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Badgers sweep italians

first_imgWho would’ve thought that being a basketball player in Wisconsin was such a global experience?Last year, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team took a trip to the Virgin Islands, and late this November the Badgers will take a trip to South Padre, Texas, just a crossover dribble away from the Mexican border.But neither of those trips is likely to compare to the cultural globetrotting that the Wisconsin team enjoyed this August. The Badgers took an 11-day journey through Italy, playing five Italian professional teams while also taking in as much of the local history as possible.Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, a former history teacher, mentioned he was excited to finally get to see many of the sites he had taught about. Many of the players hadn’t ever left the U.S. before and were excited to see a foreign country.But make no mistake; while the team indulged in a great deal of sightseeing and leisurely activities, this was a business trip, and the Badgers treated it as such on the court, winning all five of their games, sweeping the country of Italy impressively.”We want to have a good time and see everything over there, but we want to win,” said senior forward Alando Tucker in the days before the team embarked on the trip. “We want to go 5-0.”That they did, taking out every Italian team that took the floor against them, despite knowing next to nothing about their opponents. Tucker compared the experience to playing AAU games back in high school.”The Italians take their sports and respect competition with a passion that I think might be as tough any player in the world,” Ryan said. “What we know is that they are passionate about the game, they play very hard and that they are extremely competitive, so that’s one of the reasons a trip to [Italy] — it’s pretty good basketball — is better than some other places [we could go].”The Badgers started off their Italian campaign with three decisive victories over Aeronitica Militare College, MPV Virtus Siena and Pool Firenze, winning by an average of 33 points over the three teams.In their final two games, however, UW found the competition quite a bit tougher. First they took out Mylena Treviglio in a hard-fought battle that saw Tucker put up a tour-high 32 points on 13-22 shooting. After Wisconsin jumped out to an 11-2 lead early, their lead slowly evaporated until they suddenly found themselves up only a single point, 73-72, with 6:28 left to play. A 15-2 run however, solidified an 89-78 victory and put the Badgers one game away from a perfect trip.It seems Italy saved its best for last, however, as Wisconsin and Castelletto Ticino locked horns. Ticino Italy actually held a 59-52 lead over UW at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Badgers rallied to pull out an 83-74 victory and finish off the sweep of Italy, as it were.Tucker led the Badgers in scoring in four of five games, averaging 21.2 points per contest while shooting 50 percent on the trip. And while Tucker still struggled a bit from the line, shooting 54 percent, he shot more than 42 percent from beyond the arc — which was further back during the tour, per International rules. This proves to be a promising stat, as jump shooting has long been seen the chink in Tucker’s offensive armor.Maybe even more encouraging, however, was the fact that the Badgers had both Marcus Landry and Greg Stiemsma back on the court for the first time since the pair of forwards were declared academically ineligible for the second half of last season.”It feels good to be back playing with the guys and knowing that you are doing this for a reason,” Landry said. “I’m excited to show everyone how much better we got as a team, and how much better I have gotten. Sitting out last year made me a lot stronger, so hopefully it shows through my game.””Did you have anything in the summer that didn’t go the way you wanted? That’s kind of how the players are,” Ryan said of Landry and Stiemsma. “They’re just doing what they can right now to get ready for what’s next, that’s all they care about. They’ve obviously done a great job. They are moving forward, as the cliché goes.”Both Stiemsma and Landry played in every game and performed well. Their teammates applauded Landry and Stiemsma keeping with the team and not succumbing to the challenges that they were presented with last season and were excited to get back on the floor with them after a long absence.”Marcus and Greg missed a lot of game time last year in the second half of the season, so it just gives us those extra games,” Tucker said. “We get to build the chemistry early.”That chemistry could pay dividends down the road, as the Badgers are already being predicted by many to be a Final Four candidate, having lost only one player from last year’s squad. And the tour through Italy could be an early indication to both players and fans that this could be a special season for Wisconsin basketball.last_img read more