7:35 p.m. - We've got about five minutes until the Senior Night intros. Some early game info on the Penn State side. Jamelle Cornley, one of their starting forwards, did not make the trip from State College due to some soreness in his knee. He's been battling that all year and I guess he wasn't well enough to go today.
7:41 p.m. - Look like we're going to have a big crowd tonight as we had 29 hits in the 15 seconds it took me to post the first entry. I have it on good authority that Kristin Florin and her husband will be reading tonight. Penn State just left the floor so the pre-game activities are about to start.
7:49 p.m. - I'd say about half the crowd is here right now for the ceremony. That was a big reason why Coach Ryan came up with the post-game tribute video idea last year. Tanner is the first senior to go. Big round of applause as they read off his accomplishments. Both parents are with him and he gets a plaque from Senior Associate AD Vince Sweeney and National W Club director Terry Murawski.
Mike Flowers is up next. He is accompanied by his mom and stepdad. Everyone then lines up along the other team's foul lline. Lots of hugs between the families. Greg Stiemsma is up next. For those who haven't seen them, his dad is real tall like him. His mom, not so much. Brian Butch is the final one. His dad looks a little emotional. Everyone lines up for a photo and a little On Wisconsin! to send them off.
7:52 p.m. - Just a reminder, the post-game ceremonies will be live streamed. We weren't able to stream the pre-game intros. Former Badger and Nittany Lion Sharif Chambliss just stopped by to say hi. Reef is on the staff at UW-Milwaukee with former Badger assistant Rob Jeter. Unfortunately the Panthers lost last night in the Horizon League Tournament so their season is over.
7:59 p.m. - Ran into another former Badger, Mosezell Peterson, just now. They're all coming out of the woodwork. Must be an important game.
8:05 p.m. - National Anthem done. Time for starting lineups. Seems like the students are into it tonight. Mike's got the all white kicks on. Very shiny. Officials are Wellmer, Hightower and Valentine. Lots of freshmen and sophomores in the lineup for PSU.
8:08 p.m. - We've almost got 1,000 hits and the game hasn't even started. Now it has as Marcus wins the tip. Penn State comes out in man-to-man. They were pretty much exclusively zone at their place. Trevon misses a runner and PSU misses on their end. Jones called for a foul as Butch posts up.
8:12 p.m. - Marcus drains a three for the first points of the game. PSU answers with a nice pick and roll but Flowers finds Marcus down low for an easy one. Battle drains a three over Butch. Joe misses but PSU turns it over. The teams exchange TOs and Marcus arttacks the rim and gets hammered, falling hard. He goes to the line and makes both.
8:15 p.m. - PSU now in zone and Pop (Trevon) drains a three. PSU misses but the rebound goes off UW. Penn State ball after the TV timeout. UW leads 10-7 with 15:34 left. Kirk was just introduced to the crowd (after chatting it up with Steve Welmer). Big applause.
8:20 p.m. - Marcus has seven of our 10 points. J-Bo in for the first time. PSU misses a three. Greg with a nice move down low for two. He had 10 against these guys at their place. PSU with a run out but Marcus erases the sure lay-up. Ball goes out of bounds. PSU misses a three. Greg with a dunk off Flowers' pass. PSU hits a long jumper, they call it a three.
8:22 p.m. - PSU with some zone pressure. UW beats it and gets it to Butch down low for two. Mike with a steal but UW turns it over. Mike with another near steal that ends in a jump ball. It will be PSU's after the TV timeout. UW leads 16-10 with 11:53 left.
8:26 p.m. - Michael hasn't scored a point but already has three assists, three rebounds and a steal. UW has two turnovers, already more than its last game. PSU with a wild shot and Flowers with another board. Butch fouled again as he's posting up. Pop with a drive to the bucket, good and he's fouled. He rolls in the FT.
8:31 p.m. - Some more good defensie forces another tough PSU miss. Good ball momvement by UW but Mike can't convert the trey. Morrissey with a deuce on the other end. J-Bo misses a trey and Mike called for a foul on the rebound. J-Bo chases Morrissey around about six picks beofre PSU finally called for a moving screen. Butch fouled going to the hoop. Brian makes one.
8:34 p.m. - PSU coaches not happy with the 6-1 foul discrepency. Ted Valentine just inadvertantly blew his whistle (looked like Brian was fouled but I guess not). Ball back ot the Badgers. J-Bo throws up a runner and Brian gets the rebound. He's fouled going back up and will shoot free throws after the TV timeout. UW leads 20-12 with 7:30 left.
