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Badgers kick off Big Ten season with a bang

December 28, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — No band, no cheerleaders, no problem.

For the better part of two months, the Kohl Center was hardly an intimidating home arena, with the student section quiet and relatively empty, even as the Badgers routinely defeated opponents by 20-plus points.

With thousands from the University already in Pasadena by Tuesday night, Wisconsin electrified the crowd, knocking off border rival Minnesota, 68-60, and kicking off the Big Ten season with a bang in the process.

“It was a big win for us. Definitely,” said Jon Leuer, one of four Minnesota natives on the UW squad. “They’ve kind of had our number over the last couple years, so to get this one it felt good definitely.

“We’re 1-0 in the Big Ten, and we have 17 to go.”

Though most Wisconsin fans may be California dreamin’ this week, the 24th-ranked basketball team showed it deserved some attention as well. True to form, Bo Ryan‘s squad did it through ball security and free throw shooting.

While they were outrebounded and outscored in the paint by wide margins, the Badgers only turned the ball over twice while connecting on 17-of-18 free throws.

Of those two turnovers, one came on a Ryan Evans traveling violation early in the second half, while the other was an uncharacteristic mistake by Taylor just three minutes into the game, which allowed Trevor Mbakwe to grab the steal. For two stretches of about 17 minutes, Wisconsin did not give the ball away.

Afterward, Ryan compared it to the Feb. 28, 2008 game against Michigan State, when Joe Krabbenhoft committed the only turnover in the game in the Badgers’ 57-42 victory.

“Kelby Krabbenhoft is here, and he said two is too many because in the game where we only had one, his son had it,” Ryan said. “So Kelby thought two was too many.

“I thought we did a great job of taking care of the ball. I thought they were pretty active. We got ourselves into some situations where I didn’t know if we were going to be able to attack, retreat, get it out, get it over, and we did.”

After trailing by five points midway through the first half, Wisconsin took control and led by as much at 10 points with 18:19 to go in the game. But Minnesota continued to fight, tying the game at 56 apiece with under six minutes to play.

Minnesota native Jordan Taylor hit a three to put the Badgers back out in front on the next possession, but his biggest play came in the game’s final two minutes, though whether it was the game’s biggest play remains up for debate.

With 1:12 to go, Taylor penetrated the Minnesota defense and put it off the glass and in, while crashing to the floor in the process. His drive sparked the team, and the added free throw for the three-point play all but sealed the Wisconsin victory.

“It was a momentum swing, but I think the biggest play of the game was Jon’s offensive rebound,” Taylor said. “We were up two, and that rebound allows us to get the ball and shoot free throws the rest of the way out.”

Taylor deferred to Leuer’s rebound, which came on the Badgers’ next possession, off a missed three by Taylor.

Leuer grabbed the ball off the glass for just the fourth offensive board of the game for UW, and the two combined to hit six free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal it. Ask the 6-foot-10 forward about his rebound, however, and he’ll defer to Taylor’s three-point play.

“No, I think that and-one was a bigger play,” Leuer said. “It was a time when the game was really close, he drove and I didn’t even see him because both their big guys jumped. I just saw the ball go up, hit off the backboard and it was an and-one. I was very excited at that point.”

As the Badgers secured the ball throughout the contest — their two turnovers was an NCAA low for the season, breaking their own previous mark of three — Taylor led the way with seven assists against just one turnover.

He added a game-high 22 points, while playing 39 minutes against a handful of tough Minnesota guards. The Big Ten is a point guard heavy league, and Taylor has certainly shown that he deserves to be in the discussion among the Big Ten’s best.

“He’s the most impressive point guard we’ve played against this year,” Gophers head coach Tubby Smithsaid of Taylor.

“To play a game with just two turnovers, and for him to go 7:1, that’s pretty good, assist-to-turnover,” Ryan said. “He’s definitely our leader on the court. His and-one I think kind of inspired the other guys. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

 

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Gilreath ready to battle TCU’s Kerley

December 21, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Tiptoeing down the sideline after making a would-be tackler miss, Jeremy Kerley appeared to have run out of room at the 16-yard-line. No matter, he simply stopped in his tracks and headed left.

After backtracking a few yards to avoid another defender, Kerley found a huge hole and cut back through it to his right, finding the end zone on a 69-yard punt return touchdown.

