Dec. 8, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- It was only three minutes but it may have seemed like an eternity to Evan Anderson.
“It felt like a long time,” he said. “It felt like 8 minutes, 10 minutes. It definitely felt good.”
Prior to Saturday, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Anderson had played only two minutes in the first nine games combined; one minute against North Dakota and one minute against Bowling Green.
But he anticipated that there might be some available minutes against Marquette because of its beefy low-post players: 6-11, 275-pound Chris Otule and 6-8, 290-pound Davante Gardner..
“With these bigger teams, especially this team,” Anderson said, “I had a feeling that I might get a chance here if we do get guys in foul trouble and that’s just what happened.
“So I was kind of sensing that I was going to go in there and contribute. I kind of wish that I could have contributed more. But at the same time I was happy to be out there.”
When you scan the box score from Wisconsin’s 70-64 win over Marquette at the Kohl Center, you will see that the Badgers had at least five players in double-figures for the fourth time this year.
You will see that Sam Dekker had his second career double-double in three games and Traevon Jackson had seven assists (five in the second half) and zero turnovers over 26 minutes.
You will see that Ben Brust had 13 points and three triples (he’s had two or more 3-poiners in all but one game) and Frank Kaminsky had 11 points and three blocked shots (giving him 21 for the season).
If you look closely at the box score, you will also see that Anderson had one 3-point attempt, one block and three fouls in the short time that he was on the floor against the Golden Eagles.
What you won’t see is all the work that Andersen has put into getting those three minutes.
“I’m happy for him because he has worked so hard, he has persevered,” said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. “Obviously, he has had to work for any playing time he has gotten here.
“He hasn’t played a lot of minutes but he has stuck with it. I’m happy from that standpoint. He has been doing some good things in practice and he has progressively gotten better.
“What he did today (against Marquette) was big from the standpoint that it gave us another frontline guy that maybe we can put in there and go-to a little bit.”
The Badgers had no choice but to turn to Anderson in the first half after their two “bigs” Nigel Hayes and Kaminsky each picked up their second fouls, six seconds apart, at 5:28 and 5:22, respectively.
Sizing up the challenge of Otule and Gardner in the paint, Anderson said, “They’re big, strong guys. But I feel like I can bring something to this team with my size; I feel like I can contribute that way.”
When he entered the game, he wanted to “do any of the little things” that were needed to help the team. “I’m not really trying to over-think things,” he said. “Take care of the ball and play defense.”
It didn’t take long for Anderson to have an impact. After getting tied up with Gardner at the defensive end, veteran official Jim Burr called a double-foul. It was Anderson’s first, Gardner’s second.
“That really spun to our advantage,” Gard said. “That’s advantage Wisconsin, right there.”
(Note: Gardner would end up playing only 22 minutes because of foul trouble.)
|Anderson played just three minutes vs. Marquette, but as teammate Kaminsky said, "He played great minutes."
“We talked about playing the post real physically,” Gard went on. “He took it to another level; he got a little too aggressive. Maybe coach (Gary) Andersen would like to use him as a left tackle.”
Anderson has never shied away from contact during practices. Others have paid the price. So it was no surprise that he would feel comfortable mixing it up with Gardner.
“It was just some bumping back and forth,” said Anderson, a redshirt junior from Stanley, Wis., which is about 30 miles outside of Eau Claire and a three-hour drive to the Madison campus.
“I really didn’t think they’d called anything there. But this year they’ve really put the clamp down on fouls like that and they’re just trying to clean up the game.
“It’s kind of expected. But at the same time in the post you’d also expect you’d be able to play a little bit more. But you just have to adjust to the game and however they’re calling it.”
At the offensive end, Anderson, who has a pretty soft touch and decent shooting range, barely kissed the front of the rim with a 3-point field goal attempt. It felt good when it left his hands.
“Honesty, it felt really good,” he said, “and I was like, ‘Wow, that was way short.’ It actually felt good – believe it or not – even though it looked horrible. I just took it out of instinct, I guess.”
Anderson came right back and blocked a shot by Marquette’s Deonte Burton. All in all, he gave the Badgers some quality minutes when they needed him with Kaminsky and Hayes on the bench.
“It just goes back to what I said before,” Anderson pointed out. “It’s just about contributing anything I can to the team, whether it’s a blocked shot, like today, or whatever.
“It was nice to be in there and back up Frank and Nigel when they got into foul trouble. I guess I kind of freed them up for the second half.”
Kaminsky, for one, was most grateful for Anderson’s contributions.
“He played great minutes,” said Kaminsky who was limited to just eight minutes in the first half. “He wasn’t going to let anyone get anything (in the paint). It’s not easy to score on him.”
What has kept Anderson going, what has kept him motivated, what has kept him committed? Over the last two seasons, he has appeared in 26 games (nine in the Big Ten) and averaged 2.8 minutes.
“It’s pretty much the guys – just working with them for so many hours behind closed doors, just all the work we put in,” Anderson conceded. “Everybody is such a good guy on this team.
“So it’s just having a commitment to them,” he said of his UW teammates, “and trying to stay focused on doing anything I can at all to contribute.”
When asked about Anderson’s role, however small, and how he’s received and accepted, Kaminsky said, “This is a family. We all love each other and it shows with our team chemistry.”
Kaminsky didn’t waste any time impacting the Marquette game in the second half. He scored on an up-and-under-move on the first possession and a baseline jumper on the second.
Acknowledging that he was “very frustrated” in the first half, he said, “We came in the locker room and they (his teammates) all told me that I needed to be ready to go in the second half.”
Kaminsky credited Jackson with getting him involved. It was something they talked about while they were both saddled with fouls on the sidelines. Jackson played only eight minutes in the first half.
“When he and I were on the bench, we talked about it,” recounted Kaminsky. “Trae said, ‘I’m going to run some plays for you at the start of the second half to get you going’ and he did.”
Jackson also set up Kaminsky for one of the most clutch baskets of the game, a cold-blooded 3-pointer from the top of the key that expanded the UW’s lead to 60-54 with 1:33 left.
It helped seal a 10th-consecutive victory and the first over Marquette in three seasons.
“When you have two teams like this in a rivalry game, it’s a grinder,” Gard said. “We’d have a spurt, then we’d sit in neutral for a little bit and then we’d have another little spurt.
“We could never get into a good flow and the fouls were a part of it. We didn’t shoot it exceptionally well (either). We were a couple of 3’s going down from extending the lead in the first half.
“Then maybe you’re not playing punch-for-punch and possession-for-possession.”
The Badgers have taken everything in stride.
“When you look back on who we’ve played, we’ve just gone through the gauntlet,” Gard said.
“Obviously, the target on our back is big because of who we are and where we are right now (unbeaten).
“You know you’re going to get everybody’s best punch. And that’s why I’m proud of these guys for going through that gauntlet and finding a way to slug it out.”