Get Your Popcorn Ready

Get Your Popcorn Ready

Shutting down the likes of Eric Gordon, Manny Harris and Drew Neitzel, senior guard Michael Flowers is ready for his next challenge: Davidson sophomore guard Stephen Curry.

MADISON – Ask any one of his teammates and they will all give you virtually the same answer: nobody takes more pride in his defense than Michael Flowers.

For that reason alone, the senior guard from Madison has always played with a chip on his shoulder.

When Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel said he was ready for the Badgers, Flowers held him to a season-low three points on 1-for-10 shooting. After being snubbed for conference defensive player of the year, Flowers held Michigan's Manny Harris to 1-for-12 from the floor and didn't score in the second half in the very next game.

"Wisconsin basketball is hard, in-your-face defense," Flowers said. "We knew that if we wanted to succeed, we have to do that with defense. We're focused on that end of the court because we realize what needs to be done in order to come out with a W."

While Flowers has accomplished every test put in his path, Davidson's Stephen Curry brings forth a whole new set of challenges.

After scoring 40 points in the team's opening win over Gonzaga, Curry registered a game-high 30 points, bringing the Wildcats back from 17-points down to upset second-seeded Georgetown on Sunday, earning them a match up with Wisconsin.

"I was in awe of their talent and to be able to come back and handle what Georgetown threw at them," Flowers said. "Curry wasn't producing in the first half, not getting open looks, but he was able to get his shots going, create and his team rallied behind him. They've proved to be deserving of being here."

While Flowers will be on Curry from start to finish, don't expect the senior to be a one-trick pony.

He can score, shown by his collegiate-high 23 points in a victory at Penn State that included 5-for-6 shooting from three-point range. He can rebound, grabbing seven boards at Indiana, and he can pass, dishing out a collegiate-high nine assists with zero turnovers in helping UW clinch a share of the conference title.

"He's just doing so many things to help this team win," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "I still have yet to see the day that Mike comes to practice, the hill, weightlifting, anywhere he doesn't just go all out."

Leading by that energetic example, Flowers will need to bring his competitiveness for all 40 minutes Friday, as Curry tends to heat up down the stretch. Averaging 25.7 points per game on the season, the sophomore scored 30 of his 40 points against Gonzaga in the second half. He whistled a similar tune two days later, scoring 25 of his 30 points after intermission against the Hoyas.

"(Wisconsin) plays hard every position, all 40 minutes and we don't take plays off," Flowers said. "I am not going to do anything different because I don't play outside of myself. Hopefully, I can take lessons learn playing against the Neitzel's, Gordon's and Harris' and remember what I did to help try and contain Curry."

While Flowers has been the centerpiece of Wisconsin's defensive attack, a unit leading the nation in scoring defense (53.9 ppg), there have been plenty of other contributors. Junior Joe Krabbenhoft, named along with Flowers to the conference's all-defensive team, has shown his versatility guarding the perimeter-orientated Bill Walker (Kansas State) and the interior-laden talent of Michael Beasley in the same game.

Combine that with senior Greg Stiemsma has blocked 38 shots this season and it's no surprise that the Badgers have held Cal State Fullerton and Kansas State to only 37.8 percent shooting from the field and 55.5 points.

"All season long Coach (Ryan) has been telling us not to give (our opponents) anything easy and to make them earn it," Flowers said. "This year, our defense has been incredible and we've taken it to heart. Every time a shot is up, we have a hand in the face. We don't get beat back door, no drives to the basket and make them work. That goes back to what coach has been saying all year and it makes sense. We're not going to go out there and beat ourselves."

Whatever the case, Flowers (averaging 1.7 steals a game) has a simple wish for Curry at the conclusion of Friday's Regional Semifinal, something he hopes will carry Wisconsin into the elite eight.

"At the end of game, I want him to say he had to work for ever point he got and not give him anything easy," he said. "At the end of the game, I want him be breathless and remember what team he played against and how hard he worked."

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