Wisconsin, masked Tucker shake off Pepperdine

first_imgDEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald photoAlando Tucker’s mask didn’t stay on one second longer than it had to Saturday, and when it finally came off, the junior forward couldn’t help but smile. Whether it was for finally being free of the cumbersome protective gear, or more likely because Wisconsin had just sealed its fifth win of the season, 71-55 over Pepperdine, when Tucker left the game with 1:39 left, the congenial all-conference player removed the headgear and flashed the smile Badger fans have become very accustomed to seeing.”[The mask] is fairly new for me; I only had it one day in practice. I’m still trying to get adjusted to it,” Tucker said. “I just felt more comfortable in the second half. I tried not to worry about it as much. I think in the first half I was playing with it a lot trying to get it adjusted, but in the second half I just went out and played.”It showed, as 14 of Tucker’s game-high 16 points were scored in the second period. First-year starting junior forward Jason Chappell chipped in a career-high 15 to, along with Tucker, lead the Badgers (5-1 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) over a very feisty, if somewhat overmatched, Pepperdine (1-4, 0-0 WCC) squad.”I think after Wake Forest, in the second half, that my jump shot was feeling pretty good, so I just thought that if I had the opportunity, that I would take advantage of it,” Chappell said of his personal-best performance.UW came out of the gate with their hair seemingly ablaze, playing with passionate fire and out-hustling Pepperdine to every loose ball. On the Waves’ first possession of the game, sophomore forward Brian Butch simply ripped the ball out of Pepperdine guard Greg Barlow’s hands, setting the tempo early. Freshmen Joe Krabbenhoft and DeAaron Williams followed suit later on, snatching the ball out of the clutches of Wave players.”It was very important to come out and get a quick start at the [Kohl Center],” Butch said. “You want to come out and set the tone right away. The big thing for us is too keep that intensity … and keep on playing hard. I’m not sure we did that tonight.”As the game went on, Pepperdine seemed to steal UW’s fire and put it to use defensively, as the Badgers went without a field goal over the last 5:43 of the first half, allowing the Waves to draw within 10 by halftime.”I thought that at half-court, for us being a young team, I was real happy with our defense,” Pepperdine head coach Paul Westphal said.The Badgers went into the locker room holding a less-than-tenuous 33-23 lead, as the game was kept close by a tenacious Pepperdine defense. The Waves’ offense, however, couldn’t get comfortable against Wisconsin, shooting only 31.3 percent from the field. Pepperdine’s two leading scorers, swingman Tashaan Forehan-Kelly (12.3 ppg) and standout freshman guard Michael Gerrity, (17.3 ppg) had only one point between them, on a Gerrity free throw. Although Gerrity ended up with 12 points, he was generally neutralized, shooting 4-13 from the field.”[Gerrity] is a very talented kid,” Westphal said. “In the first half we shot a very poor percentage and I give Wisconsin a lot of credit for that.””Gerrity is a heck of a ball player, and we needed to get out there and challenge him right away,” Butch said.Wisconsin opened the second-half with a 9-2 run, but soon found that Pepperdine would not go away. After a series of 3-pointers and driving lay-ups, the Waves had drawn within nine, the score 46-37 leading into a media timeout.”I saw that they were making a run and I knew that’s when I had to make an attack,” Tucker said. “It is always picking your spots and that was a time I felt that I really needed to be aggressive.”Sparked by a layup and three-pointer back-to-back from Tucker, Wisconsin went on a 14-2 run, forcing four turnovers and culminating with a driving “and one” layup from sophomore guard Kammron Taylor (12 points, five steals, two assists). Taylor made the free throw to make the score 60-39 and Wisconsin cruised from that point on, as Pepperdine never again got within 15 points of the Badgers.Butch had another solid game for Wisconsin, scoring nine points, grabbing three steals and a game-high nine rebounds, and Wisconsin’s depth was once again evident, highlighted by center Greg Stiemsma’s two blocks, two rebounds and a steal in only nine minutes of play.”We knew [Wisconsin] had good players, and we knew they could hurt you from a lot of different places,” Westphal said.The Badgers will next face UW-Green Bay on Wednesday, beginning a stretch where three of their next four will come against the other Division I Wisconsin schools.last_img read more