MADISON - The numbers don’t seem to add up, but the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team was able to grind out a 68-61 win over Long Beach State in the season opener Sunday.
Despite shooting just 36 percent in the second half and committing more turnovers than the 49ers, the Badgers pulled a close win in a game that came down to the wire.
Marcus Landry scored a game-high 23 points, and it was his defense and clutch shooting down the stretch that made the difference.
Only up 62-61 with 1:33 remaining, Landry hit a big 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game. Trevon Hughes found him on a kick-out pass after working through the offense.
“Our guys hear it 10 times a practice: the highest percentage 3s are when you touch the paint and kick it to a shooter,” UW coach Bo Ryan said. “And that was a great example of that.
“He had great vision.”
And on the 49ers’ ensuing possession, Landry sealed the deal by swatting Maurice Clady’s lay-up attempt out of bounds.
“We didn’t have an answer for Landry,” said Long Beach State coach Dan Monson, the former Minnesota head coach. “He was just so strong inside that he was able to post us up and really do damage.”
Even though the game was close throughout, the Badgers opened the second half on a roll and extended a three-point halftime lead to as many as nine points. The 49ers, however, would quickly rally back.
Long Beach State’s leading scorer from last season – Donovan Morris – was held in check by Joe Krabbenhoft for most of the game. But come midway through the second half, he went on a tear and scored on five straight possessions to help tie the score at 57 with 4:54 remaining.
Morris finished with a team-high 12 points.
“When he gets going, and he gets on a flow, he’s as hard to guard as anyone in the country,” said Monson of Morris.
But in the end, the difference was Landry’s play on both sides of the ball – especially his block down the stretch.
“It’s a different story out there without Marcus playing the way he did today,” Krabbenhoft said. “He was huge. … That block was huge. That could have changed things a lot, if they throw the ball in there and they were in kind of a hurry, so you never know.”
The win is one Ryan thinks will help pay dividends toward the end of the season, but also immediately as the Badgers prepare to play four games in the next week with SIU-Edwardsville on Tuesday and then the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands next weekend.
“That’s a good win for our guys, for this young group,” Ryan said. “Some quality minutes in a tough, tough, grinding game like that. That’s going to help us.”