MADISON -- It became clear early on in Saturday’s contest at the Kohl Center that Sam Dekker was on a mission.
The sophomore forward carried it through the afternoon, leading the No. 8 Badgers with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a 70-64 win over intrastate rival Marquette. Dekker gave the UW offense a lift early, played tough on the boards throughout and threw in a handful of show-stopping dunks to boot.
"Being a Wisconsin kid, this game means a lot to me," said the Sheboygan native, who posted his second double-double in three outings.
Oftentimes when the Marquette and Wisconsin men’s basketball teams square off, the styles of play are quite different. In front of a sold-out house on this afternoon, those differences were muted a bit, as both teams brought a physical edge. For the Badgers this year, that mentality starts with redshirt junior guard Josh Gasser.
"He’s a leader," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "We have some other guys out there that have some grit but it has to start somewhere. That’s where it starts."
The Badgers matched their largest lead of the game with a free throw from junior center Frank Kaminksy (11 points and four rebounds) with 5:50 to play, but Marquette used a 10-2 run to close the lead to 57-54 with a three from Racine, Wis., native Jamil Wilson (game-high 22 points).
On UW’s next possession, Kaminsky more or less sealed it with a three from the top of the key with 93 seconds left on the clock.
"I was ready to shoot it, but they kind of sank on him because we were running a high ball screen," junior guard Traevon Jackson (11 points, seven assists and zero turnovers). "He hadn’t really popped too many times before that but the one time he did, I’ll find him. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s good at."
All five UW starters scored in double-figures, but it was UW’s proficiency in hustle plays and 50-50 ball situations that seemed to make the difference against Marquette.
That included a sequence early in the second half when senior guard Ben Brust (13 points) created a turnover and attempted a one-handed dunk but was denied by the rim. Jackson chased down the loose ball on the right sideline and shoveled it to Dekker as he fell out of bounds. Dekker turned, located Kaminsky and found him with a lob pass for an alley-oop. What could have been a bullet dodged for MU turned into a momentum play for UW. "That could have turned out bad... but that was a key type of play," Jackson said. "Loose balls are huge. We really stressed that this week."
Wisconsin worked its way through a key stretch late in the first half when Hayes picked up his second foul with the Badgers leading, 22-16, at the 5:28 mark and was replaced by Kaminsky, who picked up his second just six seconds later. Redshirt junior center Evan Anderson gave the Badgers 2:58 off the bench in relief.
Marquette did not get a basket in the paint while Anderson was in the game, though he did register three fouls of his own in that span, leading to two free throws from Otule. Wisconsin saw its lead cut in half, but preserved, getting to the locker room at 28-25.
"I thought Evan and Zach did a great job of not letting it slip away," Ryan said. "We were hanging tough."
The first half featured 22 fouls and nine players picked up at least two. Wisconsin opened the second half on a 7-2 run over the first two minutes and held MU at arms length until its late run.
"I think we expected this," Dekker said. "We have a lot of work to do but I think we’re happy with where we’re at at this point.
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