Tucker posts game-high 29 points to lift weight off Badgers
When junior Alando Tucker took to the microphone in the media room of the Kohl Center after Wednesday night’s 72-54 victory over Indiana, he looked like a man who had just gotten off a very turbulent plane flight — relieved beyond words that the ride was over. He expressed as much, prefacing his post-game comments by taking a sigh of relief that Wisconsin’s three-game losing skid was dead.”I just need to sigh before answering any questions,” Tucker said, adding that answering questions about the team’s streak of losing five of the past six had weighed on him. “It feels good now, jeez. It’s like lifting some weights up off your back.”Tucker led the way for Wisconsin with 29 points, a season-high for him in regulation play (Tucker had 38 against Eastern Kentucky, a game that went to double overtime), and was special enough to cause Indiana coach Mike Davis to refer to him as “one of the two best players in the league, with [Illinois’] Dee Brown.” However, it was the play of several members of the UW supporting cast that truly stood out in the game as senior Ray Nixon and freshman walk-on Kevin Gullikson both made huge contributions to the Wisconsin cause. “I was seeing that they were opening lanes, by guys knocking down shots,” Tucker said, making note that the baskets by Nixon and Gullikson forced the Hoosiers to not simply crash on Tucker every time he received the ball. Nixon notched 13 points, three rebounds and three assists, making five of his eight shots. After trying to assert himself more offensively the past few games, Nixon was finally able to break through. “Yeah, he was active,” Ryan said. “I thought he did a good job of [moving the ball] besides knocking down some shots tonight — that always looks good too, especially from him, because he can shoot it.”Nixon’s increased aggression was evident several times, such as when he authoritatively rejected a shot by Robert Vaden early on. Or in the second half when Nixon bombed into the lane for a dunk and then collected an offensive rebound on a free-throw miss the subsequent possession. Gullikson corralled seven boards and collected seven points to set two new career-highs.”We got a great lift from Kevin Gullikson,” Tucker said of his fellow forward. “He’s giving us some newfound energy that we didn’t have coming into this game.””Kevin Gullkson, he just did everything,” Ryan said of the performance. “I really like the way he is developing.”Sophomore guards Tanner Bronson and Michael Flowers also both had their moments during the game. Flowers played with reckless abandon after garnering his first career start, picking up seven rebounds (tied with Gullikson for the team-high) while Bronson was able to connect on his first career 3-pointer, a shot which brought the crowd to a fever pitch. After the game, Ryan said he was debating who to give the game ball to in the locker room.”It was a toss up between [Gullikson] and [Bronson],” Ryan said of the game ball.It isn’t every day that a 29-point effort doesn’t result in the awarding of a game ball.Lineup changeFor the first time this season the Badgers altered their starting lineup, as Flowers got the nod over sophomore Brian Butch. Butch went down late in the Badgers’ loss at Purdue with a left ankle injury. “Brian wasn’t able to go in practice the whole time, so he didn’t get the reps and I went with the guys that had the most experience of doing what we wanted to do defensively,” head coach Bo Ryan said after the game. “[We knew] Brian would be on the floor, but if we could get a chance to keep him off the floor [we’d take it].”Butch made his first appearance in the game with 16:37 left to play in the first half after Jason Chappell picked up his second foul. Butch ended up playing just eight minutes against the Hoosiers, picking up four points and one board. He made his only shot from the field — a 3-pointer. He left the game for good with 15:13 left to play in the game, after picking up his third foul.”Brian came in and gave us a spark when he did play, both times. Fortunately we we’re able to keep him off [the court a lot],” Ryan said.