When asked Sunday about that punt return, which came on Oct. 17, 2009 as TCU blasted Colorado State 44-6, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema admitted he had seen it several times, and could not think of a better one he’s seen.

“The thing that you see, which he has, with great returners it’s almost like they can see the field before it begins to happen,” Bielema said. “They can feel coverage and break to a certain part (of the field). I think it’s something that is a gift that’s just given to them.”

Kerley, a finalist for the Hornung Award, which is given to college football’s most versatile player, certainly would seem to have that gift. While he had not found the end zone on a punt return since that spectacular performance against CSU, Kerley has a big impact on every game for TCU.

On 30 punt returns this season, Kerley has picked up 388 yards for an average of just under 13 yards per attempt. That number is below his career average of 13.8 yards per return. Kerley also has 17 kickoff returns on the year, picking up an average of 28 yards. That number is actually higher than his career average of 27.3 yards on 35 attempts.

Within the TCU offense, Kerley has contributed 13 touchdowns, including two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown at Utah. He also has 50 receptions for 517 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“He’s a beast,” said senior David Gilreath. “I’ve been watching him for the last couple years.”

While he had high praises for his counterpart, Gilreath has done something Kerley has not: return a kickoff for a touchdown. Kerley does, however, have a 2-to-1 edge on punt return touchdowns.

Gilreath’s touchdown, a 97-yard sprint on the opening kickoff against Ohio State came just under a year after Kerley’s impressive punt return performance. While the win over the top-ranked Buckeyes was more impressive than TCU blowing out the Buffaloes, both scores sparked their respective teams in the victories.

“I’ll always remember it,” Gilreath said of his return. “I was just watching it on YouTube the other day. Somebody said something, and I was like, ‘Well, come check this out, man.’ I try to always give credit to the blockers because I ran, but that hole was huge.”

Just as Bielema admitted to seeing Kerley’s return several times, Gilreath acknowledged he’s watched himself start that game off with a bang many times in the last two months.

“I try to take myself back in the moment a little bit because I still think it’s unreal,” Gilreath said. “It went by so fast, and I look back watching it and it’s still unreal to think about how that happened in that moment against the No. 1 team.”

Both returners will be remembered for their thrilling return touchdowns, and both can change the momentum of a game with the ball in their hands.

While the true challenge will be on the Badgers’ coverage units to stop Kerley, facing another elite returner is an exciting challenge for Gilreath as well.

“Any time I get to go against a good return guy, I pride myself on competing against them and trying to have a better game,” Gilreath said. “No. 85 for Northwestern, he got me that game, but I try to compete out there and see what I can do against another good returner.”

As he referenced both Kerley and Venric Mark of NU, Gilreath called them both by number: No. 85. It just so happens that the same number appears on his jersey as well.

Is the key to return success, as he sees it, having an ’85’ on your jersey?

“Yeah, yeah, pretty much,” Gilreath answered with a smile. “That’s the key.”

Media ethics, Rose Bowl tickets and naming names

December 16, 2010 Comments off

I’ve been required to write another ethics paper this semester, and I thought I’d share it right away this time. Enjoy.

It seems it is not a true semester at the University of Wisconsin until The Badger Herald creates some form of controversy, which then results in some form of uproar on a campus-wide, local or national scale.  Mark down Dec. 5, 2010, on your calendar as the date on which the Fall 2010 semester became official in Madison.  It was on that day that the Herald published the names of more than 30 students who had, within hours of the tickets selling out, posted Rose Bowl tickets for sale at prices well above face value.  Such actions were deemed outrageous by Kevin Bargnes, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, who penned the article, while opting not to put his name on such a story (likely for fear of ridicule from those whose names were listed).  So punishable were the decisions made by the accused that Bargnes, with no one in a position of authority above him to advise against it, subjected these students to undue criticism and ridicule through Facebook and via e-mail, while (sort of) avoiding it himself by not putting his name on the story.  Not only did Bargnes draw attention to the subject of the UW Athletic Department’s ticketing policies, he also garnered a lot of national media attention to the newspaper, some of which supported his position (Deadspin, for example)  and some that did not (nearly everyone else).  After the editorial piece quickly became the most commented story on the newspaper website, including many inappropriate comments, the comments section was closed, the wording of the story was edited, and the Herald’s editorial board realized it was a situation it must address.  In doing so, however, they did not stand against Bargnes’ unilateral decision to post the names.  At the same time, the newspaper decided to remove the names, citing a lack of resources to post names for everyone selling tickets, rather than acknowledging the mistake it had made.  Throughout the entire process, the Herald failed quite miserably to uphold one of the major portions of the code of ethics followed by the Society of Professional Journalists, that of minimizing harm.

