YANA PASKOVA/Herald photoThe 2005-06 Wisconsin basketball team has been quite the enigma this season. Night in and night out fans wonder which team will show up to play. Will it be the team that began the Big Ten season with a four game win streak, or will it be the team that proceeded to lose five of its next six games including a loss to unranked North Dakota State?Only time will tell, but with just two remaining games on the Big Ten schedule, it’s gut-check time for Bucky and the Badgers.Before they head to Iowa City for the season finale against the Hawkeyes, UW will take on rival Michigan State Thursday night.This will mark the second meeting of the season as the two teams hooked up in the Kohl Center in early January. On that day, the Badgers protected their home court and blew the Spartans right out of the gym by shooting 51 percent from the field, including75 percent in the second half.While such a shooting performance is not expected to be duplicated, UW guard Michael Flowers believes a similar effort will go a long way.”Most importantly, we got an early lead and just ran with it, and we need to do that on Thursday to give ourselves a good shot at getting the victory,” Flowers said. “We hit a lot of shots, and that’s made things easy, but we were moving the ball well and getting open looks, and those are the kinds of things we need to do again.”Currently, UW is third in the Big Ten with a conference record of 9-5, while Michigan State holds a 7-7 record, despite big wins against Ohio State and Iowa. Similar to the rest of the Big Ten, both Michigan State and Wisconsin have struggled to get victories on the road.”We haven’t done a good job of playing on the road, but I know we can go on the road and get some victories if we just play Wisconsin basketball,” UW guard Kammron Taylor said. “We need to stay focused for the whole 40 minutes, and that has been one our downfalls on the road. We stay focused on our game and block out the crowd.”The Badgers should have their hands full on the defensive end Thursday, as Michigan State brings strength and athleticism to the forefront.The Spartan offense is keyed by the high-flying guard play of Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager, who both average over 18 points per contest while dishing out just over four assists per game.”Those guys are fast and strong,” Flowers said. “It’s not easy to keep players like that in check, but if we stay committed on defense and contest their shots, we should be able to contain them.”The biggest matchup problem for the Badgers will be defending Paul Davis. The preseason All-American is in the top five in the Big Ten in points and rebounds and should present problems for the Badger forwards, who have struggled to defend the post this year.If the Badgers are to steal one on the road, they will have to receive contributions from some of the younger players who have made their presence felt on a depleted UW squad.Together, Alando Tucker and Taylor combine for 34 points, but in order to be successful in Michigan State, a third scorer will likely have to emerge. The Badgers received a needed spark Sunday against Minnesota, as Kevin Gullikson and Joe Krabbenhoft combined for 22 points in the game.”It’s real nice to see the young guys step up at a time like this, with the season winding down and the postseason coming up,” Taylor said. “We need them at this point because it relieves some pressure from the older guys like myself.”And it is no secret that UW head coach Bo Ryan isn’t afraid to use his youngsters.”I’m not afraid to have anybody out there,” Ryan said. “It’s no hocus pocus because if you do the right things, then you’ll play. Guys like Kevin [Gullikson] and Joe [Krabbenhoft] do things that make me think they’re right players for the time.”Regardless of the outcome, the Badgers will truly show what they are made of in these last two road games. Despite the rivalry and the troubles the Badgers have demonstrated on the road, Ryan believes Thursday night’s contest is just another game.”We’ve just got to play like we play at home and stay in sync,” Ryan said. “It seems that there are a lot more grinders on the road, but we’re just going to play ball because you can’t read too much into it. We can’t say do this or do that because of their crowd. We’re just going to play our game and not going to change anything.”
“Lou is an extremely valuable member of our team,” Frank said in a statement. “Both on the floor and in the locker room, Lou exhibits many of the characteristics that we value. He is professional, committed and very competitive. We are excited he will continue his impressive career as a Clipper.”After days and weeks of uncertainty, with his name connected with various trade scenarios, Williams felt a sense of relief Wednesday. He learned he will be with the Clippers for an additional three seasons, although the extension does feature a team option on the third year.“I feel like I’m a quality basketball player and usually quality basketball players don’t get moved so much,” Williams said, referring to trades that took him from the Lakers to the Rockets to the Clippers in four months and the fact his current contract was up at season’s end.“But I understand I had a relatively cheap deal considering the numbers that I had (statistically) and it was an expiring contract and that’s enticing to teams trying to make the playoff runs that need bench scoring,” he added. “I understand the business part of it.“Personally, my kids didn’t know who to root for anymore. They were confused. They walked around with Rockets shorts and Lakers jerseys. They just didn’t know what was going on. It’s nice to have that consistency, knowing you’re going to be somewhere for an extended period of time.”Williams has played with the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Lakers, Rockets and Clippers during his 13-season career in the NBA. He has averaged 13.5 points, 35 percent shooting on 3-pointers and 3.5 assists in 833 games. PLAYA VISTA — The Clippers signed Lou Williams to a three-year, $24 million contract extension Wednesday that could keep the backup shooting guard in their uniform through the 2020-21 season, ending any lingering speculation that he would be moved before the NBA trade deadline Thursday.“It was nice for this organization to commit to me the same way I’ve committed to these guys this year,” Williams said. “In years past, these scenarios don’t usually go my way, so it was nice for one to go my way and to be somewhere I wanted to be.”Williams has averaged career-high totals of 23.3 points, 38 percent shooting from 3-point range and 5.3 assists in 51 games this season, his first with the Clippers after they acquired him June 28 in the multi-player trade that sent Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets.The 31-year-old Williams has scored 40 points or more four times in 2017-18, including a career-best 50 in the Clippers’ Jan. 10 victory over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. His average of 22 points per game while playing a reserve role leads the league. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error He said the extension came together quickly, although he couldn’t say how quickly.“To keep my frustration level down, I’ve always allowed my agent (Wallace Prather) to speak for me and deal with everything,” he said. “We have a preliminary conversation as far as where we are as far as terms and numbers, and once we agree to that I put it in his hands.“Kudos to him and ‘L’ for getting it done.”Williams referred to Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, by his nickname. The Clippers’ agreement with Williams was Frank’s second significant move in a little more than a week. He traded Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in a multi-player deal Jan. 29.The Clippers and Pistons square off Friday in Detroit for the first time since the trade.