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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 28, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
More to it than just the stars
If a 20-point win in December against a bottom feeder of the Big Ten told us anything about the Wisconsin Badgers, it is this: They are not just the ‘Big 3.’
Sure, Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig get the headlines, but the team that coach Greg Gard puts out on the floor on a game-to-game basis is more than just about them. It’s about guys like Zak Showalter, who proved for the second time in three games that if you lose track of him, he’ll make it hurt.
Showy to the rack… count it pic.twitter.com/8xvnDNZlgM
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) December 28, 2016
The senior guard scored a season-high 18 points as the Badgers took care of Rutgers 72-52 Tuesday night. The effort came after going for 16 against Green Bay earlier this month.
“(Green Bay’s) coach blatantly said, ‘Let (Showalter) beat us,’” Hayes said. “Showy did. Hopefully teams continue that. I got money on Showy that he’s going to come through for us.”
For much of his career, Showalter has been known as the energy guy and defensive stopper, a role he relishes. That was especially the case against Rutgers, a team that is playing tougher and harder under new coach Steve Pikiell than they have in the past, and Wisconsin knew going in it was going to be what assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft called a “rock fight.”
“In these types of games, he thrives,” Gard said of Showalter. “He likes the physicality. He likes to mix it up, stick your nose in, get knocked around, knock some people around.”
But he was more than that on Tuesday, just like he has been for the last four games, when he’s scored in double figures in three of them. His shooting has been the biggest difference, especially from beyond the arc, where he’s hit 8 of last 16 shots.
“That’s pretty easy to do when you’ve got teammates like (Hayes and Happ) finding you,” Showalter said. “Guys have been collapsing on them. Obviously that presents opportunities. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Showalter is downplaying his impact, the typical low-key Wisconsin player, the proverbial ‘just doing my job’ type of guy. But the former walk-on’s offensive improvement since stepping on campus back in the fall of 2012 hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it’s starting to pay dividends.
“His offensive game has grown and grown,” Gard said. “He’s become very good away from the ball.
“His offensive repertoire has grown over the course of his career. He’s stays within his lane. He doesn’t try to do things he’s not capable of.”
No, he doesn’t. But what he’s capable of, and what other teams believe he’s capable of, are still not on level ground. And because of that, for those that want to continue to say, “Let Showy beat us,” he might just keep doing it.
Top plays of the year: No.3
We continue our look at the top plays of the Wisconsin football and basketball teams in 2016, with a glance to a historic day at a historic stadium.
No. 3 (Sept. 3, 2016): D’Cota Dixon catches the game-clinching interception in an upset of LSU
No one quite knew what to expect from Wisconsin in 2016. When No. 5 LSU rolled into Green Bay for the season opener at Lambeau Field, they were double-digit favorites with the Heisman Trophy favorite at running back in Leonard Fournette. The Badgers, meanwhile, were unranked to start a year for the first time since 2009.
But it was Wisconsin that looked like the national title contender on this day, especially on defense. Though Fournette ran for 138 yards, LSU struggled mightily to move the ball for much of the afternoon. But given one more chance, and only trailing by two points, the Tigers drove down the field and were nearly in field goal range with less than a minute left.
That’s when the Wisconsin defense made the first of what would be a myriad of big plays throughout the season.
In their own words:
LSU coach Les Miles: “(Brandon Harris) dodged extremely well. He was getting sacked and really got out of the grasp of the defender, but then he didn’t make the play that he wanted to make, that is for sure.”
LB Vince Biegel: “Yeah, (defensive coordinator) Justin (Wilcox) radioed in my favorite blitz call. It’s called a ‘Psycho Track’ and I came inside the tackle, and I was surprised I was unblocked. I actually thought it was a screen at first because I was unblocked so much, but give credit to (Harris), he’s a very shifty quarterback. He ended up escaping my grasp and made a pass that fell right into D’Cota’s lap. Give D’Cota the credit, he was exactly where he was supposed to be at the right time.”
S D’Cota Dixon on the late hit: “(Josh Boutte) was probably just upset they lost the game. If I was ranked five in the country, and we lost our opening game, I’d be upset too.”
What it meant:
Wisconsin went from unranked to No. 10 in the AP Top 25, matching the biggest jump of any school outside of the poll to start the season since it expanded in 1988. Though LSU would go on to lose three more games in the regular season, the win was still viewed by many as the Badgers’ best victory of the year. It helped their national perception, and was among the reasons the College Football Playoff committee thought so highly of them.
But most importantly, it gave the program — and this year’s team — the confidence it could play with the best talent in the country, which was vital with the brutal Big Ten schedule the Badgers faced. It was the jump-off point for one of the more surprising seasons in recent memory.
Off to the Senior Bowl
Linebacker Vince Biegel won’t be the only Wisconsin representative at the Senior Bowl next month. It was announced Tuesday that running back Corey Clement was selected for what many consider to be the best post-season event for college players to show off their wares to NFL front office personnel and scouts.
— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) December 27, 2016
Clement will go to Mobile, Ala., for the game after a senior year that’s seen him run for a career-high 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns with the Cotton Bowl still to play. He hasn’t been nearly as explosive as he was earlier in his career, but he showed he could handle a lot of carries and got stronger as the season went along, topping the 100-yard mark in each of the Badgers’ final five games.
The ability to go to the Senior Bowl is significant for Clement. While the East-West Shrine Bowl and NFLPA Bowl are nice, the Senior Bowl is an opportunity to spend a week practicing in front of scouts from every team in the NFL, let them get to know you as a person off the field, and get exposure from the hoards of media in attendance. It’s exactly what Clement needs.
Day 2 in Texas
It was a normal workday of sorts for the Wisconsin football team, as they hit the field at AT&T Stadium for practice on Tuesday. But that was the only thing that was normal for the Badgers, as they once again got to experience all that the Dallas area had to offer in advance of their Cotton Bowl matchup with Western Michigan next Monday.
This the best bowl trip experience I've had yet… & it's only night 2.. ?
— NEO (@JazzPeavy) December 28, 2016
Among the opportunities was a trip to see the Dallas Mavericks play the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Arena. And it was more special because of one of the players on that Rockets squad, former Badgers forward Sam Dekker, is a good friend of senior running back Dare Ogunbowale.
Just a couple college roommates catching up in Dallas.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) December 28, 2016
Ogunbowale also got a chance to show off his dance moves, along with wide receiver Rob Wheelwright.
They weren't ready for Wisconsin.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) December 28, 2016
Things will get more serious as the game gets closer, but these images are another reminder that this is a reward for a long season. It’s good to see the Badgers enjoying it.
- At the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jeff Potrykus looks at redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook’s up and down ride in his first season of starting at quarterback for Wisconsin.
- Potrykus also gives the scouting report on an unbeaten Western Michigan team.
- Teams that have lost their conference title game haven’t performed well in their bowl game. Jason Galloway at the Wisconsin State Journal says the Badgers are trying buck that trend.