In the SPJ code of ethics, it says, “Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect,” and that, “Journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.”  In printing the names of nearly three dozen students who had posted Rose Bowl tickets for sale on the Facebook marketplace, Bargnes and the Herald paid no mind to this portion of the code of ethics.  If it had been considered, especially with the way the original story was worded, Bargnes should have realized that by printing these names — which he had easily found on Facebook himself — the Herald would subject these students to an unwarranted barrage of negative commentary from other students, some of which went as far as death threats on the students and their families.  Regardless of whether the threats were serious or credible, they’re certainly not something to be taken lightly.  While such threats were likely quite a surprise to Bargnes and the Herald staff, that is not a viable excuse for giving people the opportunity to make such threats.  Had those names not been posted in the newspaper, those students likely would have been able to profit from such sales in peace, without a crusade of enraged Wisconsin students accusing them of being the “worst people on campus,” as suggested by the headline of the editorial.

To make things worse, the article said there was a “special place in hell” for those who scalp Rose Bowl tickets, while also asking fellow students to “ridicule the ever-loving shit out of the above people.”  Bargnes and the herald can claim that the articles was a joke all they want, but when people do exactly what was suggested, there’s only one place to look for whom to blame in this case.  As bad as those portions of the editorial were, the Herald’s remedy for such language in the article only made matters worse from an ethical standpoint.  First, closing the comments section — a portion of the website that has regularly gotten the newspaper in trouble in the past — was a mistake.  Sure, it may limit the number of inappropriate or derogatory comments that get through on the story, but there should be something in place to limit those in the first place.  More importantly, though, it does not allow for the same amount of public discussion that helped get the story so much attention in the first place.  Coupled with the fact that the original wording of the article was changed to be more appropriate, and such actions make it clear the Herald had realized it made a mistake in publishing Bargnes’ piece.  Yet, the piece remained on the site, and for a while, so did the list of names.

Eventually, of course, the names list was taken down, leaving just a snarky editorial piece with an editor’s note that claimed the list was taken down due to a lack of resources.  Nearly every previous action taken to edit the original post on the website showed at least a small sense of remorse, and seemed to acknowledge that what Bargnes and the Herald had done was a mistake.  Rather than admit it, however, the newspaper chose to brush it under the rug, accept the attention it had gotten (both good and bad) and move on with the final two weeks of the semester.  But because it was published in their print edition and distributed across the world wide web, those names are not really gone.  And even if they were, the effect on those people whose names were listed in the article certainly was not lessened by the fact that they were no longer listed as one of the “worst people on campus.”  Another section of the SPJ code of ethics is accountability.  In this section, it says that “Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other,” and that they should “admit mistakes and correct them promptly,” while they should also “abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.”  In this case, the Herald corrected its mistake, but did not do so promptly.  More importantly, though, the paper and its editor never admitted to its mistake.  Instead, they used an assortment of excuses, claiming it was a tongue-in-cheek joke, citing a lack of resources as the reason for taking down the list, and refusing to ever admit that what it did was wrong.  In fact, the closest it the newspaper came to apologizing for what it did was to apologize for the results of the story in the editorial board piece, while still maintaining that publishing the list of names was the right thing to do.  It also came close to apologizing without actually doing so in saying that it was not fair to list nearly three dozen names on the website when so many others were doing the same thing. That argument is part of what makes the article so questionable in the first place.

