Gullikson calms Badgers to Big Ten road victory

first_imgSTATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Kevin Gullikson was sweating buckets in addition to assisting on them.Following the Badgers’ 71-58 victory at Penn State Wednesday night, the sophomore forward stood against the wall outside his locker room and coughed. He attributed it to a winter cold. But whatever the infection, Gullikson’s teammates certainly caught it.Leading 42-41 through 27 minutes, No. 4 Wisconsin was searching for a separation they had yet to find. But with Joe Krabbenhoft sent to the bench and Marcus Landry in foul trouble, UW head coach Bo Ryan stuck with a small lineup and inserted Gullikson at the five. What happened next was a 21-8 Wisconsin run jumpstarted by Gullikson’s block of Jamelle Cornley and three consecutive Badgers 3-pointers that busted up the Nittany Lions’ zone defense. Wisconsin (23-2, 9-1) used the run to ultimately put away Penn State (10-12, 1-8) at the Bryce-Jordan Center. “Well, yeah, it can come in bunches,” said Ryan. “And that’s why I had that group on the floor at the end of the game.”Kevin Gullikson was the biggest reason for [UW using the clock well], because he just made good decisions with the ball, and he was a very calming effect.”The pivotal scoring stretch began with a long arching 3-pointer by Jason Bohannon. Two Michael Flowers long-distance daggers from opposite sides of the court quickly followed over the next two possessions.”It was very vital,” senior guard Kammron Taylor said. “They were on a run, and they kind of slowed what we were doing on offense. For Mike to do what he did and step up to hit those two 3s, you know, back-to-back, and then contain Claxton, was huge for us.” After that, the sky opened for the Badgers’ national player of the year candidate as he took to the paint. Alando Tucker scored eight consecutive Wisconsin points and finished with a game-high 24 on 9-of-19 shooting.Gullikson hustled to tip out a Taylor miss that was eventually scooped up by Bohannon and dealt to Tucker down low for a layup and a foul. The senior leader converted on the free throw and followed it up the next time down the court by storming the baseline and connecting on a reverse layup in addition to drawing another foul. After Tucker converted that free throw, the Badgers led 59-47, and the advantage would never again fall below double digits. Cornley led the Nittany Lions, who have now lost eight straight games, with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting. But nobody was able to match Wisconsin down the final stretch, as Penn State looked out of rhythm in trying to work from behind. Star junior Geary Claxton was held to 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting. The Nittany Lions did manage to counterpunch any time the Badgers made an early run. Wisconsin led by seven in the first half, but Penn State twice pulled within a point after the break. The Lions lead the Big Ten on the offensive glass; and it was those second chances that kept them clawing back many times. Penn State also entered the night shooting a dismal 39 percent from the field in its last six games, while allowing its opponents to connect at a 52 percent clip. The numbers were not quite that skewed Wednesday, but UW did hit 58 percent of its field goals in the second half. Wisconsin also finished with 18 assists to just nine turnovers, something Ryan was especially pleased about. Flowers, in particular, contributed six assists without a giveaway in addition to his 12 points. Yet, that performance alone did not suit Flowers. “I’m kind of disappointed,” Flowers said. “I would have liked to have, you know, 12 points, six assists, seven rebounds, like three or four steals. The steals part didn’t really come through on defense.”That response echoed Gullikson’s earlier appraisal of his “calming effect.””I don’t know,” Gullikson said with a blush. “I just, I don’t know.”Their teammates and coach seemed happy with the performances, however. As did Tucker, who was on the receiving end of two of Gullikson’s three assists and one from Flowers.Tucker’s 24 points leaves him at 1,999 for his career, all but ensuring he will be eclipse the 2,000 barrier in front of his home crowd. He said following the game he was not aware how close he was, but that his teammates cautioned him to pick up the historic basket in Madison.He will get the chance to become the second Badger ever to do so when the Iowa Hawkeyes visit the Kohl Center Saturday.last_img

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