Dekker ready to return to shooting well

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Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sunday, February 9, 2014

MADISON—As he talked candidly with reporters outside the Wisconsin locker room at Illinois’ State Farm Center, it was obvious Sam Dekker had experienced a catharsis.

The sophomore forward doesn’t hide his emotions and a multi-game shooting slump, particularly from three-point range, had been wearing on him.

A return to form in UW’s 75-63 victory over the Illini left Dekker smiling and relaxed.

“We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” Dekker said, referring to UW’s 16-0 start and subsequent skid of five losses in six games. “We’ve sometimes made ourselves bigger than the game when we were struggling, (including) myself. Sometimes I worried about when my next shot was going to go in. I worried about that stuff too much. And I wasn’t playing with enough confidence.

“Sometimes that happens when you are losing but that is part of growing up and maturing.

“I’ve got a lot of maturing to do. I think going through these types of stretches make you a much stronger player and a much stronger person.”

Junior center Frank Kaminsky can empathize. Kaminsky has made just two of his last 12 three-pointers and acknowledged tentativeness has crept into his game.

“You can’t let missing a shot affect the rest of your game, otherwise it will just spiral downward from there,” he said. “And then you’ll start thinking about offense and not play defense. People get frustrated, obviously, but I think everyone has got to move on to the next play.”

Dekker’s comments came after he made 4 of 7 3-pointers, 5 of 9 shots overall and both free-throw attempts for 16 points and added four assists against the Illini.

Although he didn’t grab a rebound in 29 minutes, Dekker needed to see the ball go through the basket. In UW’s previous five games, Dekker hit just 2 of 18 three-pointers (11.1 percent) and 18 of 49 shots overall (36.7 percent).

He was 0 of 2 from three-point range and 1 of 4 overall against the Illini when he buried a three-pointer to give UW a three-point lead with 3 minutes 35 seconds left in the first half. Dekker added two free throws with 16 seconds left in the half and then hit 3 of 3 3-pointers in the second half.

“It was very, very nice to see that first one in the first half go down,” said Dekker, who put in extra time working on his shot with UW assistant Gary Close two days before the game. “It’s not like I lost my shot. I still know I can shoot the ball.

“I just had to take it with some confidence. I got back in the gym a little bit and worked with some coaches.

“It was just me getting back to the basics. Not leaning back. Not doing anything unorthodox, nothing wasted. If you have a lot of wasted motion in there it is going to go left or right or long or short.

“I just got back to slowing my mind down, slowing my body down and just getting back in rhythm.”

UW (18-5, 5-5 Big Ten) won for just the second time in seven games to reach the .500 mark in the league. The competition increases significantly at noon Sunday (CBS) when UW hosts No. 9 Michigan State (20-3, 9-1).

Before beating the Illini for the second time this season, UW had suffered home losses against Northwestern and Ohio State. Those defeats came after UW snapped a three-game losing streak with a solid 72-58 victory at Purdue.

“You’ve just got to come out every possession and play hard,” junior guard Traevon Jackson said. “I think when we do that on the road it is a different type of concentration that we’ve been having.

“So we’ve got to have the same type of intensity at home, because the game’s not different. We’ve just got to transfer that over.”

In the loss to Northwestern, UW failed to match the Wildcats’ toughness for 40 minutes. In the loss to the Buckeyes, UW missed several chances to build double-digit leads and then collapsed down the stretch.

Awful shooting in the two losses—8 of 41 from three-point range and 33 of 102 shots overall—did not help.

“We just need to stay focused and bring that energy from the opening tip on, get our crowd into it,” guard Josh Gasser said. “Against a team like Michigan State, if you don’t bring it from the start they are going to clobber you physically.”

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