Afternoon State Sports Briefs: State residents backing Braun in pollWisconsin Sports
-- Most Wisconsinites appear to support Ryan Braun, as a controversy rages on over whether he broke baseball’s drug policy by taking what was reported to be synthetic testosterone. The firm of Public Policy Polling surveyed 900 Wisconsin voters last weekend about the governor’s and U.S. Senate races. And while they were at it, the firm asked voters what they thought about Braun, the Brewers’ slugger who won an appeal of a positive drug test and escaped a 50-game suspension.
Most Wisconsinites appear to support Ryan Braun, as a controversy rages on over whether he broke baseball’s drug policy by taking what was reported to be synthetic testosterone. The firm of Public Policy Polling surveyed 900 Wisconsin voters last weekend about the governor’s and U.S. Senate races. And while they were at it, the firm asked voters what they thought about Braun, the Brewers’ slugger who won an appeal of a positive drug test and escaped a 50-game suspension.
Fifty-nine percent said they had a favorable opinion of Braun, and seven-percent were unfavorable. About 34-percent of voters said they were not sure what to think. The survey was taken last Thursday through Sunday – and it was last Friday when Braun explained what happened in great detail at a news conference. Public Policy Polling also asked what Wisconsinites thought about Prince Fielder after he left as a free agent for Detroit. Forty-nine percent said they still had a favorable view of the slugger – 16-percent had an unfavorable opinion, and 35-percent were not sure. The poll had a margin of error of plus-or-minus three-and-a-quarter percent.
The Milwaukee Bucks have only won two of their last seven games against Atlanta – and they’ll try to change that tonight, when the Hawks host the Bucks. Atlanta is five games above .500, while Milwaukee is seven games below the break-even point. But the Hawks have been struggling lately, and they’re missing two shooting guards to injuries. Atlanta said today that All-Star Joe Johnson would miss the Hawks’ next two games, including tonight’s contest against the Bucks, after a recurring bout with knee tendinitis. Johnson tried returning on Wednesday night, but he only managed to hit 6-of-17 shots with 18 points in a loss to Golden State. Also, Atlanta says back-up shooting guard Willie Green will miss tonight’s contest with lower back spasms. And the Bucks will be without guard Mike Dunleavy. He returned to Milwaukee because his wife is having a baby. Milwaukee has given up 100 points in its last three games, the first time that’s happened this season. They haven’t surrendered 100 points in four consecutive games since late November of 2010.
The UW-Milwaukee men’s basketball team will play Butler tonight in the second round of the Horizon League Tournament at Valparaiso, Indiana. The Panthers and Bulldogs split their two regular season contests, each winning on their home floor. Milwaukee has momentum with a five-game winning streak. But Panthers’ coach Rob Jeter says Butler has gotten better as the season goes on. Junior Andrew Smith was the only Bulldog to average in double figures in scoring for the year, with just over 11 points a game. But Roosevelt Jones, Chrishawn Hopkins, and Khyle Marshall have joined Smith in averaging in double-figures over their last 10 games. Butler will try to keep Milwaukee’s long-distance shooters in check. Tony Meier and Paris Gulley have combined for 36 three-pointers in their last five contests. That account for just over 40-percent of Milwaukee’s total offense during that stretch. Tonight’s winner will play top-seeded and regular season champion Valparaiso on its home floor in tomorrow night’s semi-finals. The Horizon League title game will be played next week.
The Marquette University women’s basketball team will play Cincinnati tonight in the first round of their Big East Conference Tournament in Hartford Connecticut. The 14th-seeded Golden Eagles went 4-12 in the league during the regular season – and they lost twice to Cincinnati by eight points at home and 14 on the road. The Bearcats have the 11th seed. They went 6-10 in the conference, and they’re 15-14 overall. Tonight’s winner will play sixth-seeded Rutgers in tomorrow night’s second round.
The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will close out its regular season at Minnesota tonight and tomorrow night. The Badgers have a three-game winning streak after a sweep at Bemidji State last weekend. That brought Wisconsin back to .500 overall at 15-15-2, and they’re 10-14-2 in the WCHA. The fourth-ranked Golden Gophers swept a pair at Nebraska-Omaha last weekend. Minnesota is now 19-7-0 in the conference and 23-11-1 overall. The Badgers can ruin the Gophers’ bid for the league season title by taking at least three points this weekend – and they’ll need help from Minnesota-Duluth, which would have to sweep Saint Cloud State on the road. Wisconsin sophomore forward Michael Mersch has scored a goal in each of his last three games, including one game-winner.