In the comments section and in many other published responses to Bargnes’ piece, the debate of economics, capitalism and scalping dominate the discussion that is not related to the appropriateness of naming names.  In these comments, some accuse Bargnes and his staff of not truly understanding economic and capitalistic principles.  In the newspaper’s defense, others say there is a difference between scalping and economics.  In reality, however, there is not.  It may be seen as an unethical act by some, but in a simple supply-and-demand environment, when tickets are only available to season ticket holders and donors, it makes simple economic sense to resell such tickets to those that are willing to pay high prices to get them.  But that’s beside the point of why it’s inappropriate to run such an article with the names of those selling tickets at inflated prices.  While they certainly drew attention to the subject of the ticket distribution practices of the UW Athletic Department, Bargnes and the Herald overlook another simple fact: tickets are scalped at every major sporting event.  Why not list the names of those selling their full-season tickets for major profits at the beginning of each semester?  Or call out those that sold their tickets to the Ohio State game this past October for more than what they paid for all seven games in the first place?  The answers to both, of course, are the lack of resources cited by the Herald.  Additionally, it makes sense from a marketing standpoint to put yourself on as big a stage as possible, and the Rose Bowl certainly qualifies as that.  But from a journalistic ethics standpoint, it’s certainly not fair to print such a small number of names when considering how many people scalp tickets every year.  As a member of the media, I get a season pass to football games, but that doesn’t stop me from using my ability as a student to buy season tickets and sell them for profit, which I’ve done each of the past two years.  In her response article on ESPN.com, Jemele Hill admitted the following, “If there’s a special place in hell for someone who re-sells a ticket to a sporting event for more than face value, then hell is going to have an extensive waiting list. And I’d be on it.”

While the ethical nature of scalping tickets — especially to an event like the Rose Bowl that is held so dear by Wisconsin football fans — is up for debate, it certainly is not illegal.  And it even more certainly does not merit one’s name being included on a list of the “worst people on campus.”  While his intent may have been admirable, Bargnes’ execution of his editorial piece was well off the mark, especially when the SPJ ethical standard of minimizing harm is applied.  To make matters worse, Bargnes and the Herald editorial board teamed up to fail to uphold the SPJ standard of accountability, giving it two strikes as far as the SPJ code of ethics is concerned.  The people listed certainly are not the “worst people on campus,” and the decision to run such an article was an ethical mistake, one that the Herald  and any other student journalists certainly ought to learn from in the future.

Works Cited:

SPJ Code of Ethics.” Society of Professional Journalists. Accessed Dec. 15, 2010.

The Worst People on Campus.” The Badger Herald. Accessed Dec. 5, 2010 through Dec. 15, 2010 (as updated).

Wisconsin Student Paper Names, Shames Students Re-Selling Rose Bowl Tickets.” Deadspin.com. Accessed Dec. 15, 2010.

No shame in selling Wisconsin tickets.” ESPN.com. Accessed Dec. 15, 2010.

 

Maintaining independence as a sports reporter

December 16, 2010 Comments off

I recently came across a paper that I wrote last spring about journalism ethics, and thought I would share it. Enjoy.

Journalists must maintain independence from those they cover.  One of the nine key principles of journalism according to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, independence is perhaps the biggest issue that arises on a daily basis in sports reporting.  Certainly, in any aspect of journalism, independence is important and can often be a difficult thing to achieve.  But in covering sports, independence becomes even more challenging.

For one, sporting events typically require long hours to cover.  A professional football or baseball game typically lasts three hours. In college, they typically can be even longer.  When a reporter arrives at least three hours before and remains at least two hours afterward on a regular basis, that makes for a minimum of eight hours a day at the arena, ballpark or stadium.  In any other job, an eight-hour workday comes with a lunch break.  With that in mind, teams typically serve meals before, during or after a game.  Some serve food at all three times.

But how do you deal with any bias that might arise from such food service?  Especially when it is provided free of charge?  Sports franchises are inherently inclusive, as fans that have no connection to the team other than the city or state in which they live — and for some even less — commonly refer to their favorite team in the first person.  As in, “we have no pitching,” or “we really need to win this game tonight.”

While such a mindset is just fine for fans, it is something reporters must avoid at all costs.  Yet, as a sports reporter, one inevitably is also a fan, whether of the team one covers or any other team.  As such, it is important to separate those thoughts and emotions that come along with being a fan from those of working as a reporter.  While a fan might react in anger to their team’s poor play, a journalist should be asking questions:  Why did they play so poorly?  What does this mean for their future?  What do they need to do to improve?  While a reporter can also be a fan, and he or she can have the same feelings of anger, disappointment or joy inside as a fan might, a reporter must put those feelings aside in order to provide an accurate, independent and unbiased depiction of what took place on the field, court or ice.

