Less than 24 hours after crumpling to a heap on the Conseco Fieldhouse court in agony after twisting his ankle, Hughes gutted out to help Wisconsin win its second Big Ten tournament title, a 61-48 triumph over 10-seed Illinois Sunday afternoon.
Feeling strong enough to play after early warm-ups, Hughes started his 31st game of the season, scoring eight points in 27 minutes.
"He's the leader on this team and he's just a sophomore, which is the scary part," senior Michael Flowers said. "He is someone to be reckoned with and his heart is huge and tremendous. He's a team player and you saw that out there today with him probably not even playing at 50 percent. He played his heart out."
For Hughes, playing for another conference title was not going to stop a sore ankle in the least.
"I knew I was going to be able to play yesterday," he said. "There was no way I wasn't going to help my team."
Wisconsin found itself up seven at halftime in the oddest of fashions. The Badgers scored 15 of their 19 first-half points from the perimeter, receiving five three-pointers from four different players, and did not attempt a free throw.
That trend continued in the second half, as Wisconsin, only 8-for-28 from the perimeter in its first two games, went 9-for-18 from deep and only 2-for-2 from the free throw line.
"When you are not getting to the line, you better be shooting a high percentage," Ryan said with a laugh. "We're an opportunistic team. We'll take whatever the defense gives us."
With the Badgers being consistent from long range, plenty of opportunities open up for Wisconsin in the post. Countless times when either Flowers or Bohannon squared up, an Illinois post player rushed out, opening up Brian Butch (12 points) or Joe Krabbenhoft (eight second-half points) for easy buckets in the paint.
"Our guards did a great job taking advantage of that and they've been doing that all year," Butch said. "Illinois did a bunch of different things so it's now we usually get it done, but we got it done."
Landry and Flowers earn tournament honors
In addition to their tournament championship, two of UW's players made their way onto the all-tournament team, as junior Marcus Landry (MVP) and Flowers earned the honors on the five-man team.
"That was icing on the cake," Flowers said. "I wanted to come in here, make sure we won every game, take it game by game and try to play well to put my team in a good position to win."
Also on the team was MSU's Drew Neitzel and Illinois teammates Demetri McCamey and Shaun Pruitt.