The No. 7/9 Wisconsin Badgers (6-2) entered their contest with the No. 16/16 Marquette Golden Eagles 156-11 at the Kohl Center since Bo Ryan took over as Wisconsin’s coach in 2001. Make that 156-12.
The Golden Eagles walked into their inner-state rival’s home and left with their seventh victory of the season and remain undefeated after the 61-54 victory.
“To win in this environment, against a hall of fame coach, with the winning percentage that they have had here at the Kohl Center, it’s not one guy or two guys or just the head coach, it’s the totality of everyone in the program – whether their names are typed in the program or not,” coach Buzz Williams said. “It takes all of us.
“So we’ve all been locked in on that. Our staff did a perfect job in preparation. Our guys did a great job of absorbing it all and our guys did a great job of executing, for the most part, from start to finish.”
Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom led all scorers with 17 points, making 6-of-15 shots from the field (40 percent).
Freshman guard Todd Mayo was right behind with 14 points of his own including an open-court dunk for Marquette’s 61st point on the game to put the game on ice with 17 seconds left.
“It felt good,” Mayo said of the dunk. “I don’t know if coach wanted me to back it out, but I just wanted to nail the deal.”
The Golden Eagles were without their starting point guard, junior Junior Cadougan, who was benched for violating undisclosed team rules. The benching thrust freshman guard Derrick Wilson into the starting lineup.
“My reaction was, ‘we can’t do anything about it,’ so I just have to step up and do what I usually do, which is play defense, come in and handle the ball, and get it to the scorers,” Wilson said.
The game was a back and forth battle throughout the first 13:19 of play as there were six lead changes and neither team led by more than five points. But in the final 26:41 of play Marquette never trailed.
That doesn’t mean the Badgers didn’t go quietly.
Wisconsin had the lead down to 41-40 with 10:41 left in regulation before Marquette went on a 10-2 run over the next 6:06 to make it 51-43.
Marquette won the final 6:06 of play 10-6, but Wisconsin had the lead down to 51-48.
“We didn’t lose our composure at the end. We found a way to get stops and I think that helped us key into this win,” Johnson-Odom said.
Both teams struggled offensively at times as neither team shot above 39 percent from the floor – Marquette at 38.3 percent (23-of-60) and Wisconsin at 32 percent (16-of-50) – and Marquette entered the game averaging 88 points per game.
“I think we had some pretty good looks. We know our weaknesses, our flaws,” Ryan said. “We always say we’ve got to hit shots, especially from the perimeter. We got some points in the paint, but it wasn’t from second chance opportunities.”
The game was a homecoming for sophomore guard Vander Blue who played high school ball at Madison Memorial.
He was the game’s leading scorer at halftime with seven points and finished with nine points, eight rebounds, one block and one assist in 33 minutes of action.
“I knew what to expect coming back to my hometown. Last year I wanted to win, and we couldn’t. Obviously it feels good to come in here and win, because I’m used to it with Memorial,” Blue said.