WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Packers again to take cautious approach to free-agency
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers are expected to take their normal cautious approach to free agency as the signing period begins this afternoon.
Media reports said the Packers could bring in a veteran defensive end, in the event that they lose B.J. Raji to another team. Raji was reportedly considering a one-year offer from the Pack, but he decided to shop around first. Green Bay was said to have an interest in defensive ends Lamarr Houston from Oakland, Arthur Jones from Baltimore, and Red Bryant from Seattle. However, Bryant reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with Jacksonville worth $17-million. Houston's price was said to have risen to the point in which the Packers dropped their interest. Jones remains a possibility, as teams are still reportedly trying to determine his market value. Meanwhile, a number of Green Bay free agents are expected to test the waters. One report said seven teams were interested in tight end Andrew Quarless, including the Packers. The future of center Evan Dietrich-Smith remains up in the air -- plus others including fullback John Kuhn, running back James Starks, receiver James Jones, defensive end Ryan Pickett, and linebacker Mike Neal.
Waupaca native Brock Jensen has something to prove today, as he auditions for NFL scouts at North Dakota State's pro day in Fargo. Jensen is the winningest quarterback in the history of the FCS, the former Division I-AA Still, he was not invited to last month's NFL Scouting Combine. Jensen tells the Appleton Post-Crescent he was disappointed by the snub -- but it was nothing new. He said many colleges overlooked him before North Dakota State gave him a chance. He ended up leading the Bison to three straight national titles in the Football Championship Subdivision. In his senior year, Jensen completed two-thirds of his passes for 2,793 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also ran for 479 yards. Jensen has been working with quarterback guru Steve Calhoun. He has tutored several NFL signal-callers including Nick Foles and Cam Newton.
Both of the University of Wisconsin's starting football centers are sitting out the Badgers' entire spring practice schedule in the wake of off-season surgeries. Dallas Lewallen and Dan Voltz shared the starting job last season. Lewallen is coming off a knee operation. Voltz has what's termed an "upper-body injury." Voltz, who will be a sophomore this fall, said practice might be a grind -- but it's more of a grind standing on the sidelines and watching. Lewallen aggravated a knee injury against Iowa last November. He said he's not 100-percent yet -- and if he could practice, he would. Right guard Kyle Costigan is limited this spring after his own knee injury. It gives offensive line coach T.J. Woods the challenge of setting up a makeshift group. Walk-on Aidan McNamara and freshman Michael Deiter are now the centers on two units. Deiter is with the No. 1 group.
The Milwaukee Bucks ended a three-game losing streak with a 105-98 home victory over Orlando last night. The Bucks came back from a 18-point deficit. They took the lead for good with a 14-4 run to start the fourth quarter in which Brandon Knight scored nine straight points. The Bucks out-scored Orlando 48-to-30 in the paint. Milwaukee went 21-of-25 from the free throw line, while the Magic was 5-of-8 from the stripe. Ramon Sessions helped seal Milwaukee's victory with 10 points and four assists in the final period. Knight scored 24 for the game and Khris Middleton 21, as the Bucks won only their fourth contest among 43 in which they trailed at the half. Seven players scored in double figures for Orlando. Maurice Harkless led the way with 14, as the Magic dropped their third straight. Milwaukee plays at Minnesota tonight.
Former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal was never good at shooting free throws. And neither is Milwaukee Bucks' center John Henson. The second-year pro from North Carolina made only 53-percent of his free shots in his rookie campaign. This season, Henson has made 52-percent of his 123 foul shots. The 6-11 center made just 1-of-14 from the line in February, due in part to lingering discomfort in one of his wrists. Henson says his only excuse is that he's in a quote, "mini-sophomore slump," and it's just a matter of time before he improves. Bucks' coach Larry Drew says there are some NBA players who don't shoot free throws very well -- and all they can do is practice, and focus on getting better. Henson shoots 100 free throws after each practice. Drew says it at least helps him get comfortable at the line. Also, Henson is still adjusting to being Milwaukee's starting center in the wake of Larry Sanders' eye surgery just over a month ago.
University of Wisconsin junior center Frank Kaminsky was a consensus All-Big Ten first-team selection. Both the league's coaches and media named the seven-foot Kaminsky to their top squad, after he had 13 points a game in the regular season with seven rebounds and almost two blocked shots. Badgers' freshman Nigel Hayes received coaches' honors as the league's Sixth Man of the Year and a member of the All-Freshman team. Hayes averaged ten points and three-and-a-half rebounds. Wisconsin sophomore Sam Dekker was named to the all-league second team by the coaches, and the third team by the media. Redshirt junior Josh Gasser was picked to the coaches' All-Big Ten defensive squad for the second time in three years. Ben Brust was a consensus honorable mention -- and his Badger teammates Traevon Jackson and Gasser were given honorable mentions by the media. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said he's proud of his players, and their honors reflect how well the team's doing. The Badgers earned the second seed in this week's Big Ten Tournament, and will play either Minnesota or Penn State on Friday night.
