first_imgGREG SCHMITZ/Herald photoPHILADELPHIA — Bo Ryan had long been homesick for his old stomping grounds, where cheese steaks and cleverly nicknamed characters like “Onions” and “Mouse” dot the landscape.It wasn’t long, however, before he became sick at home, in the City of Brotherly Love, as the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball season came to a close with a 94-75 thumping at the hands of Arizona in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Friday afternoon.The trip to Philadelphia for the opening round of the tournament was billed as Ryan’s triumphant return to his roots, the arena being a mere 15-minute cruise down I-95 from Chester, Penn., where Ryan grew up.However, a tissue-like Badger defense allowed the Wildcats to score on their first nine possessions en route to falling behind 35-11 — and never recovered.”The thing we didn’t want to have happen happened. You can’t play from behind,” Ryan said. “That was our worst nightmare.”By the time UW picked up its first defensive stop, it already trailed 17-5. By the 10-minute mark, Arizona had pushed it to 28-11, and despite a 23-9 run to go into the halftime down 12, the Badgers never cut the lead to single digits.”We are not as athletic or quick enough to play from behind,” Ryan said. “The players know it, the coaching staff knows it.””They got a lot of easy baskets that built their lead early, and from there their confidence skyrocketed,” junior forward Alando Tucker said. “That’s the bottom line: those are the things you can’t have happen.”Tucker led the way with 19 points but converted only five of 15 shots from the field and struggled from the foul line, making only eight of 14 attempts.”We knew we had our hands full with Tucker, and we just wanted to make it real difficult for him, even if it cost us a bucket now and then from one of their big guys,” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said.Point guards Kammron Taylor and Michael Flowers added 12 and 11 points respectively. Both also recorded four assists.Wisconsin finished the season at 19-12, missing its fourth consecutive 20-win season by virtue of a four-game losing streak to close out the season.The UW defense that was reasonably consistent all year fell apart against the fast-paced Arizona attack, surrendering season highs in points and field-goal percentage, as the Wildcats shot just below 60 percent (59.3) for the game and had five players score in double figures.”I think we played offensively as well as we’ve played all year long,” Olson said. “We were working to get the open shot, and when we got the open shot, we did a really good job of knocking the shot down.”Arizona’s Hassan Adams, fresh off a suspension stemming from a DUI arrest, scored 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while Philly native Mustafa Shakur stuffed the box score with 17 points, nine assists, five boards, two steals and a blocked shot.”That’s just me putting things behind me and going out and doing what I love to do,” Adams said of his performance. “That’s just me playing my game.”Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the rout was how Wisconsin failed miserably to control the tempo of the game. The UW team that had been praised all season long for its poise and ability to get back on defense allowed 25 fast-break points. Conversely, the Badgers scored three.”We put them in a situation where they were on their heels and they had to run with us,” Adams said.”I think a lot of it was our shot selection,” explained Tucker when asked about the fast-break scoring discrepancy. “The horribleness of the shots we took, as horrible as they were, that set it up for them to push it and get some easy baskets. … We just played into their hands.”Ironically, although the UW defense was the principle culprit for the rout, the biggest questions and concerns surrounding the team leading up to the game were how well it could perform offensively.After combining to shoot 34 percent over their past three games, the Badgers shot a respectable 43 percent from the field against the Wildcats and scored their most points since putting up 80 on Minnesota, in what turned out to be the final victory of the season.”It’s all about defense,” Tucker said. “Defense is ultimately going to win the game. No matter how well you’re shooting, it all comes down to playing defense.”With the loss, the majority of the Badger team will have until next November to figure out how to improve for next season, as the game was the final career contest for only senior Ray Nixon.”No excuses. We had the guys to get it done, but we just didn’t get it done,” freshman Joe Krabbenhoft said.last_img