EVANSTON - With just less than seven minutes to play in Wednesday's tilt at Northwestern, Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes had only two points and UW trailed 42-39.
Then the senior floor general took over.
Though he had missed on each of his first nine shots and looked relatively out of sync throughout three-quarters of the contest, Hughes picked up his slack and helped his teammates to a 60-50 win over a feisty NU squad hungry for a resume-building win.
Down the stretch, UW's leading scorer hit 5-of-6 shots, including three shots from downtown to push the Badgers over the hump and stick a dagger deep into the heart of the Wildcats.
"After the eight minute media timeout I told myself to stop shooting," Hughes, who finished with 16 points said. "But when I sat down my teammates kept on telling me to keep shooting. I got two open looks, I missed one but I took the second one in less than a second span and it went down.
"That's when I felt good."
During that play, the energy in a half red, half purple Welsh-Ryan Arena started to sway in favor of the visiting team. Hughes launched an open look but it clanked off the back iron. After Jordan Taylor, who dished seven assists without a turnover, hauled in the offensive board, he found Hughes still open on the perimeter and the senior knocked it down.
The bucket gave the Badgers a one-point lead and one that they would not relinquish the remainder of the affair.
"That's the one that gave me my confidence," Hughes said.
Though Hughes was the standout performer during the final stretch of a hostile road Big Ten game, it was truly a team effort for Wisconsin in a game that had the Badgers playing without Jon Leuer for the first time.
Over the final 14-2 run that led to the eventual final margin, Wisconsin collected all 11 rebounds while Northwestern, who started off in man defense and later switched to its staple zone, was unable to corral any loose balls.
"They'd miss a shot, rebound, miss a shot, rebound" NU head coach Bill Carmody said after the loss. "You know, two, three, four rebounds. I thought it was a winnable game, but Hughes came through.
"He missed a shot, then he lined up another one, misses and then knocks it down."
In essence, it was a game dominated by the Badger guards. Between Hughes (16), Jason Bohannon (19) and Jordan Taylor (10), the trio of backcourt players scored 45 of the team's 60 points.
They also combined for 117 minutes of game action and committed only three of the team's five turnovers.
"We did a tremendous job of a lot of different things tonight," Bohannon said following the win. "There's still room for improvement, don't get me wrong, and I'm sure coach will be on us tomorrow about that area. We did a good job about doing the little things, not giving them good shots and making them shoot those tough two-point shots.
"They hit a couple of them, but throughout the course of the game with their legs wearing down a little bit, they started not to fall in the second half."
After the first half that saw Northwestern shoot 50 percent from downtown and 45.8 percent from the field, UW buckled down and held the Wildcats to only 25 percent from distance in the final 20 minutes.
That, the offensive rebounding and clutch contributions from the senior guards helped UW scratch out a victory in a place that has been historically troublesome for the Badgers.
"That's a very good team out there," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "We beat a very good team and our senior guards made the difference. That maturity was huge. To come in here and finally hit some and get some distance with Northwestern, that was huge."
Quotes from inside the locker room:
-John Shurna, who scored 15 points, on UW's rebounding down the stretch:
"Early on we seemed to do a decent job with rebounding. There was that stretch there, I think they said that last five minutes, where they started crashing the glass. We have to give them credit and we also have to box out and do a better job rebounding because every possession is important especially down the stretch."
-Jeremy Nash on UW's second half adjustments on him after he scored nine first half points:
"I think Jason Bohannon was guarding me for the most part and I think he started to be more aggressive like pushing up on my hip when I came off the screen. So I think they did make an adjustment with him guarding more aggressively."
-Bo Ryan on his team's patience and care with the ball:
"Either you have to be disciplined and focused or it's just not going to work. This isn't the only team you have to do it against, but especially against them, because of the system."
-Taylor on his seven assist game and his comfort level:
"Once again, I've got to give a lot of credit to Pop and Jason. I think two or three of those I got an offensive rebound to land in my lap. I turned around and tossed a Brett Favre toss to A.P. (Adrian Peterson) and cashed in."
-Hughes on how things open up for him when Taylor runs the point:
"I think it opens up not just me but everybody. With him coming into the game, now he's starting and getting into the lane and distributing the ball to everybody. It's opening everyone's game up."
-Bohannon on his scoring in the game:
"A lot of people think with the zone that you've got to launch the three or whatever. If the shots are there, we put them up. A lot of times there's that back side that's open and stuff. We did a good job of penetrating and finding that open guy."
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