Monday, February 6, 2017

Indiana Hoosiers 60 at Wisconsin Badgers 65 (NCAA Basketball, Big Ten) - February 5, 2017

The last game on my Wisconsin Winter Weekend was a Big Ten contest with Indiana visiting Wisconsin. The Badgers play at the Kohl Center in Madison, the state capital that is about 80 miles west of Milwaukee. As it was Super Bowl Sunday, the game was a noon start, allowing fans time to set up their parties afterward (assuming they had gotten over the Packers loss). I arrived in Madison just after 11 and found a parking spot a few minutes away from the arena. The State Capitol was just up the street from where I left the car.

The Kohl Center is named for Herb Kohl, former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. As I neared the surprisingly large venue (capacity is over 17,000), I was impressed with the number of fans arriving, almost all of them clad in Badger red.

But I also noticed a distinct lack of scalpers and others with extras. One lady asked me if I was selling and when I said I was looking to buy, she replied, “Everybody out here is looking." That worried me. I went to the box office to confirm the game was sold out and when I was told that it was, I wandered back looking for anybody with an extra ticket. I found a scalper who had a single in the upper deck for $100, a ridiculous markup that was too high for me, particularly as I was low on cash. I then checked StubHub and saw a few tickets left, with the cheapest at $75. I was told that the box office could print the ticket if I bought it, so I was standing in line waiting to confirm that when I realized that I could probably get in using the StubHub app on my phone. So I decided to buy one of the $75 tickets, but just as I did that, the seller lowered the price to $6. I immediately bought the ticket ($10.90 including fees), quite happy at the sudden turn of good luck. I was able to get in with my phone after all, and bought a very tasty Ham and Swiss sandwich to celebrate. The view from my seat in section 310 is below.

Upon entering, I had noticed that there were several display cases housing memorabilia. As I had wasted quite a bit of time in my ticket search, however, the concourse was too full to do a proper tour.

Rather than fight the crowds, I decided to go to my seat first and explore after the game, when most fans had left (above). Fortunately, the ushers don’t kick people out and I spent a bit of time enjoying the history on display without being pressured to leave. Below is a list of basketball accomplishments over the years, accompanied by photos.

The most impressive display is a series of cases, one for each decade, that have some interesting mementos.

The one I found most intriguing is a set of basketballs celebrating the Badgers only NCAA championship in 1941, when they won three games in the tournament.

Frank Kaminsky won a slew of awards in 2015 and they are also stored here.

Wisconsin’s men's hockey team also plays at Kohl and they are well-represented, with a photo montage and display case. Another case is dedicated to the women’s team, who plays next door at LaBahn Arena. I always enjoy when a venue pays tribute to the teams that play there and Kohl Center is one of the best around.

Inside the seating bowl, there are 3 levels. Below is a photo from section 204, taken after the game.

All seats are red which adds a bit more to an excellent atmosphere, which is really driven by the fans. The number of students in attendance is huge, they take up three levels behind one of the net and are known as the Grateful Red. Even then, there were a few rows of empty seats in the uppermost level of the student section, suggesting that student tickets are considered sold whether they are used or not.

The program is really a flip card that costs $2 and contains enough information to make it a worthwhile purchase. During the game, the overhead scoreboard shows basic player stats above and live action and replays on the videoboard below, while more detailed stats are on older style ribbon boards at each end of the arena. The mascot is Bucky the Badger, who joins the cheerleaders on the floor during breaks in the action.

Overall, the Kohl Center is a great place to watch college hoops. Wisconsin is known for food, and there are plenty of good options here that only add to the experience. On the court, the Badgers have been very successful as of late, and fans are loud throughout, hoping to lead their team on another deep tournament run. If you happen to be driving through Wisconsin and any of the Badger teams is in town, drop by the Kohl Center to see the venue, which is just as interesting as the game.

The Game

The Hoosiers were in town to take on 10th-ranked Wisconsin, and it was immediately obvious that defense was the name of the game as both teams had trouble getting open looks. The first basket was scored by Wisconsin's Ethan Happ over 2 minutes in, and Indiana never saw the lead after that. When Happ completed a dunk with 8:18 to go in the first half, it was 22-10 Badgers and it looked like a blowout. But a 14-2 run for the visitors knotted the contest at 24, and only a three-pointer from Bronson Koenig gave Wisconsin the halftime advantage.

The second half saw even more tough defense, with teams holding the ball deep into the shot clock. Midway through, it was only 37-33 Wisconsin (i..e 10-9 over 10 minutes of play, not exactly sparkling basketball). Indiana could never get closer than 4 and started fouling in the last minute, leading to a very long endgame that saw Wisconsin nail 7 of 8 from the charity stripe. Only a couple of three pointers from Indiana's Josh Newkirk made it close as the Badgers won 65-60.

The teams combined for only 97 shot attempts and 28 turnovers, a clear sign that this was a defensive battle, and quite the contrast compared to the offensive game I had seen at UW-Milwaukee the day before. The only similarity was the 5-point difference.


The three seats next to me, which were part of the same group of tickets on StubHub, remained empty. If I had been smart, I would have bought all four and sold the other three, but I was too rushed to be thinking about making a few bucks. But what is more interesting is that out of all those people looking for tickets, nobody else thought to check StubHub as the game drew nearer.

Next Up

I'm heading to Boston this weekend for a couple of games at historic Matthews Arena, home of BU's hockey and hoops teams. The Canucks are visiting the Bruins as well, so it will be a sports-heavy trip as usual. Check back for recaps next week.



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