January 31, 2009

Wildcats nip reeling Badgers

EVANSTON, Ill. - With the way things have been going for Wisconsin in recent weeks, you could almost see it coming.

The Badgers had yet another lead in the waning minutes of the second half, but found a way to let it slip away for its sixth consecutive loss.

Behind six clutch free throws in the final 15 seconds from senior and game's leading scorer Craig Moore, Northwestern, a team that lost to UW by 29 points only 24 days ago, beat the Badgers 66-63 at a packed Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night.

"They were looking for him the whole time," UW junior guard Jason Bohannon said in reference to Moore's 26-point performance. "We got to do a better job preventing it and I did a poor job keeping him away from the ball at the end.

"We shouldn't have put ourselves in that position anyway."

When a team is struggling to find its winning identity, it seems everything starts falling in place for its opponent. For the second straight game, the Badgers allowed their counterpart to shoot better than 60 percent from the field in a half. Only this time, it came during the final 20 minutes of the game.

"When a team shoots like that, it's tough to win a game," Bohannon, who rekindled his scoring touch with 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc, said. "They hit some tough shots. There were times when our defense broke down and gave them easy baskets. We can't have that if we're going to win basketball games."

The Wildcats scored two buckets late in the contest that opened a three-point lead with just 90 seconds to play after the Badgers had recaptured the lead with a Marcus Landry lay-up.

Kevin Coble, who was kept quiet for most of the night with only seven points, slipped behind UW defenders for a nifty reverse lay-up. Then after a Tim Jarmusz turnover, the Wildcats Luka Mirkovic scored from inside that gave NU a lead it would not relinquish.

"It's hard to get back on the left-hand side of things," UW guard Trevon Hughes, who finished with 15 points on 3-for-10 shooting said after the game. "But, this is life. We got to get it together. We're running out of time."

After Moore hit his free throws to extend his team's lead to three with just over 20 seconds left, it appeared Jarmusz, who had already hit two shots from distance in the game, had an open look to potentially tie the game. Instead, he dished it down low to Landry who scored his 10th and final points of the game.

While UW was able to get the score to cut the lead to one with Landry's bucket, the look was there for the potential game-tying three. But after trading free throws for lay-ups, the Badgers never got an opportunity to get a three off when it needed to.

"They made some tough drives at the end," Ryan explained. "But we kept coming down trying to match, trying to match and keep it at one possession. With no timeouts, I liked the way we attacked the rim."

On UW's final possession, Hughes' looked to have been on the wrong end of some contact near mid-court with his team down three. After the game, he acknowledged that Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody wanted his team to foul and eliminate any chance for what would have been a game-tying three-point shot.

"Their coach told them to foul," Hughes said. "So I was waiting for it, I was anticipating the foul. They smacked me across my arm. I'm not going to fake that. We needed to get a shot up."

The Badgers return to action next Thursday against Illinois in the Kohl Center where it will look to finally end its longest losing streak in over a decade..

Quick notes:

-After his 21-point outburst, Keaton Nankivil was held to five points. After picking up his fourth foul with over 18 minutes to play, the sophomore big man did not return to the court for the remainder of the game.

-After scoring a combined eight points during UW's previous three games, Jon Leuer chipped in 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

Both him and Bohannon, UW's most struggling players, bounced back Saturday night and shot a combined 8-for-13 from the field and 5-for-6 from downtown en route to 23 combined points.

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