Over the past two years, I’ve covered a number of events in a number of different sports at various locations.  From women’s basketball to softball, baseball to football, hockey to men’s basketball, nearly all of them included food service.  If they did not provide free food, there usually was free soda or sports drinks.  Being (a) human and (b) a college student, I’ve never once turned down anything free at a sporting event that I’ve covered. Not a single time.  In fact, I’ve never really thought twice about it.  For one, the reporters from bigger, more professional news sources did the same.  So, why should I, a poor college student, being paid little to no salary to be here, refuse such service?  Plus, the food — aside from that served at any Northwestern sporting event — was always excellent.

At Wisconsin football games, I’ve had brats, chicken sandwiches, even prime rib.  When I covered the Badgers at Ohio State, they had free Oreo McFlurry desserts and iced coffee from McDonald’s.  Down in Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl, they even had a special “hospitality” room at the media hotel that included free drinks of a different variety.  Not wanting to miss out, I stood awkwardly in that room for a few minutes, partaking of such freebies.  But food and drink are not the only things I’ve received free.

Over the summer, I covered the Madison Mallards, where they gave me free tickets since the press box was too small to accommodate me.  Since I had a ticket to each game, I received any and all fan giveaways.  This included, among other things, two free t-shirts, two bobble head dolls, and a stress-relief duck.  At the Champs Sports Bowl, they gave us free hooded sweatshirts.  More recently, in covering Brewers games, I’ve received free notebooks, magnetic schedules and of course, more bobble heads.

Should I have accepted as many freebies over the past two years as I have?  Maybe not.  But while I have accepted such things, I can honestly say it has not influenced my writing one bit.  Because while these teams may be giving me free things, I still recognize that I am not a part of the team, which is perhaps the biggest key to remaining independent.  Whereas fans feel as though they are part of the team, despite the distance between themselves and the players, I recognize that I am not, in spite of the inherent lack of distance between myself and those I cover.  In their book, “The Elements of Journalism,” Kovach and Rosenstiel suggest a similar argument. “One might imagine that one could both report on events and be a participant in them, but the reality is that being a participant both clouds all the other tasks a journalist must perform.  It becomes difficult to see things from other perspectives” (p. 119).  Kovach and Rosenstiel are spot on with this argument.  My position, despite the free food and merchandise I receive, has not resulted in any bias.  However, if I were being paid by the team, or even if I were a member of the team, there is simply no way I could remain entirely unbiased and independent in my reporting.

Since beginning my job at MLB.com, this issue has taken a different turn for me.  When I was at The Badger Herald, I knew we were an independent news source.  In fact, some of my colleagues took such pride in that fact that there was no way I could forget such a fact.  At times, it even seemed to become a crutch, as other Heralders would always fall back on the fact that we did not receive money from the university. This was especially common when comparing the Herald to other college newspapers that won awards we did not.  Yet, as I now work for MLB.com, and as my work is posted on the Brewers’ — or other teams’ — website, there is an inherent loss of independence.  For example, one of the first stories I wrote for the site was altered a bit after I submitted it.  My original version, led with, “After his outing at Miller Park on Saturday, the Brewers may be feeling some buyer’s remorse about Yovani Gallardo’s five-year, $30.1 million extension.”  By no means did I think this was out of line.  Gallardo had, after all, pitched quite poorly just days after receiving a healthy paycheck from the Brewers.  But when it was posted online, it was changed from “may be feeling” to “hope they won’t be feeling.”  Not significant, but in my mind, it changed the meaning of what I had written.  Still, it was close enough that I was OK with it.  Until it changed again the next day, that is.  The final version took out any idea of buyer’s remorse entirely: “Yovani Gallardo would have liked to have a better outing Saturday in his first start since signing a five-year, $30.1 million extension earlier this week.”  When I saw it, my first thought was, “well, yeah.”  Of course Gallardo would have liked a better outing, he lost.

It was at that point that I learned my writing would have to adapt — albeit only slightly — to the fact that it was posted on the Brewers’ team website.  It’s not necessarily something I’m happy about, because in the end, it limits my independence from the Brewers.  In covering the UW Athletic Department, it was my opinion that I could really say whatever I wanted, as long as it was accurate and I had statistics to back it up.  If that meant making the Badgers, or any players and coaches, look bad, so be it.  While I self-censored myself a bit to maintain our ability to cover UW athletics, I knew I could generally write whatever I wish.  Now, I have to limit some of the potential negativity in my writing.  Still, I see the opportunities presented by my job at MLB.com as far outweighing the limited negative aspects of it.

