March 23, 2009

The season that was

MADISON, Wis. - As the final buzzer sounded inside Taco Bell Arena Sunday afternoon, it was the final sound to one of the more up and down seasons of Wisconsin basketball under Bo Ryan.

The 60-49 loss to Xavier, a team that flustered the Badgers defensively, thwarted any chance for UW to get back to the sweet sixteen for the second straight year. But looking back at the way January went for this Badger squad, and many would have been happy to hear Wisconsin was even playing late in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.

With the 2008-09 season in the books, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look back at the season that was for Badger basketball.

THE HIGH POINTS

UW vs. Florida State (NCAA tournament first round)

Wisconsin looked like a team destined for first round disappointment when it entered the locker room down 12 to a lanky and very athletic FSU squad. Instead, the Badgers utilized a 13-0 run to start the second half to get them back in the game.

In fact, the Badgers rallied from seven down with less than 10 minutes left to force overtime in one of the more thrilling games in recent UW history. During the overtime session, Wisconsin found itself down one with time running out before Trevon Hughes put UW on top for good with a swooping runner to give the Badgers the lead with two seconds to play. On top of the made basket, Hughes was fouled and hit the free throw to give his team a two-point edge.

As a No. 12 seed, the Badgers barely snuck in the tournament and not many thought they had what it took to hang with FSU. However, the defensive intensity and sheer will to win guided the Badgers to the upset win, and extended their season one more game.

UW at Virginia Tech

The Big Ten has never come out on the winning side of the ACC/Big Ten challenge, but this year, UW did its part to try to end that streak. After seizing control for the majority of the game, Virginia Tech's A.D. Vasallo took over down the stretch, individually willing his team back into the game with 24-second half points.

After the Hokies senior drilled his sixth three-point shot of the game to tie the contest, UW junior Trevon Hughes took the ball up court and nailed an off-balance running jumper with .9 seconds remaining that gave UW an exciting 74-72 win in Blacksburg.

Northwestern at UW

After completing the non-conference portion of the schedule with a 9-3 record, the Badgers stormed out of the Big Ten gates with three straight wins. After a dominating win at Michigan and close victory at home against Penn State, UW demolished the Wildcats by 29 points en route to a 3-0-league start.

Ohio State at UW

After losing six straight games, the Badgers hosted the Buckeyes on the national stage. ESPN's College Gameday was at the Kohl Center and UW held off OSU in one of the more exciting home games of the season. The win was UW's fourth straight and got them back into the tournament discussion.

THE LOW POINTS

The six-game losing streak

When UW lost at Purdue to start the streak, it would have been absurd to think that marked the beginning to a six-game skid. But one loss kept coming after another. None, though were more demoralizing than the loss to Minnesota at the Kohl Center.

After having a 12-point lead with five minutes to play, the Badgers collapsed under the Gophers pressure defense and allowed Minnesota to scratch and claw back into the game. Then, with just three seconds remaining, Lawrence Westbrook drilled a three to tie the game, sending it to overtime.

In the extra session, the Gophers pulled away for the shocking 78-74 win.

"A loss like this always hurts," Landry said following the loss. "You come in and you're up 10 with about four minutes to go and you end up losing the game. These are the games that hurt. These are the games that stick with you.

"These are the games that you never want to happen again in the future."

But they did, starting with the next loss at Iowa. The Badgers once again blew a late second half lead before losing in the extra session to the Hawkeyes marking its third straight loss.

To follow that up, the Badgers couldn't make up an early deficit against Illinois, let a four-point lead in the final two minutes slip away at home to Purdue, and let upstart Northwestern nip UW by three in Evanston to cap the six-game losing streak.

"It's hard to get back on the left-hand side of things," Hughes said following the loss to Northwestern. "But this is life, we got to get it together. We're running out of time."

UW at Michigan State

In their only meeting this season, UW seemed to have the Spartans on their heels. After a Landry three gave the Badgers a 12-point lead with 12 minutes to play, it looked as though Wisconsin was going to escape with a win.

MSU did not agree with that. The Spartans stepped up their defense and finished the game on a 32-9 run to seal the 61-50 win.

"It's simple," Joe Krabbenhoft said following the loss. "They executed, we didn't. They hit shots when they needed them.

"I'm disappointed in the performance…we felt like we were in control almost the whole game and then let it slip away. Give credit to the other team."

UW at Marquette

It was a sign of things to come. The Badgers blew a double-digit lead and allowed the Golden Eagles to come from behind and beat a UW squad that looked poised to pull the upset at the Bradley Center. Instead, Wisconsin left Milwaukee with its second straight loss to in-state rival Marquette.

Texas at UW

Moving forward, the Badgers also blew a second half lead to Texas at home, where Joe Krabbenhoft turned the ball over near half-court to Dogue Balbay who turned the steal into a lay-up that gave Texas the lead for good.

"It just keeps getting replayed in my mind and it doesn't stop," Krabbenhoft said following the loss to the Longhorns. "I just can't figure out why I would do that. There's no excuse for it. I'm a senior. I've been in big games and handled the ball.

"I take 100 percent responsibility for it."

PLAYERS STEPPING UP

Jordan Taylor

From the Night of the Grateful Red to the loss to Xavier, freshman Jordan Taylor played great basketball and provided depth at the guard position for Wisconsin.

His numbers were anything but impressive, but he managed the game in a positive manner and limited turnovers. He allowed Hughes to play the two spot, which allowed him more opportunities to get open.

Marcus Landry

Landry takes a lot of slack for poor offensive performances during points of the season, but the impact he had for the Badgers playing the five spot all year was admirable. Plenty of times during the season, he matched up with players that were taller and bigger than him, but still defended them well. His effort was always there, particularly on the defensive side, and his offensive capabilities lifted his team several times throughout the season.

Joe Krabbenhoft

Without the hustle and ball awareness that Krabbenhoft possessed, where would this team have been? Krabbenhoft was the Badgers best rebounder and chipped in a respectable 8.2 points per game.

Krabbenhoft, never considered an explosive scorer, flirted with a new career high in points on multiple occasions this season. By the end, he established a new personal best with his 19-point performance

Needless to say, it was a shame seeing one of the hardest working Badgers end his career with a zero point outing against Xavier.

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