by Troy Sparks
Last week was a good time that local sports were very exciting to watch. There were rival games and must-win games. Many people are already over the Brewers magic run through the playoffs. Now we’re focusing our attention to college football and basketball and soon the NBA.
I know of one person who can’t wait for the NBA to get going again, and that’s MCJ sales representative, Jimmy Johnson. As usual, he thinks that his Los Angeles Lakers will win the NBA Championship in their reconfigured 66-game schedule.
If you ask me about the NBA, I could care less. Those players made life bad for the employees who work for the NBA teams while they were locked out. As a result, some of those employees were laid off for a while. How could they explain to their families that players stopped them from earning a check? Some of the players are so greedy. My guess is that about half of the fans who see NBA games in arenas are spending their hard-earning money to buy those expensive tickets to see the players jog up and down the court half the time.
I’d rather see the other pro team in town, the Milwaukee Blast. They put up more points in a game than the Bucks can. But until the NBA season starts, I won’t get excited. If the fans don’t come back in droves and fill arenas because they were frustrated with the ongoing 149-day labor dispute, then it is the players fault.
There were two rivalries on the hardwood that mattered to state college teams. UWM played the two Chicago schools at home in the Horizon League Conference last week and won both games.
The Panthers entered their game against Loyola (IL), Dec. 1, with a 5-1 record, losing only at Michigan State. The Ramblers were trying to pull off an upset with their 1-4 mark before the game.
Even though UWM had a 22-18 halftime lead, they pulled away in the second half to win, 59-41. The Panthers welcomed Tony Meier back from injury. The game against the Ramblers was his first of the season.
“It felt great (to play),” Meier said. “I’ve been anxious these first six games that I haven’t been playing, so it was definitely nice to go out there and get my feet wet.” The Panthers completed their sweep at home of their downstate rivals with a 73-71 overtime win at the U.S. Cellular Arena, Dec. 3 to go 7-1.
After the Marquette men’s basketball team dusted off visiting Jacksonville, Nov. 28, the focus was on their upcoming game at Wisconsin, Dec. 3. A couple of Marquette players and coach Buzz Williams put a different spin on the in-state series.
“I really didn’t understand how big the rivalry was my first year,” senior Darius Johnson-Odom said. That was DJOs third year participating in the MU-Wisconsin rivalry. “I just knew it was a basketball game and we needed to win a game.”
Said Williams, “Not to be negative toward anybody from Wisconsin or Marquette, but high-major players want to play against high-major players. High-major coaches want to coach against high-major coaches.”
You can separate the pros and cons of the MU-Wisconsin basketball rivalry forwards and backwards. There was No. 9 (Wisconsin) against No. 20 (Marquette), Bo vs. Buzz, up-tempo vs. slow down, clock-eating offense, DJO vs. Jordan Taylor, Bucky vs. Golden Eagles, Cardinal and White vs. Navy and Gold and Big Ten vs. Big East.
It was supposed to be homecoming for Madison’s Vander Blue, sophomore, but the student section at the Kohl Center booed him. They’re still mad because he verbally committed to Wisconsin at 15 years old then changed his mind and signed with Marquette. The Golden Eagles played their game, which was hard to do at times, because Jae Crowder had four fouls and two points. Junior Cadougan didn’t play because he broke team rules. Marquette held a 32-22 halftime lead.
The Golden Eagles led by as many as 13 points (37-24) in the second half. The Badgers cut that lead to a point at 41-40 with 10:45 left in the game. That was as close as Wisconsin got, and they lost, 61-54. Even though Taylor scored 13 points, he picked up four fouls and had five turnovers, which was uncharacteristic for a pre-season All-American pick. And by the way, Marquette ended Wisconsin’s 23-game home winning streak.
“We just kept putting different bodies on (Taylor) because we wanted to wear him down,” Blue said. “I think we did a good job with that.”
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan didn’t make excuses for his best player who had an off-night. “There’s a lot of attention paid to what he does, and rightfully so,” he said. “Sometimes maybe you get in a position where you try to over-create or try to do things. Unfortunately when you’re playing in foul trouble you tend to play a little differently. You need to stay out of foul trouble. Two charges and two reach-downs (called on him), which are very uncommon.”
For this year, Marquette holds bragging rights in this longtime rivalry, which began in 1917. They played every year since the 1958-59 season except one year (1984-85).
The Badgers football team took care of business in Indianapolis later that Saturday night with a victory over Michigan State in the first Big Ten championship game. The players grabbed their red T-shirts, hats and a rose because they’re Rose Bowl bound for the second straight year. Bucky must take care of unfinished business from their loss to TCU last year, but Oregon is a tough team. They have a lot of work to do to turn the Ducks into duck meat.