Men’s Basketball: From one extreme to the other: Hughes gets hot in final minutes

Danny Daly

Going into Wednesday’s game against a disciplined Northwestern team, Wisconsin knew it needed to be patient. That mindset paid dividends down the stretch-it just wasn’t necessarily in the way the Badgers expected.

During the media timeout with 7:40 left and Wisconsin trailing 40-37, Trevon Hughes told himself to stop shooting. It didn’t seem to be Hughes’ night, as he had missed his first nine shots from the field and made only 2-of-4 free throws.

Then Hughes heard some words of encouragement in the huddle.

“My teammates kept telling me to keep shooting,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have taken another shot.”

But Hughes listened, and he finally heated up after that. The Badgers’ leading scorer hit all but one of his last six tries, including four 3-pointers. He scored 14 of his 16 points in the final seven minutes, propelling Wisconsin to a 60-50 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Even though nothing was falling for Hughes, Badgers coach Bo Ryan wasn’t going to give up on his struggling star.

“Jokingly, I told Trevon that one of the assistants said, ‘Make Hughes stop shooting, he’s like 0-for-whatever,'” Ryan said. “My comeback was, ‘But Trevon, I stuck with you, now. You go ahead and keep shooting.'”

Hughes broke out of his slump with a trey that pulled Wisconsin even for the first time since the opening minute of the second half. He added a layup one minute later to give the Badgers a one-point lead, though it evaporated after Wildcats forward Drew Crawford connected from long range on the other end.

Trying to respond, Hughes’ first attempt from the perimeter clanged off the rim. But Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor grabbed the rebound and immediately found Hughes again. He didn’t miss the second time.

“That’s when I felt good,” Hughes said. “That’s the one that gave me my confidence.”

He sank 3-pointers on the Badgers’ next two possessions as well, putting Wisconsin comfortably ahead 55-48. In five minutes, Hughes had transformed from the coldest shooter on the floor into the hottest one.

And Ryan gave Hughes the chance to do so because of his familiarity with NU.

“If he’s a freshman and he’s going through that, then maybe he’s not on the floor as much,” Ryan said. “But you can’t take Trevon Hughes and not have him on the floor in a tight game in a hostile environment against a system like Bill (Carmody) runs, because he has experience with it.”

Hughes’ memory of the 66-63 loss in Evanston last year was especially fresh. In that contest, the Badgers had 13 turnovers and allowed the Cats to shoot better than 57 percent.

Wisconsin displayed what it learned from the defeat Wednesday, cutting its turnovers by more than half and holding NU to 40 percent shooting.

“Going against Northwestern, you have to show patience,” Hughes said. “You can’t overextend your defense because they exploit that. And in our offensive end, we’ve got to stay patient because those guys jump passing lanes.”

Considering the Badgers were without their second-leading scorer, Hughes’ veteran leadership was especially valuable. Forward Jon Leuer broke his wrist in a win over Purdue last weekend and is out indefinitely.

After gaining momentum from beating the Boilermakers, the Badgers didn’t want the injury to distract them.

“As I jokingly said in Madison, we put a tissue on each guy’s chair, had everyone get their tear out and console Jon-and he’s sitting in the back laughing,” Ryan said. “We knew that we were going to be missing him for a while.”

Still, the absence of the 6-foot-10 Leuer put pressure on the guards to step up, and they came through. While Hughes sparked Wisconsin in the second half, senior Jason Bohannon carried the team with 10 points in the first half and 19 total.

“Our senior guards made the difference,” Ryan said. “That maturity was huge.”

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