Another, and perhaps more difficult, part of remaining independent from the team I cover and neutral in my reporting, is putting aside my rooting interests.  Until I covered the Atlanta Braves for MLB.com this week, I had never covered a team that I did not want to see win.  As a Wisconsin native and UW-Madison undergraduate, any time I covered a UW sporting event, my heart wanted them to win.  When I covered the Mallards, I had two friends on the team.  Now, as a reporter covering the Brewers, I want them to win as well. If there’s anything I care about more than UW football, basketball and hockey, it’s the Milwaukee Brewers.  However, just because I want them to win, it doesn’t mean I sit up in the press box and cheer them on.  And that’s not just because I would be kicked out of the press box and lose my job for doing so.  Even if I could openly cheer for the teams I cover, I would not do so.  Not while on the job at least.  I still wear Badgers and Brewers gear on off days.  When the teams are on the road and I’m not covering them, I cheer as hard as anyone else.

However, once I put on my credential, take out my notebook and turn on my recorder, all that is pushed aside.  Because when it comes down to it, I am a journalist, and two of Kovach and Rosenstiel’s other key principles of journalism are more important than any rooting interest that I may have. First, as a journalist, my first obligation is to the truth. Secondly, my first loyalty is to the citizens.  In my case as a sports reporter, the truth and loyalty to citizens are not quite as dramatic and important to freedom and self-government as other forms of journalism, but fans still want to know the truth about their favorite teams.  Even when the truth is not necessarily something that they want to hear, fans and readers appreciate having such truth available to them, especially when their favorite teams are struggling.  If the manager is making decisions they don’t agree with, they want an explanation.  When their team’s best player is struggling, they want to hear from him, or the manager about it. So, while I may occasionally feel like I should protect a player that struggles or refrain from shining a negative light on an important mistake — whether to gain their trust or prevent them from criticism — I know that my job is to present the truth to my readers.

No special access to players or rooting interest in the team can change that fact.  Nor can any free food or other merchandise given to me.  While I am a sports fanatic and a fan of the teams I’ve covered and continue to cover, my responsibility as a journalist is not to myself as a fan or to the team that I cover.  First and foremost, I am a journalist and as such, I must remain independent of these teams.  On my own time, I cheer for whatever teams I want, regardless of if I cover them as a journalist or not.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Ball would be starting running back right now

December 13, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — One of the biggest debates since the Badgers earned a Rose Bowl berth has been focused on the distribution of carries among three running backs.

Do you go with what’s working in Montee Ball and James White? Or do you rely on your veteran running back John Clay, who just happens to have a Big Ten offensive player of the year award to his credit?

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema may have answered those questions Sunday night, when he met with reporters.

“Right now, Montee would be our starting running back,” Bielema said, matter of factly. “John has to wait for a few other guys to get in. Montee’s playing as good of football as anybody. No question.”

Well that sure seems to clear things up. Or does it?

With three weeks remaining until the Rose Bowl, it would not be out of the question for Bielema to change his mind and put Clay in the No. 1 spot. After all, he did say “right now” when referring to Ball as his starter.

While all three running backs have clearly expressed their support for one another, they never stop competing for carries. The idea that they have to work in practice to touch the ball in the game is not lost on the players either.

“I’d like to get my spot back, like how we were in the beginning of the year,” Clay said. “But I’ve just got to work for it. The guys played a heck of a few games when I was out, so I’ve just got to prove it again.”

Another thing that people can’t help but notice when looking ahead to the matchup with TCU is the potential for Wisconsin to have as many as three backs with 1,000 yards rushing on the year.

“Hopefully we can all get to it in this Rose Bowl game,” White added. “I don’t think any school’s ever done that before.”

White leads the way with 1,029 after another big performance against Northwestern, with Clay and Ball not far behind. Even after missing so much time, Clay needs just 64 yards to give the Badgers a second 1,000-yard rusher.

Ball’s chances aren’t as strong, but 136 yards certainly is not out of the question for the sophomore. When you consider he’s rushed for 127, 167, 173 and 178 yards against Purdue, Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern, it would almost be a surprise for Ball to come up shy of the mark.