Wisconsin dropped from 9th place to 12th in this week's AP media poll, after the loss at unranked Nebraska. The Badgers also dropped four places to 13th in the new USA Today coaches' poll released this afternoon. Bo Ryan's team remains at No. 5 in the RPI Rankings, which may prove crucial to a high NCAA Tournament seed. We'll find out this weekend on Selection Sunday. In the meantime, the Badgers are 25-6 going into this week's Big Ten Conference tournament. Also in the RPI's, UW-Green Bay is 64th and Marquette is 78th. UW-Milwaukee is 148th, although the Panthers would get an automatic NCAA bid if they win the Horizon League Tournament tonight. UWM plays at Wright State in the title match-up, after Milwaukee upset top-seeded Green Bay on Saturday night. Florida remains at No. 1 in both major polls. The Gators are 29-2, with one of those losses coming to Wisconsin last November. Florida is also third in the RPI's. Arizona and Kansas are one-and-two in those rankings.
For the second year in a row, Marquette forward Davante Gardner was named today as the Big East Conference Sixth Man of the Year. Gardner, a senior, was also honored yesterday as an all-conference second team selection. He's the first Big East player ever to win the sixth man award twice. Gardner leads the Golden Eagles with 15 points a game, and he's second in rebounds with almost six boards a night. Seton Hall guard Fuquan Edwin was selected as the defensive player of the year. Marquette redshirt senior Chris Otule received the league's sportsmanship honor. He returned to the Eagles for a sixth year after getting a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. Three of his previous seasons were cut short by injuries, but Otule still managed to get in 123 games with Marquette -- all but 14 as a starter. The league's player-and-coach of the year will be named Wednesday, when the Big East Tournament begins.
Marquette might have an easier time in the post on Thursday night, when it plays Xavier in the Big East men's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. Xavier center Matt Stainbrook will sit out the contest with a knee injury. Musketeers' coach Chris Mack announced it yesterday. Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said he always wants teams to be a full strength going into tournament time and quote, "I hate that Matt is hurt." Stainbrook, a junior, averages almost 11 points and eight rebounds this season.
UW-Milwaukee would make the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the first time in nine years, with a victory at Wright State tonight in the Horizon League title game. Tonight's winner gets the league's automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Panthers earned their spot in the conference title game by upsetting top-seeded Green Bay in overtime on Saturday night. Third-seeded Wright State advanced with a semi-final win over Cleveland State. Both the Raiders and UWM are 20-13 overall. Milwaukee -- projected to finish last in the conference in the pre-season poll -- is the fifth seed with a 7-9 league record in the regular season. Wright State, 10-6 in league season play, is led by senior forward A.J. Pacher with 11 points a game. Senior Jordan Aaron leads Milwaukee with 15 a contest. The game is set for a 6 p.m. tip-off (CST) and will be brodacast on ESPN.
UW-Green Bay's women's basketball team will host Valparaiso tomorrow night in the quarter-finals of the Horizon League women's tournament. The ninth-seeded Crusaders won a play-in game last night, 76-69 at No. 8 Detroit. Senior Liz Horton scored a career-high 25 points for Valpo. She made all six of her free throws, while shooting 9-of-16 from the floor. Top-seeded Green Bay earned one of seven byes after winning its 16th straight regular season crown.
The Marquette University women's basketball team was eliminated from their Big East Conference tournament, after losing to DePaul 100-90 in last night's semi-finals at Rosemont, Illinois. Chanise Jenkins scored 16 points in the first half to put DePaul up by 17 going into the locker room. Marquette continued to trail by double-digits until Katie Young hit a three-pointer with 2:15 left. The Blue Demons made seven-of-ten free throws in the final minute to seal their ten-point victory. Both teams shot 50-percent, but the Golden Eagles committed 17 turnovers. Jenkins led 23rd-ranked DePaul with 23 points. Young led Marquette with 25, as the Eagles dropped to 21-10. Top-seeded DePaul improved to 26-6. They'll play second-seeded Saint John's tonight for the Big East Tournament title.
The Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Chicago White Sox in a 6-3 exhibition at Phoenix yesterday. Jeff Keppinger drove in the winning run with a fielder's choice in the ninth inning, when Michael Blazek gave up three runs. Milwaukee tied the game in the eighth with a two-run homer by minor-league catcher Adam Weisenburger. The Brewers only got two hits off White Sox starter Chris Sale, who went four-and-a-third innings. Brewers' starter Yovani Gallardo went three-and-a-third, giving up two hits and a walk with three strikeouts. He lowered his spring ERA to 1.13. The Brewers are taking today off for the first time at Spring Training.
For the first time in almost a month, the Milwaukee Brewers' Spring Training camp is virtually a ghost town today. Many of the players, coaches, and staffers will break out their golf clubs and take part in the Bob Uecker Front-Row Classic in Scottsdale. The Brewers' Hall of Fame radio broadcaster sponsors the event, which benefits Arizona's Make-a-Wish Foundation. Milwaukee is 6-8 in the Cactus League, after losing to the Chicago White Sox yesterday 6-3. The Brewers will return to the field tomorrow, when Matt Garza makes his third start of the spring for the Crew in an exhibition against the Angels of Anaheim.
