Originally written January 26, 2013 on Fox Sports Wisconsin:
MADISON, Wis. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan didn't need to be reminded that point guard Traevon Jackson hadn't exactly been dazzling anyone with his shooting this season. He also didn't need to be told that the sophomore would work overtime at honing his craft so he could succeed the next time an opportunity arose."You have to work at what you do," Ryan said. "When you are presented with the moment, there can't be any doubts. You have to be the one that says, OK, we can do this.' "As the shot clock hit four seconds and the game clock six seconds with the game tied at 43 on Saturday, Jackson didn't have any doubts he was going to get his shot off. As the ball rattled between the side and front of the rim and the backboard, he didn't have any worries that it wasn't going in. And when he was mobbed by his teammates at halfcourt following the final buzzer, Jackson had no problem saying how big Wisconsin's 45-44 victory over No. 12 Minnesota was for the Badgers' psyche."This was a must-win game," said Jackson, who scored UW's final two baskets. "You got to take care of home court when you get a chance to."It was slowest game of the Big Ten season, with only 51 total possessions, but it was the biggest for Wisconsin (14-6, 5-2 Big Ten) in terms of regaining a foothold in a tight conference race. It was even bigger for Jackson in his maturation process.Jackson was on top of the world 11 days ago as he and his teammates flew home from Bloomington, Ind. A few days after scoring a career-high 14 points against Illinois, Jackson displayed even more poise and confidence during Wisconsin's 64-59 victory over No. 2 Indiana.But in the next two games, two losses that sent Wisconsin from first place to a tie for fourth in the conference, Jackson made three of 19 shots, committed six fouls and beat himself up for not playing with the same confidence.Before Saturday, of the eight players who had started for Wisconsin this season, Jackson had the worst shooting percentage (.333) and second-worst 3-point percentage (.231). Despite ranking fifth on the team in minutes per game (23.8), Jackson had the second-most fouls on the team, including four against Michigan State that gave him a look of bewilderment each team an official blew his whistle.That wasn't the case against Minnesota, as Jackson scored six of his nine points in the final 7:02, committed only one foul and admitted he was hunting for his shot during a game in which neither team led by more than two points the final 10 minutes."I felt that I needed to step up and hit the shots," said Jackson, who finished with nine points. "I don't have any fear."Wisconsin's final two possessions were the definition of fearlessness. With a little more than a minute remaining, Jackson crossed over in front of Trevor Mbakwe and hit a pull-up at the free throw line. The crossover worked so well on Mbakwe that he did it again one possession later, using a shot fake to get Mbakwe out of position and releasing the shot with less than a second left on the shot clock and 2.1 seconds left in the game."A lack of discipline," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said of Jackson's final shot. "He shot fakes (and) we jump out of the way, a mistake. That's how you get beat when you make the mistakes we've been making. That's a recipe for getting another loss, not being disciplined defensively."It was just another late-game problem in a series of them for Minnesota (15-5, 3-4), which has lost four straight to overshadow its first 3-0 conference start since the 1974-75 season.After Mbakwe's jumper with 3:53 remaining gave the Gophers a 43-41 lead, Minnesota didn't hit another field goal in its final five possessions, which included a shot clock violation and an offensive foul by Andre Hollins (game-high 20 points) in the paint with 39 seconds left."I should've just gotten a shot up; that would've been the best," said Hollins, who didn't score in the final 6:28. "In that situation, you've just got to get the ball to the rim. It sucks to not have a shot attempt at all and they come down to score. It was a big momentum changer in the game. My decision-making on that play was very poor. Those are the little things that cost us the game."Minnesota had a chance to send the game to overtime after Mbakwe drew a foul with 1.7 seconds left but was unable to shoot after injuring his right wrist on the play. In his place, the Gophers sent Rodney Williams a career 57.9 free throw shooter to the line. Williams made the first but was too long on the second, allowing Wisconsin to secure the rebound and dribble out the clock."That's a tough situation," Ryan said in reference to Williams' free throws.It wasn't pretty on either side offensively for the entirety of the game, as the Badgers shot just 37.0 percent and the Gophers were worse at 34.8 percent. But with the game on the line, Ryan didn't stop himself from putting the ball in Jackson's hands, even though that role recently had been given to freshman point guard George Marshall."It was definitely a gut feeling," Ryan said. "I've been coaching over 40 years with that."It was a gut decision that could have a huge ripple effect for Wisconsin. Formore coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers, check out BadgerNation.com.
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