Badgers notes: Bench could make difference for UW
ANAHEIM, Calif.—Could bench play and potential foul trouble help determine whether No. 2- seeded Wisconsin or No. 1-seeded Arizona wins the NCAA West Regional title Saturday night?
If so, UW (29-7) might have an advantage over the Wildcats (33-4).
Freshman Nigel Hayes, redshirt junior Duje Dukan and freshman Bronson Koenig have given UW a solid three-man rotation off the bench.
Hayes is averaging 7.3 points and 4.0 rebounds and shooting 52.9 percent in three tournament games. Dukan is averaging 4.0 points per game and shooting 71.7 percent. Koenig is at 3.7 points per game and shooting 44.4 percent.
“I thought we've been doing a pretty good job of coming in and being productive and bringing energy off the bench,” Koenig said. “I think that will be important for us to come in and wear them down a little bit.”
The season-ending foot injury suffered by forward Brandon Ashley on Feb. 1 at California has thinned Arizona's depth.
Freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been spectacular in the tournament, averaging 15.3 points per game and hitting 70% of his field-goal attempts (14 of 20).
However, he is the lone reserve who has put up more than minimal numbers.
“Obviously one key would be to get them in foul trouble,” Dukan said, “and have them play guys that aren't used to being out there.
“But we just want to come in and try to make an impact.”
Hayes was the Big Ten's sixth man of the year, and both Dukan and Koenig have made key plays in victories.
“That is a luxury that we have,” redshirt junior guard Josh Gasser said. “We have guys coming off the bench that people don't scout for us, but they can make huge plays for us.
“They are great scorers for us. They are great energy guys to have.”
Sean Miller, in his fifth season as head coach at Arizona, hasn't forgotten his first full-time job as an assistant.
That came in 1992-93 at UW under Stu Jackson.
“Ray McCallum and Stan Van Gundy were part of that staff with Stu,” Miller said. “The amount of time I spent with Stan Van Gundy I laugh to this day. Him and I didn't share a room in the Howard Johnson, but it felt like we did.
“We probably worked 16 hours a day … for four or five months doing everything. That was my introduction to the other side of college basketball.”
Miller, from Beaver Falls, Pa., was also introduced to ice fishing.
“I'll never forget the first time I was driving into work about 7:30 in the morning,” he said. “Born and raised in Pittsburgh and I looked out on the lake and I saw a bunch of fires, campfires on the lake.
“I had to pull over and say: 'Is that really a fire on the lake?'
“I guess I was welcome to a Wisconsin winter that you could burn a million fires on that lake, but it was frozen so thick it was ice fishing. They were camping out, going on vacations.
“It's a little bit the opposite in Tucson.”
UW coach Bo Ryan and Arizona's Hollis-Jefferson are from Chester, Pa.
Jefferson first met Ryan last summer at the Chester Boys & Girls Club. Ryan was in town visiting the facility.
“I don't have a lot of time to give them,” Ryan said, “so I try to help them with some things financially so that they can help these kids.”
After the teams arrived in Anaheim, Hollis-Jefferson sought out UW officials to see if he could have his picture taken with Ryan. He got his wish on Wednesday.
“I like to take a lot of pictures wherever I go,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “It's just great memories. …
“He loves Chester.”