bronson koenig marquette

BY MIKE LUCAS Senior Writer


MADISON, Wis. — Immediately after Wednesday'sdismantling of Idaho State, senior Zak Showalter was already turning the page to the time-honored rivalry and tug-of-war between Wisconsin and Marquette.

"Games like tonight (against Idaho State) are a little harder to get going for," admitted Showalter who's from Germantown, Wisconsin, a 30-minute drive from the Bradley Center. "But Saturday everybody will be ready to go and excited. I grew up watching Wisconsin-Marquette."

Saturday's game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee will be Showalter's fifth against the Golden Eagles. Showalter has memories of the Dominic James era for the Golden Eagles. So does Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft who played for the Badgers (2005-2008) against the likes of James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews. During his UW career, Krabbenhoft was 2-2 against Marquette.

"We won the first two and lost the second two and it still haunts me to this day," recalled Krabbenhoft. "When it's all said and done, whether you're a Golden Eagle or a Badger, those games will always stick with you, the losses and the wins, because of the environment and the fans."

It didn't take long for Krabbenhoft, who was raised in South Dakota, to pick up on the intensity between the state rivals, especially among the alums from the schools. He discovered "how much people truly care" about the outcome "so they can walk around with their chests out for a year." UW associate head coach Lamont Paris also found that to be true.

"It seems to run really deep on both sides — it's not nasty, I wouldn't say — but it's pretty deep-seated," said Paris, an Ohioan. "It's nice that the schools are in such close proximity in two of the biggest cities in the state. And it's nice that we do it every single year. That's a good thing.

"You can take the records of the teams and toss them. It doesn't matter who's got the better players. Doesn't matter. It's going to be a knockout fight and we have to be ready to execute and, more than anything, compete. It's about who's more disciplined and who competes better that day."

Wisconsin assistant Howard Moore got a taste of the rivalry while playing for Steve Yoder, Stu Jackson and Stan Van Gundy in the early '90s. "There's always a little extra juice," he said. "Coach (Kevin) O'Neill used to say some things in the paper and Coach Yoder and Stu would get a little fired up."

Moore put together the scouting report on Marquette for Saturday's game. "They want to get out in transition," he said of the Golden Eagles, who have outscored their opponents, 159-43, in fast break points, "and they're good that way with Cheatham and Johnson on the wings."

Jajuan Johnson, a 6-5 senior guard from Memphis, Tennessee, is leading the Golden Eagles in scoring (14.4) while Haanif Cheatham, a 6-5 sophomore guard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is not far off that pace (11.7). Sandwiched in-between is 6-11 Luke Fischer, who's averaging 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Fischer, a former Showalter teammate at Germantown, is shooting 76 percent (51-of-67) setting up a classic low-post duel with Wisconsin's Ethan Happ, who's shooting 71 percent (58-of-82). Both scored 12 points in last season's game, which Marquette won, 57-55, at the Kohl Center.

The Golden Eagles outscored the Badgers in the paint (36-16), off the bench (15-0) and in transition (17-2). One-and-done Henry Ellenson had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Vitto Brown had 15 points and was one of four players in double-figures for Wisconsin.

"They got us in the end," said Showalter, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds — his first and only double-double in 102 career games. "We weren't yet in our rhythm as a team. And that was another game that slipped away from us at home (one of three non-conference losses at the Kohl Center)."

The Badgers shot only 36 percent and attempted just four free throws (1-4) after averaging 22 per game. Defensively, the Golden Eagles focused on attacking Bronson Koenig on ball screens and doubling Nigel Hayes on post-ups. Koenig and Hayes combined to make only 7-of-29 shots.

Two years ago, Wisconsin shot an even lower percentage (.327) but held Marquette under 30 percent (.289) in a 49-38 win at the Bradley Center. Frank Kaminsky had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) while the Badgers had 16 points off turnovers (16-4). Matt Carlino led Marquette with 18.

Nothing has ever come easy in this series. Three true freshmen will find that out firsthand: Wisconsin's D'Mitrik Trice and Marquette's Markus Howard and Sam Hauser. Trice (14-22, .636), Howard (18-36, .500) and Hauser (23-44, .523) are all legitimate 3-point scoring threats.

"Those guys have developed significant roles," Moore said.

He was talking about Howard and Hauser. But he also could have been talking about Trice.

Meanwhile, Krabbenhoft was talking for a lot of people when he said, "Everything about this game is really good for basketball in the state of Wisconsin."

Photo: Wisconsin Badgers

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