Afternoon State Sports Briefs: Badgers return to action on hardwoodWisconsin Sports
-- The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team will try to keep pace in the Big Ten Conference tonight, when it hosts Nebraska.
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team will try to keep pace in the Big Ten Conference tonight, when it hosts Nebraska.
The Badgers are tied with Michigan for third at the moment, both at 10-4. They’re two games behind front-running Indiana, which plays at Minnesota this evening. The Cornhuskers come into Madison with a 4-10 league mark, and an overall record of 13-14. The 17th-ranked Badgers are 19-8 overall, with four conference regular season games left. Freshman forward Sam Dekker continues to impress, averaging 12-and-a-half points in his last four games while shooting 57-percent. For the year, Dekker has just over nine points and three-and-a-half rebounds per night, playing on a home floor where he scored 40 points last year in a state high school championship game with Sheboygan Lutheran. Badgers’ coach Bo Ryan has been trying to get Dekker to improve his defense – and he has obliged, as the coach recently confirmed.
The UW-Milwaukee men’s basketball team plays at Green Bay tonight. It’s the season finale for the last-place Panthers, who are 3-12 in the Horizon League and 8-22 overall. But Milwaukee has a two-game winning streak for the first time all season, after winning in double-overtime over Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis in a Bracket Buster contest last Saturday. Jordan Aaron scored 28, as the Panthers played their first double OT contest in a dozen years. Green Bay is tied for third in the conference at 9-5, with a three-game winning streak. The Phoenix have their sights set on the league tournament, to be played next week. They defeated UWM 74-54 at Milwaukee a month ago.
Milwaukee swept the weekly men’s basketball awards in the Horizon League. Senior guard Paris Gulley is the conference player-of-the-week, after he scored a combined 37 points in wins over Illinois-Chicago and Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis. Junior transfer guard Jordan Aaron was named the Horizon Newcomer-of-the-Week. He led all scorers with 28 in Milwaukee’s double-overtime victory over IUPUI. On the women’s side, Megan Lukan of Green Bay was named the league’s co-player-of-the-week, along with Katie Hannemann of Illinois-Chicago. Lukan scored a career-high 22 in a Phoenix win over Valparaiso.
The Marquette University women will try to end a three-game losing streak tonight at Providence. The Golden Eagles have dropped four-of-their-last-five, after losing at Saint John’s last Wednesday 67-61. Junior forward Katherine Plouffe continues to be the scoring and rebounding leader for Marquette, which is 4-9 in the Big East and 12-and-14 overall. They’ll play a Providence team that’s 2-11 in the conference and 7-19 overall. The Friars are on a four-game losing streak, after falling by 19 to Cincinnati last Saturday. Senior Symone Roberts scored her one-thousandth-career point for Providence in that defeat.
Chas Cross of UW-Platteville has been named the WIAC men’s basketball player-of-the-year. The junior center also leads a 10-member All-Conference team, as chosen by the league’s coaches. Cross has been the league leader in both scoring and rebounds, with 16 points and eight-and-a-half boards per game. Also, Bob Semling of Stevens Point is the men’s coach of the year, after leading the Pointers to their third regular season crown in the past five years. Two Point players made the all-conference squad – Trevor Hass and Clayton Heuer. Stout has three representatives – Chris Hortman, Alex Oman, and Erik Olson. Also named were Jeff Heiden and Lucas Morrissey of La Crosse, Zach Peterson of River Falls, and Quardell Young of Whitewater.
UW-Whitewater moved into the national Top-Five in the final regular season men’s basketball poll from D3hoops.com. The Warhawks moved up four places after winning the WIAC conference tournament this past weekend. Whitewater is 23-4 overall. UW Stevens Point dropped four spots to No. 14. Both those schools, plus Saint Norbert, earned berths in the NCAA Division III tournament which begins on Saturday. Saint Norbert also received votes in the D3 poll, as did Platteville and Stout. Saint Thomas of Saint Paul remained at Number-One. In the D3 women’s poll, Stevens Point rose three spots to 18th in its final regular season ranking. Whitewater dropped two places to 22nd. And Carthage returned to the poll at No. 23. All three of those teams, plus Wisconsin Lutheran, earned spots in the national tournament which begins on Friday. Lutheran received votes in the D3 women’s poll, as did Oshkosh. DePauw remained at No. 1.
Jake Schwarz of Lakeland College in Sheboygan is the men’s basketball player-of-the-year in the Northern Athletics Conference. The senior forward is also part of a six-member All-Conference team picked by the league’s coaches. Schwarz led the NAC in scoring with 22 points a game, with almost 10 rebounds per night. Also, Steve Zielinski of Concordia-Mequon is the league’s defensive player-of-the-year. Austin Stueck of Milwaukee Engineering is the Freshman-of-the-Year. The honored coach is Aurora’s James Lancaster. On the women’s side, Wisconsin Lutheran senior guard Shavon Dillon is the NAC’s player-of-the-year. She was fourth in the circuit in scoring with just over 14 points a game. Laci Peterson of Maranatha Baptist in Watertown is the defensive player-of-the-year. She leads the NCAA’s Division III with almost four-point-nine blocked shots per contest. Megan Kroll of the Milwaukee School of Engineering is the honored freshman. The coach-of-the-year honors were shared by Klay Knueppel of league champion Wisconsin Lutheran and Clayton Morrison of Maranatha.
