Wednesday State Sports Briefs: Bucks look to end losing streak to BullsWisconsin Sports
-- The Milwaukee Bucks will try to end seven straight losses to Chicago tonight, when they host the Bulls at the Bradley Center.
MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Bucks will try to end seven straight losses to Chicago tonight, when they host the Bulls at the Bradley Center.
Milwaukee is coming off a four-point home win over Philadelphia on Monday night, in which the Bucks’ defense held the Sixers to just 38-percent shooting in the second half. Point guard Brandon Jennings has been on fire for Milwaukee, averaging 31 points in his last three games. But he has only averaged eight points in his last three home contests against Chicago – including the Bulls’ 23-point trouncing on February fourth. Chicago has won eight of its last nine games away from the United Center. The Bulls could again be without guard Rip Hamilton, who hurt his right shoulder during collision in Monday night’s 20-point Bulls’ rout of Indiana. He’s listed as day-to-day. Hamilton has only played in 16 games for Chicago this season. The Bulls have the NBA’s best record at 32-and-8. The Bucks are eight games below .500 and three games out of contention for the final playoff spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Manager Ron Roenicke gave his back-ups a chance to show their stuff this afternoon, when the Milwaukee Brewers started playing the Chicago White Sox in Glendale Arizona. Norichika Aoki – the Japanese hitting sensation whom the Brewers signed a few weeks ago – led off and played center. That gave Carlos Gomez a rest. Travis Ishikawa started at first, giving Mat Gamel a breather. Taylor Green started at third. Eric Farris started at second, while Rickie Weeks remained the designated hitter due to a tight shoulder. Roenicke said Weeks could return to the field tomorrow, when the Brewers play Cincinnati. And Brock Kjeldgaard was in left, with Ryan Braun playing only every other day for now. Roenicke said Kjeldgaard especially needed to have some more at-bats. The skipper also said that right-hander Zach Braddock did not pitch yesterday as scheduled, because he had a blister on his throwing hand. Braddock expects to return before the week’s over.
Ryan Braun still has a smile on his face, despite going 0-for-4 in his first two exhibition games. The Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder struck out in his first three at-bats – and he ended that string yesterday when he hit a foul pop-up to first. Afterward, Braun joked that quote, “The overwhelming odds are that I’m going to put one in fair territory one of these days.” Braun said his normal off-season workouts were not affected by all the controversy involving his positive drug test, and his successful appeal that wiped out a 50-game suspension. For now, the National League MVP is playing in every other exhibition game – which means he’ll be off this afternoon when the Brewers play the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Arizona. His next game will be tomorrow against Cincinnati. He’s expected to play more often later this month. Braun says he’ll try to get in 30-to-40 total at-bats – but that could change, based on how he feels. He says his goal is to see different types of pitches, and see the ball at his best level.
Julie Wojta of UW-Green Bay is one of 15 finalists for the John Wooden Award as the nation’s top women’s basketball player. The nomination was announced this afternoon, a day after Marquette’s Jae Crowder was named a finalist for the men’s Wooden Award. Wojta, a senior, was named both the Horizon League’s player-of-the-year and the defensive player-of-the-year earlier this week. She’s the only player in the NCAA’s Division-One to rank in the Top-30 in points, rebounds, and steals per game – and she averages a double-double with almost 20 points and just over 10 rebounds per contest. Wojta has some impressive competition for the Wooden award. Brittney Griner of Baylor and Nnemkadi Ogwumike of Stanford were finalists last year, when Maya Moore of UConn won the honor. Griner leads the nation in blocked shots while averaging almost 24 points a game for top-ranked Baylor. Nnemkadi Ogwumike leads the Pac-12 with 22 points a game. She and Chiney Ogwumike – also from Stanford – are the only sisters ever to make the finalist ballot. The winner will be announced on April sixth. Wojta will lead UW-Green Bay tonight, when the Phoenix host Valparaiso in the quarter-finals of the Horizon League Tournament.
Five Wisconsin basketball players and coaches have been named to a national All-Star team. Terry Porter of UW-Stevens Point, Tony Carr of Eau Claire, and Nate DeLong of River Falls are among 60 players named to the NAIA’s 75th anniversary All-Star squad. The NAIA used to be the national association for WIAC schools before they joined the NCAA’s Division-Three in the 1980’s. Former Milwaukee Bucks’ center Jack Sikma from Illinois Wesleyan is also a part of the squad. And Ken Anderson from Eau Claire is one of 15 coaches who made the all-time team.
Ashleigh Sagat of Alverno College in Milwaukee has been named the softball position player-of-the-week in the Northern Athletics Conference. Sagat, a sophomore outfielder, hit .533 with a pair of homers in four games last week. She had three multi-hit games, scored three runs, and had a slugging percentage of 1.067. Natalie Zanella of Aurora was named the league’s top pitcher.
It wasn’t too long ago when the UW-Green Bay women’s basketball team had to win the Horizon League Tournament to make the NCAA’s. But now, the 10th-ranked Phoenix can be confident about securing a spot at the Big Dance – even if they get upset tonight in the first round of their conference tourney. Top-seeded Green Bay is 27-1, and will host Valparaiso in the Horizon League quarter-finals. Ninth-seeded Valpo eliminated UW-Milwaukee on Monday night while the Phoenix had a bye. Two years ago, Green Bay earned its first at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament despite losing to Cleveland State in the Horizon League semi-finals. Last year, the Phoenix easily won their league tourney and made the Sweet-16 at the Big Dance for the first time ever. And this year, Green Bay went unbeaten on the road for the first time in school history. Coach Matt Bollant says the team has improved its strength-of-schedule – and they’ve done well in their non-conference games. Bollant says it takes a huge stress off the program, knowing it can make the NCAA’s without necessarily winning the league tourney and clinching the Horizon’s automatic berth. But junior guard Adrian Ritchie says her team wants to keep building momentum, and winning the league tourney is a start. Phoenix guard Hannah Quilling is expected to play tonight – but she’s not sure how much, after hurting her ribs last Sunday against Illinois-Chicago.
A point guard from Milwaukee Pius XI High School says he’ll play his college ball at U-W Green Bay. Senior Carrington Love has announced a verbal commitment to join the Phoenix this fall. The 6-1 Love anchors a Pius team that’s heading to the Division-Two sectionals tomorrow with a 21-3 record and a nine-game winning streak. Love averages 19 points a game. His coach, Joel Claassen, said Love improved his shot selection this year – and he has become more of a leader on the floor, especially in the second half of the season.
The Milwaukee Admirals will try to gain some ground in the American Hockey League playoff race tonight, when they face the Wolves in Chicago. Milwaukee has 64 points, one behind Rochester, Peoria, and Lake Erie. Those three are all tied for the eighth-and-final Western Conference post-season slot. The Admirals have won three of their last four, and tonight is their first road game since February 25th. Milwaukee and Chicago are 5-5 against each other this season. The Admirals scored a 6-0 victory over the Wolves last Saturday at the Bradley Center.
University of Wisconsin men’s hockey forward Mark Zengerle is the WCHA’s offensive player-of-the-week – and Badgers’ goal-tender Joel Rumpel is the league’s rookie-of-the-week. Zengerle, a sophomore, had one goal and four assists when the Badgers split a two-game series at league season champion Minnesota last weekend. He had a hand in all four goals last Friday night, when the Badgers won 4-1. Zengerle is currently on a five-game scoring streak. Rumpel, a freshman, had .949 save percentage against the Gophers – and he had four periods of shutouts.