Nov. 29, 2012
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on Wisconsin's 60-54 loss to Virginia.
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- Some two hours before Traevon Jackson started his first game as a college point guard, Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard foreshadowed his development in that role.
“Experience is going to be his biggest teacher,’’ Gard predicted. “He has to continue to learn and grow. He’s had some bumps already and he’s going to take some more.
“Those bumps will lessen, and there will be more bright sunshiny days than cloudy days. He’s kind of an emotional kid, too. And there will be some highs and lows emotionally as well.
“He needs to ride the waves, and not let them get the best of him.’’
That’s exactly what Jackson was trying to do after Wisconsin’s 60-54 loss to Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Kohl Center. He was trying to keep his focus on the big picture.
“Obviously tonight didn’t go the way I wanted it, or we wanted it to go,’’ said Jackson, a sophomore from Westerville, Ohio. “But it’s over now, and I have to learn from it.’’
Jackson got the start over George Marshall, a redshirt freshman from Chicago. Marshall had started the first six games of the season, while Jackson had averaged 20 minutes off the bench.
Why the change?
“Performance,’’ said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. “The way it should be in this world. He (Jackson) is stronger and in this type of game (against Virginia) he’s stronger with the ball.
“He’s going to be OK, and George will be OK, too.’’
Jackson had 5 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals against Virginia. He played 32 minutes and had one of the UW’s five turnovers. Marshall played 11 minutes and scored three points.
Ryan singled out the two games that the Badgers played against Creighton and Arkansas in Las Vegas and said of Jackson, “Defensively he showed that he’s a stronger defender (than Marshall).’’
Jackson helped trigger an impressive second half comeback in the UW’s 77-70 win over Arkansas. After falling behind by 11 points, the Badgers rallied behind Jackson and freshman Sam Dekker.
“The one thing that he was able to do was control tempo in that game,’’ Gard said of Jackson, who wound up going 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Dekker was the leading scorer with 19 points.
“In the first half, we were a little haywire and chaotic. Once we hit a couple of shots, he (Jackson) made sure we were doing the right things -- or at least trying to do them -- to get our feet underneath us.
“In the second half, he did a better job of grabbing the steering wheel.’’
Visualize a car or bus. Gard likes to use the metaphor in conjunction with point guards.
“He’s got to be an extension of us on the court,’’ said Gard, speaking for the coaching staff. “He’s got to know when to step on the gas and when to step on the brake.
“He has to know what the speed limit is, and when he can really go, and when he can’t.
“A lot of that comes with the flow of the game. What type of shot do we need? Who hasn’t touched the ball in awhile? Is somebody hot? Do we need to go to somebody?’’
You get the picture. So did Jackson.
“You’ve got to be a leader of the team,’’ he said of his point guard responsibilities. “It’s about getting everybody in the right position and being there when you need to be there.
“That’s in terms of scoring and when to distribute the ball, and that’s in terms of getting this guy the ball when he needs touches (whoever it may be).”
“The biggest thing for me,’’ he said immediately following the Virginia loss, “is that I have to lead our guys defensively. We’re struggling in terms of defensive rebounding.
“That’s where we have to come together as a group and fight.’’
Jackson definitely has a little bit of an edge to his game.
“Confidence has never been an issue,’’ said Gard, respecting the competitiveness that he brings to his play. “Well before he got here, he was a confident kid, which is great.
“What we have to do now is harness that confidence and channel it in the right direction so that he can continue to play very confidently and aggressively. He needs to improve on managing the game.’’
Jackson averaged 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals during his senior year at Westerville South High School. He finished his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“I always envisioned him as a point guard when I watched him play,’’ said Gard, who has served as Ryan’s chief recruiter. “I thought he had the size, the vision and the command.
“His people skills were very good, and I felt like he could be a good leader. I thought he had some qualities that could make him one of our primary ball-handlers.’’
After seeing limited playing time as a freshman -- he appeared in only 17 games -- Jackson trained over the summer in Columbus with Michigan point guard Trey Burke, among others.
Through seven games this season, he has shown a nice touch on his pull-up or mid-range jumper. But he didn’t feel like he did a good job finishing on some shots against Virginia.
“I drove one time and I got the ball ripped out and I got my pull-up blocked,’’ he said. “I just have to get better. In order for this team to get better, I have to get better.
“It starts with me. I have to do whatever I can to help these seniors go out on a good note. There was a lot more I could have done (against Virginia). I could have been more decisive.’’
While there’s some truth in that assessment, Jackson was still being too hard on himself.
The Badgers have been forced to accelerate the learning curve for Jackson and Marshall because of the absence of junior guard Josh Gasser, who has been lost for the season with a knee injury.
Gasser’s loss showed up in the closing seconds against Virginia when the Cavaliers extended their half-court defense and Wisconsin was unable to get dribble penetration or a good shot.
“Obviously, I need to get acclimated to playing in those types of situations at the end of the game,’’ Jackson said. “A lot of that comes back on me what happened tonight.
“When we didn’t get shots off, or we didn’t get good looks, that falls back on the point guard and that’s where I’ve got to step up my leadership regardless of whether it’s my first start or not.’’
At times, Jackson got the best of his matchup with Virginia’s Teven Jones, a redshirt freshman. Jones ended up with only two points and four turnovers.
“He may not have beaten me in the scoring column,’’ he said. “But I looked at what I needed to do in order for our team to win, and he beat me in terms of that. The scoreboard reflected that.’’
Jackson tried to remain upbeat and positive. That’s his nature, and it bodes well for the future.
“We have a lot to learn, but we still have a long season,’’ he said. “It’s up to us if we want to do it (get the job done), and we’ve got a group of guys that definitely want to do it. We just have to show it.
“We’ve got a good team coming in here Sunday,” he said of unbeaten California.
“We can’t have too many more losses. We have to be ready to win.’'