The Milwaukee Admirals will try to improve their post-season prospects when they host a pair of games this weekend. The Admirals will face Rockford tonight at the Bradley Center, before hosting Chicago tomorrow night. Milwaukee is one point behind Peoria for the eighth-and-final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Admirals have 62 points – seven more than 14th-place Rockford, but three fewer than fourth-place Chicago. Milwaukee’s opponent tonight, the Rockford Ice-Hogs, are last in the Midwest Division with a record of 24-26-2-5. The Admirals are 29-22-2-2 after edging Peoria 3-2 on Wednesday. Milwaukee has done a better job on power play defense. They’ve killed 15-of-16 penalties in their last four games.
The top-ranked University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team will play Minnesota-Duluth late this afternoon at the WCHA Final Face-Off on Duluth’s home ice. The Badgers are among four teams vying for the conference title. Minnesota will play North Dakota tonight in the other semi-final – and the two winners will square off in the title game tomorrow evening. Wisconsin junior forward Brianna Decker was named yesterday as the WCHA’s Player-of-the-Year. Badgers’ junior Stefanie McKeough is the defensive player-of-the-year. Wisconsin sophomore Alex Rigsby was crowned as the league’s goal-tending champion. And the Badgers’ Mark Johnson is the coach-of-the-year. Decker and Wisconsin senior Hilary Knight made the seven-member all WCHA first team. Rigsby and McKeough made the second squad, along with Madison area native Amanda Kessel of Minnesota. Wisconsin’s Brooke Ammerman made the all-conference third team. Knight and Decker were also among 10 finalists named for the Patty Kazmeier award as the nation’s top Division I women’s hockey player.
The women’s semi-finals of the Division III Northern Collegiate Hockey Association will begin this afternoon in River Falls. UW-Superior and Adrian of Michigan will face each other in Game-One, followed Lake Forest and top-seeded host River Falls. The winners go for the league title tomorrow – and all but one of the 11 title games in league history have been won by two goals or less. On the men’s side, Saint Norbert will try to win its fourth NCHA Peters Cup title in five years when it hosts UW-Stevens Point in the league championship game tomorrow night. Saint Norbert is 13-4-2. The Pointers are 14-10-4, and are making their first appearance in the title matchup since 2000.
Josh Buchholtz of UW-La Crosse has been named the WIAC’s indoor track-and-field coach of the year. Buchholtz led the Eagles to their 11th straight title in last weekend’s conference meet. Also, the league’s coaches named Thurgood Dennis of Eau Claire as the top track performer of the conference meet. Dennis won the 60-and-200-meter dashes, and he ran the final leg when Eau Claire won the 16-hundred-meter relay. Isaac Vazquez of La Crosse was named the field performer-of-the-meet. He became the first athlete to win the title in back-to-back years. Vazquez broke a conference record in winning the triple jump – and he also took first in the long jump. On the women’s side, Pat Ebel of Oshkosh was named the coach-of-the-year after the Titans won their second straight league crown. Jordanne Greenup of Eau Claire was chosen as the top track performer of the WIAC women’s meet, after she won the 60-and-200-meter dashes. Jessika Smith of Stout was named the field performer-of-the-meet for winning the pentathlon.
UW-Whitewater will go for its third straight WIAC gymnastics championship tomorrow in Eau Claire. The meet also serves as the West Regional for the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association finals on March 23rd and 24th at Brockport, New York. The top three teams in the conference meet will advance to the nationals, along qualifying individuals. UW-La Crosse finished second behind Whitewater a year ago, and UW-Stout was third. Two defending individual champs will be back to defend their titles – Jenna Jondahl of Winona State in the vault, and Danielle Schulzetenberg of Eau Claire in the balance beam.
Three-hundred-20 Wisconsin boys’ high school basketball teams are scheduled to play tonight in the second round of the regionals. Almost half those schools are making their post-season debuts, after having byes on Tuesday night. A dozen teams will probably be tired, after a massive snow-and-ice storm delayed their openers until last night. But for now, at least, the tournament’s back on schedule. That could change this evening, though, with 6-to-8 inches of snow predicted for far eastern and far southern Wisconsin. Defending Division-One champion Madison Memorial and Division-two titlist Whitefish Bay are both scheduled to play their first tournament games this evening. The other three returning champs – La Crosse Aquinas, Marathon, and Randolph – all cleared their first hurdles on Tuesday. All of the top seeds in Divisions One-through-Four had first-round byes – but all eight top seeds played in Division-Five, and they were all victorious.