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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUNDUP: Ball happy with how his rookie year played out in the NFL

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Former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball says he's happy with how his first N-F-L season played out -- even though he did not achieve his goal of being a starter. The Denver Broncos' rookie talked about his progress at yesterday's Super Bowl Media Day in East Rutherford New Jersey. The Broncos made Ball the top back-up to Knowshon Moreno -- and he was fourth among the league's rookie rushers with 559 yards during the regular season. Ball had a rough start. He fumbled twice in his first 31 carries as a pro, after fumbling just twice in 924 carries during his entire career with the Badgers. It turned out that the Broncos' assistant who helped him adjust, Eric Studesville, is a native of Madison. Ball said he knew the connection -- and he knew that Studesville had helped New York Giants' rusher Tiki Barber solve a nagging problem with fumbles. Ball said his problem wasn't as bad. But Studesville helped him solve it, and taught him about getting accustomed to life in the N-F-L. Ball made some big plays in both Denver post-season games, and he'll be going for a Super Bowl ring on Sunday when the Broncos play Seattle -- and former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson.

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For a second straight night, frigid weather put the ice on Wisconsin high school basketball. Only four boys' contests were played, along with a pair of girls' games. Most schools in the state were closed the past two days, causing athletic directors to do lots of scrambling to get games re-scheduled. According to Wis-Sports-Dot-Net, 12 boys' high school contests are scheduled for tonight, and 113 for tomorrow. Nine girls' basketball games are on the docket for this evening, and 79 tomorrow. The weekend will also be busier than usual due to make-ups, which will run throughout February.

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Milwaukee Bucks' center Zaza Pachulia is getting closer to returning, after he missed 26 games with a stress fracture in his right foot. He took part in full-contact drills at yesterday's practice, but coach Larry Drew is not sure when the 6-11 Pachulia can return to game-action. Drew says Pachulia has grit, hustle, and the ability to throw his body around -- and the Bucks really miss that. The team can use an extra body in the front-court, after Drew had only three big men available for Monday night's home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips whipped the Bucks by 28 points, after the Atlanta Hawks scored a 25-point victory at Milwaukee last Saturday. Tonight, the Bucks host Phoenix -- and Pachulia says he's been doing what he can to keep morale as high as possible amid a difficult 8-and-36 season. The veteran says he's most concerned about the young players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nate Wolters, and Miroslav Raduljica. Pachulia says all three rookies are smart players -- and they need to keep their heads up and learn the N-B-A game the right way.

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The Wisconsin men's basketball team returns to action tonight, when it hosts Northwestern. The Badgers whipped the Wildcats 76-to-49 in Evanston on January second. Northwestern considered that game a wake-up call, slowing down its offense and tightening its defense to go 3-and-1 at one point. The Wildcats lost by 26 to Iowa last Saturday, but first-year coach Chris Collins said his team still played stronger than it had been. All told, Northwestern is 3-and-5 in the Big Ten and 10-and-11 overall. The 14th-ranked Badgers also had a bad stretch after their initial rout of the Wildcats. Bo Ryan's team dropped three straight after a 16-and-0 start -- but Wisconsin lifted itself off the mat last Saturday with a convincing victory at Purdue. The Badgers come into tonight's contest at 4-and-3 in the Big Ten and 17-and-3 overall. Also this evening, the U-W Green Bay men will go for their 13th straight victory when it plays at Valparaiso. The U-W Milwaukee women host Illinois-Chicago. And the Marquette women are at DePaul.

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A privately-run sports complex wants to bring some type of baseball to the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin. Mike Zimmerman, who owns The Rock sports complex, will ask the city Plan Commission tomorrow for design approval for a stadium that would seat up to three-thousand people. If the panel agrees, Zimmerman says he'll seek financing assistance from the city for a stadium that could cost 7-to-11 million dollars. Zimmerman says he hopes to bring in a team from the independent Frontier League, a type of minor league that's not affiliated with Major League clubs. He said a Major League affiliate could also be possible -- or perhaps a summer college team similar to what the Northwoods League provides. The Rock is located on a re-developed landfill. An improved ski hill is there -- along with a half-dozen baseball-and-softball fields and a bike trail.

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