Badgers ‘D’ It One More Time
It was disappointing perhaps only in that Wisconsin didn’t get the shutout and, you know, become the first team in the post peach-basket era to hold an opponent scoreless.
Instead, the Badgers merely continued their remarkable assault on NCAA scoring machines with a 61-48 victory over Louisiana State in Thursday’s second West Regional semifinal game at the Pit.
As they did in first- and second-round wins against Fresno State and Arizona, the Badgers (21-13) continued to badger, rendering lifeless otherwise productive offensive units.
LSU, which averaged 76.7 points a game, was held to a season-low 48 points, scoring only 14 points in the first half.
In one stretch, the Tigers went 4:52 without attempting a field goal.
In three tournament victories, the Badgers have allowed three high-octane opponents an average of 54.3 points.
Nothing fancy. Just good old-fashioned man-to-man defense.
“It’s toughness,” said guard Mike Kelley, who contributed his usual three-point, four-rebound, five-steal performance. “We don’t have special schemes. The most complicated thing we run is the post-trap. We play man-to-man, chase people around, we don’t switch. You have to be mentally tough to play it for 40 minutes.”
The Tigers, with future NBA players on its roster, had 14 first-half turnovers to match their scoring output.
Not the kind of “double-double” coaches talk about.
“I keep saying I’m not sure some of the teams have seen the type of defense we play,” Wisconsin guard Jon Bryant said.
The one school that knows about it is Purdue, Saturday’s opponent.
The winner of this Big Ten grudge match advances to the Final Four.
It will be fourth meeting between the schools. Purdue and Wisconsin split two regular season games.
On March 10, in the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin beat Purdue, 78-66.
“They play at least as hard as we do,” Wisconsin Coach Dick Bennett said.
Boilermaker Coach Gene Keady says that hard-fought defeat served as motivation for his team’s tournament run.
“I didn’t like the Big Ten tournament two weeks ago,” Keady said. “Now I’m starting to like it again.”
How can you not like Wisconsin?
In three victories, you could see defeat slowly forming in the eyes of Badger opponents.
“I think that confused look is a sense of frustration,” forward Andy Kowske said. “They see our defense, they know it’s tough, but it’s probably different when you play against it.”
LSU Coach John Brady says Thursday’s first half was not the worst any of his teams have ever played. He said once, while coaching in high school, his team was outscored, 52-12.
But embarrassment is embarrassment. Stromile Swift, LSU’s gifted sophomore forward, wore a look of disgust on his face as he left the court.
“I was disappointed because I knew we were a better team,” Swift said. “We just didn’t play LSU basketball in the first half.”
The Tigers would “explode” for 34 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
With 13:46 left, Duany Duany made a three-point basket to double the score, 38-16.
The Tigers had only 29 points with seven minutes left.
What could you say?
As they did last weekend against Arizona, the Badgers swarmed against the LSU big men.
Swift ended with 12 points, as did center Jabari Smith, but most of those were on garbage plays.
“They got some points,” Kowske said, “but it was mostly on offensive rebounds, not within their offense.”
LSU (28-6) shot only 36.2%, making 17 of 47 field-goal attempts. Wisconsin shot only 38%, sure, but the Badgers always shoot poorly.
The Tigers didn’t completely quit.
Jermaine Williams’ three-point basket with 2:39 left trimmed the lead to 47-38, but Bryant answered with a three 20 seconds later to push back the threat.
Bryant led all scorers with 16 points.
“People say, ‘What’s wrong with LSU?’ ” Brady said. “You’ve got to give them credit. Sometimes the other team is that good. Tonight, Wisconsin was very good defensively. They didn’t allow us to do what we wanted to do.”
* PURDUE 75, GONZAGA 66D11
* MICHIGAN STATE 75, SYRACUSE 58D11