Under Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin Badgers have never lost on Senior Day.The program defined most commonly by its consistency is 11-0 in home regular-season finales under its head coach, but last Sunday’s 70-56 Senior Day win over Illinois seemed a little more picturesque than usual.Jordan Taylor had a stellar outing, tying for the team-high with 16 points. The Badgers shot an above-average 44.7 percent from the floor, keyed largely by Taylor’s three assets and zero turnovers. As had been the case seemingly ever since the Feb. 26 road upset of Ohio State – the start of its three-game winning streak – Wisconsin was crisp and aggressive, featuring consistent drives to the hoop and a healthy 27 free throw attempts.Also on the Kohl Center floor, Rob Wilson continued his stretch of markedly improved play off the bench by scoring eight points. The effort by the Badgers’ “other” senior paled in comparison to Taylor’s, but only in statistical prowess.Since playing 16 minutes in the Feb. 16 loss to Michigan State, Wilson hasn’t played fewer than 12 in a game since. After scoring 11 points (two short of his career-high) at Iowa Feb. 23, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard/forward has contributed nine, four and eight in the Wisconsin’s final three games.Those numbers still hardly leap off the page, but keep in mind Wilson averages 3.1 points in an average of 10.7 minutes of playing time per game. Both of those statistics are the highest since his sophomore season, when he also scored 3.1 points in 12.2 minutes per game.The result has been a suddenly reliable addition to Ryan’s bench, which has fostered a renewed sense of balance within Wisconsin’s offense. Against Illinois, four players scored in double digits. A poor shooting effort against Minnesota the game earlier had Taylor (22 points) and forward Ryan Evans (12) take care of most of the scoring, but against Ohio State, three players finished with at least 10 points while Wilson added nine.Without so much as an inkling of change in attitude or demeanor, the former four-star high school recruit who just couldn’t quite live up to his early promise now finds himself a critical contributor in the Badgers’ rotation.“Sometimes, a senior just gets inspired,” assistant coach Lamont Paris said in explanation of Wilson’s emergence. “It may be that he has said, ‘This is the last go-around. It’s now or never for me, and for us.’ He’s playing inspired basketball.”Wilson, a Cleveland native whose quiet, reserved nature kept him mostly out of the limelight in his first three years in Madison, was substituted into Sunday’s game only 17 seconds after tip-off. Initially, the move seemed to be an attempt by Ryan to give Wilson some early Senior Day recognition. Knowing that Wilson was about to play his final game in front of them, the Kohl Center crowd delivered a steady stream of applause as Wilson came in for forward Mike Bruesewitz.But then Wilson ended up playing 26 minutes, nine more than Bruesewitz (who was playing with three fouls). That playing time, the win the Badgers eventually wound up with and the post-game video presentation replete with baby pictures and old highlights all blended together to provide a fine Senior Day moment – one Wilson couldn’t really believe for himself, either.“It was sort of surreal, because you just look back on my freshman year and it’s like, time flies,” he said. “It was a great experience, man. My mom was here and there’s nothing more I can ask for than to have my mom experience what I experienced for four years.”Of course, Wilson has a little more time to further refine his UW legacy. The Badgers head to Indianapolis this weekend for the Big Ten Tournament, an event they’ve never entered seeded lower than No. 4 under Ryan, but also one they haven’t won a game in since Wilson and Taylor enrolled.Three consecutive first-game losses, all by four points or less, have kept the most recent Wisconsin teams from entering the NCAA tournament with a real, steady stream of momentum. Knowing that, and obviously knowing that the remainder of his time in cardinal and white is limited to a string of single-elimination games, Wilson’s ready to move past the wonderful pomp and circumstance of Senior Day.With a few wins in March, Wilson can grow from The Guy Who Showed Up Late into The Guy Who Showed Up Late, But When It Counted.“All of my memory is that we’ve gone down there and we haven’t won yet,” Wilson said. “That’s stuck in the back of my mind; that’s just something that we want to go and not leave without getting a win there. Even just winning a championship, you know? I mean, Jordan won a lot in high school, we’ve been winning good throughout the season, so going down there and losing is something that we’re not used to. We don’t want to get used to it, either.”Mike is a senior majoring in journalism. How far can Wilson and the Badgers go in March? Let him know on Twitter @mikefiammetta.
After rising to a No. 3 rank, the women’s water polo team will look to add its third-straight title victory at the Barbara Kalbus Invitation this weekend. The Trojans have won the last two years’ tournaments, which have been hosted by UC Irvine. Photo by Emily Smith | Daily TrojanOver three days, the team will have the chance to face four opponents, including top competitors such as No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Cal and No. 4 UCLA. The tournament is a chance for the top teams in the MPSF and the nation to face off. From year to year, it is a consistently competitive weekend, but this year, the tournament will feature 16 top-20 teams, providing a truly elite lineup of competition.The weekend for the Trojans will start out with a matchup against San Jose State on Friday. The No. 18 team will provide a solid challenge to begin the weekend, but the team’s eyes will be set on the second game of the tourney. A win over San Jose State would result in a game against the winner of the opening game between No. 6 Arizona State and No. 15 UC San Diego on Saturday. An opportunity to face the Sun Devils this early in the tournament would be a welcome trial for the Trojans, who often duel with them in the MPSF tournament.A pair of opening victories would give the Trojans a berth into the semifinal game on Saturday night. The ultimate goal of the tournament is to reach the championship game on Sunday, which could set the team against any of its in-state foes. The Trojans already took down the Bruins in a 6-4 victory in the title game of the Triton Invitational two weeks ago. The win gave the Trojans their fifth-straight championship in the tournament, highlighted by two goals from standout freshman driver Paige Hauschild, who scored the final goal to clinch the 2-point advantage. Hauschild went on to win MPSF Newcomer of the Week following her performance in the tournament. The award was her second in only six weeks of NCAA play.Although the Trojans took home the title thanks to a ferocious offensive effort — with senior captain driver Brianna Daboub notching her 100th career goal in the semifinal victory over UC Irvine — it was the defense that held down the championship for USC. Goalkeepers senior Victoria Chamorro and junior Amanda Longan split time in the net, with Chamorro earning 27 saves on the weekend and Longan picking up 23 in the semifinal and championship match.A similar defensive effort will be necessary for the Trojans this weekend, as they will most likely face off against two of the top four teams in the nation. The team has yet to face Cal and Stanford so far this season, but all three teams are well-acquainted as they will play each other a handful of times in regular season games and tournaments, as well as in the MPSF and NCAA tournaments. The matchups are not set in stone yet, but the Trojans can expect a challenge no matter which of their in-state rivals they face at the finish line.
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