March 8, 2009

Seniors leave Kohl Center on winning note

MADISON, Wis. - Through four years of hard work on and off the court, Wisconsin senior Joe Krabbenhoft saved on of his best performances for his final appearance in front of the hometown crowd.

In UW's 85-61 rout of Indiana Sunday night at the Kohl Center, Krabbenhoft logged a career high 19 points and chipped in his usual nine rebounds on senior night which helped give the Badgers a win it desperately needed.

"I think by the time you're a senior, you've obviously been through it for four years," Krabbenhoft said in reference to senior day. "Obviously we knew in the back of our minds that we wanted to come off the floor in the right way, but we knew Indiana was a feisty ball club and that they were going to play right to the end and they did."

In fact, after Indiana's Verdell Jones III, who finished with a game high 23 points, hit both free throws with just over five minutes to play in the first half, the Hoosiers had cut the Badgers lead down to six.

From that point on, and in large part due to Kevin Gullikson's shooting, the Badgers finished the half on a 14-3 run to open a 17-point halftime advantage.

"Everyone was in sync," Krabbenhoft said. "I think Kevin (Gullikson) came in and did a real good job in the last few minutes of the first half. That baseline jumper with a couple seconds to go was huge. It was a big momentum swing."

After taking a timeout with 37 seconds left in the half, the Badgers, who dished 19 assists as a team, worked the clock before Jason Bohannon found Gullikson wide open on the baseline.

Gullikson, who finished with seven points, never hesitated and drilled the shot with time running out to propel the Badgers into the locker room.

But the game was already in hand for the most part before that jumper.

The Badger defense, especially around the perimeter, forced Indiana into committing 12 first half miscues that led to 15 points off turnovers. Junior Trevon Hughes led the pack with five steals.

That defensive pressure and the overall balanced offense was what doomed the Hoosiers in the end. To go along with the assists, Wisconsin only turned the ball over six times and was clearly focused on distributing the ball.

"That's what we've been working on the last week or so," UW junior Jason Bohannon, who finished with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting, said. "The games we've lost we haven't moved the ball well and we haven't cut well. The last couple of days in practice, coach really tried to hit that home on trying to get us moving well and cutting all the way to the basket and find the open guy."

Senior Marcus Landry scored seven points to go along with his seven rebounds and career high tying six assists. He never really found his offensive stroke through the majority of the game, but he picked up the slack through other areas of the game.

"Marcus had six assists tonight," Bohannon said. "He did a great job of kicking it out of the post when he had the double team. We're a dangerous team when we're able to do that."

On a night that recognized all four Badger seniors, it was only fitting that all four got into the scorebook. After coming into the game with just over three minutes to play, Morris Cain received a pass from Tim Jarmusz on the right elbow and calmly sank the 14-foot jumper, much to the delight of the home crowd.

"It was great," Landry said of Cain's jumper. "Just to see Mo out on the court and just to be able to be part of this team. Mo said it the right way when he speaking on the jumbotron (UW had a video tribute to all the seniors following the game). It was his dream to play division one basketball and he got that chance being here.

"That shot just sends it over the edge."

With the win, Wisconsin locked up the four seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. The Badgers will take on Ohio State Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the league tourney.

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