Add his apparent status as the starting running back and his chances certainly improve even more. It’s not really something that he’s focusing on, though.

“First and foremost, the goal is to come out with a victory,” Ball said. “But it wouldn’t be a bad thing to crack 1,000. It’s definitely something that’s in the back of my mind and it’s going to motivate me to run even harder.”

In an ideal scenario, a big first half by Clay and the Badgers could give Wisconsin a big lead, with two of three backs over 1,000 yards on the year.

If that were to happen, how would those two running backs feel about deferring to Ball, to let him become the third to reach the milestone?

“Oh yeah, get his 1,000 yards, too,” Clay said. “He worked hard this whole season, so we might as well feed him the ball.”

Bielema was not so quick to embrace the idea of boosting Ball’s carries to get him to the 1,000-yard mark.

With his focus on winning, and not just playing in, the Rose Bowl, he expected to do whatever was needed to win.

“It’s obviously very attainable, but it’s not on our game plan list,” Bielema said. “The awards we’re getting and the recognition we get is a byproduct of what we do, and that’s going to be one of those same things.”

Gasser forced game-sealing turnover at Marquette

December 12, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Growing up in Port Washington, just 35 minutes north of Milwaukee, UW freshman Josh Gasser was a Marquette fan. As a Madison native, Marquette freshman Vander Blue was more familiar with Wisconsin basketball.

By a twist of fate, and Blue’s own decision making, the two squared off Saturday at the Bradley Center. Both in the starting lineup, Blue wore No. 2 in the blue and gold uniform for which Gasser once cheered, while Gasser donned his red No. 21 jersey for the Badgers.

As the final buzzer sounded and Wisconsin headed home with the 69-64 victory, it was clear Gasser was the perfect fit for the Badgers, while Blue may have been wishing he’d brought some big men along with him down I-94.

“Josh is happy to be a Badger. Couldn’t wait to be one. Didn’t have a scholarship for awhile, gets a scholarship,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “Hasn’t said a word — just goes through every drill, and when the drill’s over, ‘Josh did this.’

“Then I look at practice tapes and look at efficiency and things about positioning, he’s not going to wow you with a 360. But he can do a lot of things to put you on the left-hand side.”

The two starters nearly mirrored each other on the stat sheet.

Gasser played 30 minutes, scored four points on 2-of-6 shooting, grabbed two rebounds, dished two assists and grabbed one steal. Blue added seven points for Marquette in 29 minutes, while pulling down three rebounds and collecting one assist and one steal.

While Blue’s stats are slightly more impressive in the box score, the key difference comes on each player’s highlight of the game.

Blue’s first half steal led to an impressive two-handed breakaway dunk on the other end, which cut Wisconsin’s lead to 28-25. Gasser shined in the game’s final moments, however, as he split Dwight Buycks and Darius Johnson-Odom, knocking an attempted dribble hand-off out of bounds off Buycks with 2.6 seconds left.

“I didn’t even look at the official because they were trying to foul — they were up three,” MU head coachBuzz Williams said. “Then when I did look at him he said, ‘Turnover.’ We were looking for a handoff and fade screen, which is what we had done the previous possession.”

On the previous possession, the Badgers were burned by that play, as Jimmy Butler connected from beyond the arc to cut the lead to just three points.

This time, Gasser didn’t even let Marquette get the shot off.

“I jumped it, got a hand on the ball and maybe bumped him a little bit, but nothing big,” Gasser said. “It hit right off his leg and was our ball. If it would’ve been a foul, so be it. It was a big play for us.”

True to form, Gasser’s head coach kept him grounded as the freshman talked to reporters outside the locker room after the game.

“Josh, you’re not that good yet,” Ryan quipped on his way out the door.

Ryan may have had a point — Gasser certainly has plenty of room for improvement — but one thing is clear: Gasser is happy to have switched to the other side of the rivalry.

Wisconsin too strong for Marquette

December 11, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — They’re not sexy, and they aren’t going to wow you. They’ve never been known as one of the more athletic teams in the nation either.

But the Badgers are big, strong and aggressive, and that made the difference as Wisconsin held off Marquette, 69-64, in a hard-fought battle Saturday at the Bradley Center.