A national poll has Wisconsin Division 1 leader Germantown ranked second in the Max-Preps “X-cellent 25” boys’ high school basketball rankings – up one place from a week ago. The Warhawks are 24-0, trailing only Lone Peak High School of Highland Utah in the new list. Germantown is also ranked 23rd in USA Today’s most recent prep rankings. Germantown is the defending champion from a year ago among the state’s largest high schools. They’ll play Hartland Arrowhead in Thursday night’s sectional semi-finals in Waukesha.
There will be at least one new champion in the girls' state high school basketball tournament, which begins tonight with regional action. Neillsville, the Division 4 titlist from a year ago, has moved up to Division 3 for this year's competition. The other returning champs -- De Pere, New London, Kewaunee, and Heritage Christian -- all have No. 1 seeds in their brackets. Forty-seven schools were given top seeds. Division-Five has the most with 12. D-5 also has the largest number of teams in the regionals with 124. The other four groups have less than 100 schools apiece. All told, there are 472 schools in the girls' tournament, and 304 of them will play tonight. The others have first-round byes, including all four returning champs. Only three No. 1 seeds will play this evening -- Milwaukee Heritage Christian, Marion, and South Shore, all in Division 5. The others are advancing to Round 2 of the regionals, which is scheduled for Friday.
The Milwaukee Bucks are looking to play a full 48-minute game tonight at Dallas. The Bucks have blown fourth-quarter leads in their last two outings, and are coming off a 103-102 home loss to Atlanta on Saturday night. Milwaukee failed to hold a 10-point lead with just over six minutes left. It dropped the Bucks to two games below .500, still with a four-game lead for the final NBA Eastern Conference playoff spot with 28 games left. This evening, they’ll face a Dallas squad that’s on the outside-looking-in as far as their playoff hopes are concerned. The Mavericks are four-and-a-half games back for the final spot in the West, with a record of 25-30. But the Mavs have won five-of-their-last-seven. They lost to the Lakers on Sunday, but Dallas center Dirk Nowitzki had season-highs with 30 points and 13 rebounds. He’s getting back into form, after missing the first 27 games of the season recovering from knee surgery.
There’s a report that the Green Bay Packers are interested in acquiring San Francisco defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent unless the 49’ers re-sign him by March 12th. Physically, Jean Francois is about the same size as Jerel Worthy – the Packer rookie from a year ago who could miss all of next season after knee surgery. The 26-year-old Jean Francois has been the Niners’ top back-up on all three of its defensive line slots. He has played 56 regular season games with a total of three sacks and three pass break-ups. Also, there are reports that the Packers have been considering former Dallas and New York Giants’ defensive end Chris Canty, a veteran starter who’s taller and has a longer reach than Jean Francois.
It will be years before ex-Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has a shot at the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame. But his uniform has already made it to Canton. During his rookie season at Seattle, Wilson became the first NFL player to run for three touchdowns and throw a TD pass in the first half of a game. He did it on December 16th in Toronto, where Seattle crushed the Buffalo Bills 50-17.
Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Carlos Gomez says he wants to be more patient at the plate this year. Instead of playing winter ball, Gomez said he had a minor league hurler throw him 50 pitches a day. And instead of swinging, he kept track of their locations until just before Spring Training, when he started getting in better shape. Gomez says he wants better control at the plate – and when he swings, he wants more of those pitches to be strikes. This is Gomez’s contract year, and he turned down a chance to represent his home Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic to try and improve his numbers with the Brew Crew – as well as his contract value. In two exhibition games, Gomez has a perfect on-base percentage. Yesterday, he walked and scored twice against San Diego. The Brewers are 1-and-3 in spring play. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo starts for the Crew this afternoon against the Seattle Mariners.
The Milwaukee Admirals will try to get closer to an American Hockey League playoff spot tonight, when they play in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters. The Admirals have won two straight road games at Toronto and Hamilton – and a win tonight would give Milwaukee a season-high for consecutive victories away from the Bradley Center. Admirals’ goal-tender Magnus Hellberg has won six straight, while giving up just one-point-one goals per game in that stretch. Milwaukee is 10th in the West, three points behind Lake Erie for the eighth-and-final conference post-season slot. The Monsters have only one victory in their last 11 contests – last Thursday against Milwaukee by a 7-1 score. The Admirals have won two straight road games at Toronto and Hamilton – and a win tonight would give Milwaukee a season-high for consecutive victories away from the Bradley Center.