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March 12, 2011

Badgers ousted with ugly loss

INDIANAPOLIS - There simply isn't a way to cover up the mess the Wisconsin men's basketball team left inside Conseco Fieldhouse during the quarterfinal round of the annual Big Ten Tournament.

Whether it was UW's pitiful 33-point effort - a number the Badgers matched or bettered in 36 of the 62 halves it's played this season - or the six new season lows it set, there is nothing that can salvage the most miserable performance any Bo Ryan coached team at Wisconsin has played.

From the 10-0 run Penn State opened the game with, or the eventual 18-2 margin the Nittany Lions opened before UW started to painstakingly chip away at the deficit, there is no adjective that can conjure up any sort of silver lining inside the pits of misery for the Wisconsin basketball team.

Just a handful of days after surrendering 93 points to Ohio State to close the regular season, Wisconsin failed to advance into the semifinal round of its conference tournament for the third-straight season.

"Defensively we couldn't have done things any worse than we did in our last game," Ryan said his team's first back-to-back loss since 2009. "Before you ask if we spent all our time on defense, no. But it might have looked like that."

Wisconsin fired 51 shots, but made only 15. UW hoisted 21 3-pointers, but only made two. Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor scored a combined 26 points, but the rest of the team only chipped in seven.

The Badgers scored 16 points in the first half, shot 29.4 percent from the field and an even sadder 9.5 percent clip from distance. Those three stats, along with their total points (33), first half points (16) and field goals made (15) are all season lows.

This was the type of game where TV's are shut off, hair is pulled out and remotes are thrown across the room.

If any of the other stats didn't force Badger fans to cringe, the fact that Taylor had the ball in his hands as time was ticking down with a chance to tie only to miss with nothing other than a forced air ball that never stood a chance will.

That painstaking dagger might have forced the blood to boil the hottest.

"We forced a lot of shots today," Taylor, who finished with 16 points on 7-of-21 shooting, said. "We were down two and I took a shot at the wing, a three, and airballed. We just didn't make very good decisions throughout the game on more than one occasion and it kind of put us in a hole.

"There's not much else to say."

Talor Battle paced Penn State with nine points. Yes, Penn State leading scorer only had nine points. And to make matters worse, Battle reached his nine points on 3-of-18 shooting and never seemed to be close to comfortable until he sunk a 3-pointer with less than two and a half minutes to play to give his team a five-point lead.

"It was a war," Battle said. "No one could hit a shot. At first I thought it was just me and then I see now that nobody else really hit any. It was an ugly game, but we fought and found a way to win.

"That's what good teams do."

Wisconsin out-rebounded Penn State by three and committed just five turnovers. It wasn't nearly enough. Both teams sloughed through 42 possessions and didn't even come close to finding any sort of offensive rhythm.

Keaton Nankivil, who had been averaging more than 10 points in Big Ten play, scored three. His 3-pointer with a minute to play cut Penn State's lead to two. After holding Penn State scoreless on the ensuing possession, Taylor had a wide-open look from the top of the key that would have given the Badgers its first lead of the game.

But, as it did the entire game, Taylor's shot went awry and fell back into the hands of the Nittany Lions. Battle was eventually fouled, but only connected on one of two free throws leaving a slight window open for the Badgers.

But Taylor, though UW had a timeout left, panicked and forced a shot after trying to draw contact that fell way short. The result was yet another loss in what's becoming a house of horrors for the Badgers.

"I guess I expected a little something different from them," Taylor said. "Either way it's the same thing. It's just bad decisions and unfortunately it's not going to win games for you. You've just got to get back in and get better at it for Thursday or Friday. Whenever we play."

Injury update:

UW official announced that Mike Bruesewitz suffered a "lower leg injury." After the game, coach Ryan didn't have much else to offer.

"I did not find anything out before we left the locker room," Ryan said. "I don't know."

Up next:

UW will learn its NCAA tournament fate Sunday afternoon during the Selection Show. There will be a press conference to follow so stay tuned to BadgerBlitz.com throughout the weekend.



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