Just minutes into the second half, senior forward Jon Leuer picked up two quick fouls, giving him three for the game and sending him to the bench. After Darius Johnson-Odom connected on two free throws, Wisconsin led by a slim 36-34 margin with its leading scorer watching from the sideline.

While the situation did not look promising for UW, not only did the Badgers not struggle without their star, they actually extended the lead to as much as 48-39 over the next six minutes.

“That was big,” Leuer said. “It’s frustrating when you get in foul trouble because you want to be out there helping the team, but … they all stepped up, and that was fun. I was a cheerleader there on the sideline for a little bit. It was fun to see those guys step up and produce for us.”

Playing without Leuer is nothing new for the Badgers, of course. Last year, the 6-foot-10 forward missed a significant portion of the Big Ten schedule due to injury, and Wisconsin stayed afloat without him.

Leuer’s fellow senior forward, Madison native Keaton Nankivil was particularly impressive as Leuer sat on the bench. Nankivil scored Wisconsin’s first six points following Leuer’s third foul, while grabbing a pair of rebounds over the same stretch.

Nankivil saw the opportunity presented by Leuer’s absence, and took full advantage when his team needed it most.

“That’s something we work on all the time is taking advantage of opportunities,” Nankivil said. “I think when Jon went out, they might have focused on putting that pressure on a little bit harder. A couple of the possessions, we were in shot clock situations, they were looking to pressure our guards and maybe run and jump.

“Two of the plays were off hand offs that I decided to keep when they might’ve been looking to pressure our guards and we’ve just got to step on them.”

Squaring off with their in-state rivals Saturday, the Badgers used their superior size and strength and translated it into dominance on the boards, especially on the offensive end.

Wisconsin outrebounded Marquette 32-28 overall, including a 15-10 edge in offensive rebounds. While MU did post an 18-17 advantage on the defensive boards, the home team only grabbed three more rebounds on UW misses than the Badgers did themselves.

As a result, Wisconsin dominated in second-chance points with a 21-9 margin.

“The idea is either you can put it right back after a pump fake or you get it out and we make them work again,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “Plus, we know what it does mentally to the other team.”

Sophomore Mike Bruesewitz was particularly impressive on both the offensive and defensive glass, grabbing four rebounds on each end for a total of eight for the game. Nankivil also pulled down five rebounds (two offensive), while Leuer had six, four of which came on the offensive end.

The best example of the Badgers’ dominance on the boards came during a stretch in the final seven minutes of the game. Following a missed jumper by Marquette, Leuer grabbed the defensive board with 6:34 to go in the second half.

On the other end, Rob Wilson missed a jumper 24 seconds later before grabbing his own offensive rebound. Twenty-three seconds later, Leuer missed a jumper and Ryan Evans cleaned up the offensive glass.

After another 23 seconds ran off the clock, Jimmy Butler was called for two fouls in six seconds. Leuer finally ended the possession with 5:12 remaining, hitting a jumper on an assist from Bruesewitz.

Down the stretch, however, Marquette cut the lead and made things interesting. While the Badgers continued to rebound well, one of their usual strengths — free throw shooting — betrayed them.

With 44 seconds remaining, Wilson missed one of two free throws, leaving it at a seven-point game. Following two points on the other end, Jordan Taylor missed a free throw of his own, giving Marquette the ball back down six with 32 seconds to go.

Taylor would shoot six more free throws over the final 20 seconds, though, hitting five of them to seal the road victory.

“I was disappointed I missed the first one,” Taylor said. “So I just wanted to kind of get up there and knock the next two down really put it away.”

Leading by one point with 1:13 to go at UNLV, the Badgers failed to score again before ultimately losing by a three-point margin. In Orlando against Notre Dame, the game was tied with 2:01 remaining before Wisconsin lost by seven points.

Apparently the third time is the charm for Wisconsin in tight road games, as the Badgers managed to hold off a late rally by their in-state rivals.

“They weren’t frazzled,” Ryan said. “The great advantage is we played in Vegas, in a possession-per-possession game. That’s how we walk away with this win today.”

Not only did the Badgers get a road win, they added what certainly should be a resume win down the line. Come tournament time, a win on the road against a Big East opponent like Marquette should carry plenty of weight.

Count MU head coach Buzz Williams among those impressed by Wisconsin.

“It’s the best team they’ve had since I’ve been here,” Williams said. “I don’t think the world knows it now, but they will.”