8:41 p.m. - Brian makes both and Stiemsma replaces him. Greg knocks down a jumper from Flowers. PSU miss and Greg with the rebound. Couple empty possesions both way. Michael drains a three off the screen. Pringle with a jumper to break a long drought for PSU. UW with a miss and Pringle drains a three. Joe called for an offensive foul. It will be PSU ball after the TV timeout. UW leads 27-17 with 3:46 left.
8:46 p.m. - Nice moment for men's track & field coach Ed Nuttycombe. The Badgers won the Big Ten title ... again. They just announced Coach Nuttycombe and sophomore Brandon Bethke and the crowd gave them a great round of applause. Well deserved. PSU turns it over. Joe down low from J-Bo. PSU with an airball. Joe fouled down low and he'll shoot one-and-one. Joe misses the first. J-Bo with a steal then hits a trey. Timeout PSU. UW leads 32-17 with 59.2 left.
8:52 p.m. - Walker misses a three and Joe is fouled on the rebound. Joe makes both. PSU to hold for the last shot. They get one up, not a very good one, and there is a tie up on the rebound. PSU gets the ball back with 2.6 left. Bo calls TO to set up the defense. Walker forced to throw up a long three, off the front of the rim. UW leads 34-17 at halftime.
9:11 p.m. - We got some photos from the pre-game ceremony posted, courtesy of Mitchell Pinta. All seven Badgers that played scored at least three points in the first half. UW limited PSU to 25.9 percent shooting in the first half. Marcus opens the half with a bucket. PSU misses a three and Brian rebounds. Joe misses but PSU travels. Marcus with another jumper, he has 11 points.
9:14 p.m. - PSU misses another three and Mike hits Brian running the floor for a dunk and a 23-point lead. PSU with a miss down low. Mike misses a three and Jones is fouled down low. He will shoot PSU's first free throws. He makes one. Trevon drives in for the lay-up. Brooks scores down low. Greg is fouled making a strong move and will shoot some free throws after the TV timeout. UW leads 42-20 with 15:53 left.
9:22 p.m. - Greg makes both. Then rebounds PSU's miss. Marcus with another bucket down low. And then another on a nifty spin move. Pringle with a LONG three. Then he gets a steal and gets fouled. PSU with a couple misses and Joe converts a turnaround down low. Jones scores down low for PSU. Brian with an easy move down low, converts and is fouled. He makes his FT and UW is up 28.
9:23 p.m. - Hughes with a steal. He pushes ahead to a wide-open J-Bo. He misses the three but Greg flies in and dunks the rebound. The crowd explodes and PSU calls TO. UW leads 55-25 with 12:04 left.
9:27 p.m. - Greg has 10 points and five rebounds. Brian also has 10 points and Marcus has 15. They just showed Greg's dunk about four times on the scoreboard. PSU misses. Greg just found Joe back door for what I believe was Joe's first collegiate dunk. Greg gets UP to block a PSU shot but goaltending is called. TV timeout with UW leading 57-27 with 11:01 left.
9:31 p.m. - Badgers have made 10-of-14 shots in the second half. The three seniors that have played (Flowers, Butch and Stiemsma) have combined for 23 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists. Tim Jarmusz with his first appearance of the night. First "Tanner Bronson" chant of the night from the students. PSU with a couple misses from distance. Butch scores down low from Joe. Tim's got the all-white shoes too. Jon Leuer comes in for Butch.
9:34 p.m. - Battle knocks down a three. Mike misses one on our end. PSU turnover results in Mike going in for a lay-up after faking a pass. PSU hits a three but J-Bo answers with his own three that bounces off the front of the rim, up high and then through. Mike grabs a rebound but gets poked in the eye. TV timeout with UW leading 64-33.
9:42 p.m. - Tim Jarmusz hits his first career three. Tanner reports to the scorers table to some applause. Some sloppy play back and forth. UW settles it down and J-Bo hits a trey. Bo calls TO to get Tanner, Brian and Greg in. We now have the four seniors and Jon Leuer in there. "Thank you seniors" from the students. Mike responds with a steal. Crowd wants Tanner to shoot. He does and just misses a three. He gets another chance with a little pull-up but it's no good. Jon rebounds and is fouled. UW ball after the TV TO. UW leads 70-35.
9:43 p.m. - Now would be a good time to let everyone know there is a Big Ten Trophy in the house! After the game we will have a trophy ceremony, that will be live-streamed right here. The senior video will follow the trophy presentation.