The Milwaukee Brewers released right-handed reliever Michael Olmsted today. Manager Ron Roenicke said the Brewers have a deep roster of relievers at both the major-and-minor league levels -- and cutting him now would give Olmsted a better chance of signing up with another team before the regular season begins in three weeks. Roenicke said Olmsted needs to be more consistent with his pitches. Olmsted was 0-1 with the Brewers this spring, with a 6.75 ERA in two appearances totaling one-and-a-third innings.
Brewers' outfielder Ryan Braun has been hearing from hecklers this spring -- and he insists it does not faze him in the least. Braun served a 65-game suspension last year for taking performance-enhancing drugs in 2011 and then denying it for almost two years. The 2011 National League MVP tells USA Today quote, "Dude, say what you want about me, but I am strong. Mentally and emotionally, I am strong." When he showed up for Spring Training, Braun said he never heard good things from fans in opposing cities like Chicago, Saint Louis, and Philadelphia. Braun even said it might even better for him this year -- because the hecklers will probably talk just about him instead of his mother or other relatives. The USA Today story from Bob Nightengale quoted Braun as saying he believed his synthetic testosterone was perfectly legal at the time he bought it and used it in 2011 -- something the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel calls a "remarkable assertion" since it was on the Major Leagues' list of banned substances at the time.
The Milwaukee Wave ended its season last night, as the Missouri Comets clinched their Major Indoor Soccer League semi-final series with a 6-to-2 mini-game victory at the U.S. Cellular Arena. The Wave won the second game of their series, 12-9, forcing the 15-minute mini-game. Missouri eliminated Milwaukee in the semis for the second straight year, as the Comets clinched a spot in the MISL Finals. Missouri was the only team to beat Milwaukee this season, with four victories in the regular campaign and two in the playoffs. Giuliano Oliviero, the only Wave player to score in the mini-game, said it's something the team needs to figure out.
The Milwaukee Admirals have acquired winger Francis Wathier. The ninth-year pro was loaned to Milwaukee by the Texas Stars. In exchange, the Admirals loaned Kevin Henderson to Texas. Wathier has five goals and four assists in 48 games with the Stars this season. He has spent his entire career with the NHL parent Dallas Stars' organization. Henderson had spent just over three seasons with Milwaukee. He had seven goals and seven assists in 50 games this campaign. Henderson had 28 goals and 54 total points during a 147-game tenure with the Admirals.
An NHL hockey game between Dallas and Columbus was called off in the first period last night, after former Milwaukee Admiral Rich Peverley collapsed on the Dallas bench. The 31-year-old Peverley had an irregular heartbeat corrected before the season began. The veteran forward collapsed shortly after competing a shift with 13:37 left in the first period. The Stars later issued a statement that Peverley was conscious, and his condition was not life-threatening. He sat out a game against Columbus last week after his condition returned -- but he was back on the ice two days later and had two assists in a Dallas victory over Vancouver. A make-up date for last night's game was not immediately determined. Peverley played three seasons with Milwaukee from 2005-to-2008. He helped the Admirals make the American Hockey League Calder Cup Finals in his rookie season. He has also played with Atlanta and Boston in the NHL, and he won a Stanley Cup title with the Bruins in 2011.
The University of Wisconsin remains at No. 5 in the new Division I men's hockey poll this afternoon from U.S. College Hockey Online. The Badgers swept Penn State on the road this past weekend. They have one more weekend to the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament begins, and their overall mark is 21-9-2. Minnesota remains at No. 1 at 24-4-6 overall.
Two Wisconsin teams were named this morning to a national field of eight for the NCAA Division III women's hockey tournament. UW-River Falls and UW-Stevens Point were both at-large selections -- and both will have home games in the quarter-final round. WIAC champion River Falls will host NCHA champ Lake Forest on Saturday afternoon. Stevens Point, the WIAC runner-up, will entertain Saint Thomas of Saint Paul on Saturday night. Winners of both games will advance to the Women's Frozen Four on March 21st and 22nd.
Luke Yogerst of the Milwaukee School of Engineering has been named the baseball pitcher of the week in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. And Rachel DeJongh of Edgewood was honored as the league's top softball pitcher. Yogerst, a senior right-hander, tossed a three-hit shutout against Clark of Massachusetts, and a five-hitter against Illinois Wesleyan last week. DeJongh, a sophomore, had a string of 17-and-a-third innings without giving up an earned run. She had a no-hitter through four innings against Nazareth, with a 0.76 ERA in 27-and-two-thirds innings last week. DeJongh went 4-1 during that stretch.
Steve Stricker of Madison continues a slow decline in the World Golf Rankings as he remains on a limited schedule for his second straight year. Stricker dropped one place to 14th in the new World Golf Rankings, his lowest spot in recent years. Stricker was 57th this past weekend in the World Golf Championships' Cadillac tournament in Miami. It was only his second event of the year, after going one-and-done in the Accenture Match Play Championship a few weeks ago. At age 47, Stricker has been spending more time with his family and charity causes in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Jerry Kelly of Madison rose nine places in the new World Rankings to 140th. That's after he tied for ninth at the PGA's Puerto Rico Open this past weekend.