Morning State Sports Briefs: Sixers loss keeps Bucks playoff hopes barely aliveWisconsin Sports
-- The Milwaukee Bucks are still barely alive in the NBA playoff picture. Philadelphia did the Bucks a favor last night by losing to Orlando 113-100.
MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Bucks are still barely alive in the NBA playoff picture. Philadelphia did the Bucks a favor last night by losing to Orlando 113-100.
Philly and New York are now tied for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, with Milwaukee two games back in ninth with only six regular season contests left. If Milwaukee can get past either the Knicks or the 76ers, they’ll grab the eighth spot in the East and have a first-round series against Chicago. Milwaukee appears to have the best chance of passing Philly. They play each other next week at the Bradley Center, and the Sixers have only won two-of-their-eight games this month. Still, the Bucks realize they’re on their last gasp – and they’ll probably have to win all six of their remaining games, plus get some help with losses from the Sixers and Knicks. Philly plays its final home contest tonight against Indiana, while New York hosts Boston. The Bucks are off until tomorrow night at Washington.
The Milwaukee Bucks have the fifth-lowest home average attendance in the NBA, and the lowest since the Bradley Center opened in 1988. With three home games left, the Bucks have averaged just under 14,750 tickets sold per game – which is often more than the actual attendance. At the current pace, the Bucks will finish under their Bradley Center low of 15,000-plus two years ago. Their highest attendance was in 2002 – the season after they got to within one victory of making the NBA Finals. They averaged almost 18,200 per night. Teams have eight fewer games this year due to the NBA owners’ lockout – and analysts said that was a factor in Milwaukee’s low attendance. Other factors include the Bucks’ inconsistent play at 29-31, and the fact that the season began while Wisconsin fans were focusing on the Packers and the NFL Playoffs. The Bucks’ three remaining home games are on Saturday night against New Jersey, April 23rd against Toronto, and April 25th against Philadelphia.
UW-Green Bay standout Julie Wojta says she’ll like moving from forward-to-guard in the WNBA. Wojta was drafted by the Minnesota Lynx yesterday as the sixth pick in the second round, and the 18th pick overall. Wojta is from Francis Creek, starred at Mishicot High School, and was the Horizon League’s player-of-the-year for UWGB as a senior this past season. She’ll join a Minnesota team that had five of the first 20 draft picks yesterday. Wojta is the first Green Bay player ever to be drafted by the WNBA. The first overall pick was Nnemkadi Okwumike of Stanford, who was taken by the Los Angeles Sparks.
Steve Stricker of Madison dropped one place to seventh this morning in the new World Golf Rankings. Stricker took a rest after last weekend’s Masters. He and Martin Kaymer switched places in the World ratings, with Kaymer moving up to sixth. Stricker also dropped one place to 14th in the Fed-Ex Cup season point standings. That was after Carl Pettersson jumped 13 spots to fourth after winning the RBC Heritage tournament. Pewaukee native Mark Wilson dropped one place to ninth in the Fed-Ex totals, after he tied for 24th at Hilton Head South Carolina. And Wilson held steady at Number-28 in the World Rankings. Jerry Kelly of Madison rose spots in the World to Number-142 – and he jumped 14 spots in the Fed-Ex Rankings to 117th. That was after Kelly tied for 29th at the Heritage. Rory McIlroy regained the top spot in the World Rankings, as Luke Donald fell to second. And Hunter Mahan still leads the Fed-Ex point totals.
The Middleton boys’ golf team is Number-one in the first statewide high school rankings by the golf coaches’ association. Middleton won the Division-One state title a year ago – and they took the D-1 crown over the weekend at the Wisconsin Dells Invitational. Hartland Arrowhead is second in the new poll. Onalaska, Waukesha Catholic Memorial, and Madison Memorial round out the Top-Five.
The UW-Milwaukee baseball team split a double-header at Wright State yesterday. The Panthers lost the opener 8-to-3, and took the nightcap 9-7. Wright State broke a 3-3 in the opener with four runs in the fifth inning. Jake Hibberd went 3-for-4 and homered for the Raiders. In the nightcap, Milwaukee got back-to-back-to-back homers from Paul Hoenecke, Phil Striggow, and Nick Lingvay in the third inning. The Panthers’ record is now 7-8 in the Horizon League and 13-19 overall.
The University of Wisconsin softball team ended a nine-game winning streak when they fell at Illinois 8-7 in the opener of a double-header Sunday in Champaign, Ill. But in the nightcap, the Badgers exploded for a school-record six home runs in a 10-7 victory over the Fighting Illini. Mary Massei belted three homers in that game. Shannel Blackshear, Michelle Mueller, and Stephanie Peace also went yard for the Badgers. The Illini went up 5-1 in the opener, and then held on as Wisconsin got to within a run. The Badgers are now 8-4 in the Big Ten, and 24-13 overall.
The UW-Green Bay softball team crushed Butler at home, 11-3 in five innings. Paige Newtols belted a three-run homer in the fourth inning, when the Phoenix scored six times. Miranda Reinke went 3-for-3 with three RBI’s, as the Phoenix improved to 4-5 in the Horizon League and 15-17 overall.
The fourth-ranked University of Wisconsin men’s rowing team swept No. 10 Stanford in three races yesterday at the Stanford Invitational in Redwood Shores California. The Badger varsity eight squeezed out a win over the Cardinal by just two-tenths-of-a-second. Wisconsin’s second varsity eight and novice eight were also victorious. Meanwhile, the Badger women’s lightweight rowing team won a pair of races at the Knecht Cup regatta in New Jersey. The varsity eight and women’s novice eight both scored victories. And the Badger women’s open-weight team had three second-place finishes at the Lake Natoma Invite at Gold Hills, California.
With seven spring practices left, the University of Wisconsin football team is starting to take shape. And some of the biggest question marks appear to be at wide receiver, where new position coach Zach Azzanni only has two players with college experience – and one of them, Jared Abrederris, is out all spring with a foot injury. Jeff Duckworth is the only Badgers’ receiver on the field with significant experience. He caught 15 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown in 2011 – and the other wideouts had a combined four catches for 49 yards. In all, the Badgers have six receivers who are 6-2 or taller, including Abbrederis. Azzanni said Chase Hammond and Isaiah Williams have made some of the best impressions with him and head coach Bret Bielema this spring – while the others have had their good-and-bad moments. The Badgers’ spring workouts culminate with the Spring Game on April 28th at Camp Randall Stadium.
Milwaukee Admirals’ goal-tender Jeremy Smith was named yesterday as the American Hockey League’s player-of-the-week. He had 78 saves and allowed three goals in a trio of games during the final week of the regular season. Milwaukee did not have a player-of-the-week until now. And the Admirals didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the final night of the season. Milwaukee will host Abbotsford, B.C. in a best-of-five first-round series beginning on Friday night.
Jason Ryf of Oshkosh was Wisconsin’s top finisher in the Boston Marathon yesterday. The 41-year-old Ryf was 27th overall, and he ran the 26-plus miles in a time of two hours, 31 minutes, and 50 seconds. Brian Condon of Madison was the state’s second-best finisher in 53rd, with a time of 2:36:04. Tiffany Ebensperger of Juda was listed as Wisconsin’s top female runner. She finished in three-hours-24-minutes and 29 seconds. Ebensperger was the 228th top woman, and finished 23-hundred-18th overall. Runners from Kenya took the top three men’s places and the top three women’s places in the Boston Marathon. Wesley Korir was the top male finisher in 2:12:40. Sharon Cherop was the top women’s runner in 2:31:50.