point guard."

Kelley has also marveled at the steady growth of Leuer.

"He's able to take tough shots and knock them down," he said. "And it's important that you have a guy who's willing to take a tough shot because you're not always going to get an open look on every possession. That's what he gives them - someone who can score on a turn-around with a hand in his face at the end of a shot clock."

What are Kelley's overall impressions of the Badgers? "I really like them," he said. "It's the same old story with Bo; he's remarkable in getting the pieces to fit together. They're a dangerous team."

How dangerous? "I think they can beat anybody," said Kelley, fixing his eyes on March. "This is the type of year where you look forward to the NCAA tournament because there's no elite team or class of teams where you go, 'How are we going to be one of them?'"

The Voice: Overreacting? Don't over-do it

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgAfter last weekend, Wisconsin has clear-cut bragging rights on the state of Illinois. The women's basketball team beat the Illini and the men's squad dismantled Northwestern, with Josh Gasser becoming the first Badger to record a triple-double. Then there was the NFC title game at Soldier Field, where the Packers held off the Bears, 21-14.  

Wisconsin sports fans are in a state of euphoria, while in the Land of Lincoln, there is despair and disgust. And with it comes the predictable overreaction from fans, some media and even some current and former players.  

To some, quarterback Jay Cutler has become the poster child for punching out when the going gets tough. Some "fans" were photographed burning a Cutler jersey, all because he missed most of the second half with a knee injury. It is obvious some in Bears Nation want a new quarterback right now.

In the course of a year, or maybe even a few weeks, coach Lovie Smith (a former UW assistant) went from a lousy coach to a pretty good coach to a lousy coach again. Isn't Bill Cowher available?

It will be interesting to see how the Bears move forward. Earlier in the week a longtime NFL employee who knows the landscape of the Packers-Bears rivalry suggested to me that it could be very difficult for the loser of that game to recover anytime soon.

It might be worthwhile for those folks to take a look at their neighbors to the north, and note the value of not overreacting.

ON WISCONSIN