NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
This is an old revision of the document!
By MARK STEWART firstname.lastname@example.org
Madison - Ray Nixon's experiences in the Marquette-Wisconsin rivalry had been rather quiet affairs. The Badgers' 6-foot-7 senior had gone against Marquette three times and posted mostly goose eggs. He didn't play as a freshman, and the past two years he played a total of 16 minutes, recording no shots, no turnovers but also no steals or assists. The only marks on his line score were a couple of rebounds.
On Saturday, Nixon finally had his Marquette moment.
Nixon set collegiate highs for scoring (15 points), minutes played (32), steals (three), field goals (six) and field-goal attempts (10) in helping Wisconsin (7-1) score a 77-63 victory over Marquette (6-3) in front of a sellout crowd of 17,142 at the Kohl Center. It was coach Bo Ryan's 100th victory as Wisconsin coach.
Junior guard Kammron Taylor led the Badgers with 18 points, but it was Nixon who stole the show. He nailed his usual three-pointers but displayed two little-used aspects of his repertoire by putting the ball on the floor and pulling up for short jumpers or driving all the way to the basket.
“Ray Nixon did what seniors do,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said.
Specifically he kept the Badgers close when Alando Tucker and Taylor started to slow and helped offset a quiet scoring day from forward Brian Butch (four points). Nixon scored his nine first-half points during the first 15 minutes, when Tucker and Taylor, the Badgers' leading scorers, combined for seven points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Nixon's prettiest play of the afternoon came with 5 minutes 50 seconds left in the first half, when he used a pump-fake to get a defender off his feet and drove to the basket for a layup. The points gave Wisconsin a 26-25 lead, an advantage it never relinquished.
“Marquette is a very aggressive team. They overplay wings and things like that, so I just took what they gave me,” said Nixon, who entered play averaging 4.3 points per game. “They were up close so I just tried to get the lane as much as I could.”
If Nixon set the table for the Badgers' victory, then Taylor and junior forward Jason Chappell cleared it.
Taylor scored nine of his 11 first-half points during the final 5 minutes of the half.
Chappell, who finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and a team-high three assists, found Greg Stiemsma for a basket in the lane that gave Wisconsin a 33-27 lead with 3:43 left and completed a three-point play that pushed the UW lead to 39-31 with 2:07 left.
Freshman DeAaron Williams' put-back of a Taylor miss gave the Badgers a double-digit lead for the first time, and Taylor gave them their halftime margin with a three-pointer from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left.
The way Crean saw it, the Golden Eagles' problems started with about 8 minutes left in the half, when he sensed his team lost some of its aggressiveness.
“We didn't have any ball pressure, we gave them layups and we settled for jump shots,” Crean said. “I think so much of the game is built on that.”
Senior forward Steve Novak led the Golden Eagles with 14 points and eight rebounds. Freshman point guard Dominic James added 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
However, the Golden Eagles' third- and fourth-leading scorers struggled. Freshman Jerel McNeal fouled out with six points in 13 minutes and freshman guard Wesley Matthews scored nine points on 2-of-12 shooting.
During the game's all-important run, Wisconsin made 10 of 12 shots and scored on nine of its 11 possessions. Marquette was 2 for 9 during that stretch.
“We were able to get points. They were coming up dry. It wasn't anything special, anything different,” Ryan said. “I'd love to tell you it was a coaching move, but it had nothing to do with it.”
With the exception of a 1-minute stretch early in the second half, Wisconsin led by double digits the rest of the game.
Nixon finished strong, too. Often he has started games fast but been quiet in the second half of games.
In the second half Saturday, he added a three-pointer and a jumper just inside the arc that gave the Badgers their largest lead of the night, 58-41, with 11:57 to play.
It capped a day Nixon hopes springs him to a strong finish to his final season as a Badger.
“That's always big,” he said. “Anybody playing any sport, you always need a big game to get you going. I think this can be a big game to get me started.”