9:46 p.m. - Jon misses both. Battle scores on a jumper. Bo calls TO and Keaton, Mo Cain and Kevin Gullikson replace Brian, Greg and Mike. Tanner stays to see if we can get him some points. He DRILLS a three and the place explodes. Goosebumps! Brett Valentyn comes in for Tanner.
9:49 p.m. - J.P. misses down low. Morrissey drives in and is blocked by J.P. but a foul is called. Brett misses a three but J.P. dunks the rebound. Wquinton Smith in the game. Gullikson with the board and the bucket and he's fouled. Badgers win and are Big Ten CHAMPS!!! Final score, UW 77-41. Fans rushing the floor. Pandemonium!!
10:10 a.m. (Thursday) - What a night! Like Coach Ryan said, winning never gets old. It’s amazing to me that we have had three nights in the past seven years where everything has seemed to come together perfectly. Each one has been unique.
In 2002, we woke up on the morning of the Michigan game with a chance to win our first Big Ten title in 55 years and everything was so new. Devin and Kirk played great and we blew out the Wolverines. The next year, it was a showdown between the top two teams in the league, us and Illinois, with the winner getting the title. The game was a nail-biter and Devin won with his free throw late. As exciting and tense a game as I’ve ever witnessed.
Last night had some similarities to the first two. Purdue lost on Tuesday, giving us a chance to clinch at home. Even though the wait wasn’t 55 years, the current team members had never won a title. Plus it was Senior Night. Knowing those things, I went into the game uncertain about how all the emotions would play out and how that would affect the game. When I heard that Jamelle Cornley was out I flashed back to our Texas game for a second where we were without one of our best players yet came up with a great effort. Long story short (I know, too late), I was a little anxious before tip.
What played out right before my eyes was one of the most complete performances of the season, and under the circumstances, maybe that I’ve seen in my seven years. A couple team stats: we shot 52.7 percent from the field while limiting PSU to 29.6 percent. We outrebounded them 39-25. All 16 Badgers played and 11 of them scored. We had 17 assists against six turnovers. Granted that is six times as many TOs as we had against Michigan State but I think the coaches can live with that number.
Individually, the seniors shined in their final game at the Kohl Center. As usual, Michael Flowers set the tone. His incredible stat line read 2-7 (FGs), 1-4 (threes), 0-0 (FTs) then it really starts to get good with 1-7-8 (rebounds), 1 (PFs), 5 (pts.), 9 (assists), 0 TOs. Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma dominated the paint, combining for 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds. And then no one who was in attendance will forget Tanner Bronson’s bomb from about 27 feet that made the crowd explode late in the game.
There were so many great moments even before the terrific post-game activities. I watched the game again when I got home (yes, I am THAT guy but also my wife missed most of the first half) and it was just as good the second time around. Joe Krabbenhoft getting his first career dunk (btw, I’m pretty sure that bench shot in the photo gallery is a reaction to the dunk). Tim Jarmusz hitting his first career three. Greg and J.P. slamming home rebounds emphatically to get the crowd going. The level of play from the Badgers was outstanding all night.
Post-game was equally as exciting. It’s always fun to see how the guys react. This team has really taken on Coach Ryan’s personality, which is pretty much all business. You can see it in the way they play, just doing anything that needs to be done to get the job done. It also shows in practice, which is normally very controlled and workmanlike. However, when they got the chance to celebrate last night, they went all out. Dancing in the middle of the floor surrounded by their fellow students. Tanner and Greg getting a ride as they were lifted on some shoulders (I can understand getting Tanner up but Greg is a load).
When they finally made their way to the stage, a couple cheerleaders brought the trophy out. The Voice of the Badgers, Matt Lepay, emceed the ceremony. He first introduced Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez, who congratulated Coach Ryan and the team. The Big Ten Deputy Commissioner Brad Traviola made the official trophy presentation. Coach Ryan said a few words and then Matt had some questions for Tanner and Brian.
After that, the senior video presentation was shown. Another great job by Steve Ackerman, Matt Ryan and all the people who worked on the video. You can watch the whole thing here. After that wrapped up, the team moved on to the net-cutting portion of the evening. One-by-one they climbed the newly painted red ladder emblazoned with “Big Ten Champs 2008” on the side. When Coach Ryan cut the last piece off, the team headed to the locker room where coach reminded everyone there was still some work to be done. Coach, Brian, Greg and Marcus then made their way to the post-game news conference where Brian uttered the line of the night, “You never want to share anything. That’s never fun.” And if anyone was wondering the team’s mindset heading into Saturday’s game, I think that answered it.