Monday, June 30, 2008

Badgers-Gophers: A '97 classic

March 8, 1997 is a special day for me. It was the day the Badger basketball team beat Minnesota at the Fieldhouse in a dramatic game to clinch a birth in the NCAA tournament. It preceded a great pull-out section we put together for the Cardinal, and propelled a few of us to a memorable trip to Pittsburgh.

And the Notorious B.I.G. was killed that night.

The Big Ten Network brought me back to that day by replaying that game, won 66-65 by Wisconsin, on its recent Wisconsin day. Watched it last night, and here are some thoughts:

-Starting lineup for Wisconsin: Ty Calderwood, David Burkemper, Sam Okey, Sean Daughtery, Paul Grant. That's a big lineup, like ours this year before Flowers was reinserted into the lineup, probably too big and slow to win big.

-Daugherty would have been a good fit in the Swing offense. His game was similar to Butch's, but he was smoother and Butch was more assertive.

-Grant was somewhat clumsy at times, but really athletic and pretty jacked. Not too hard to see why the NBA made him a first rounder. Just checked, and he played 111 minutes in his NBA career, and interestingly had five years between stints with the Bucks and the Jazz.

-Burkemper was rocking some Hasselhoffian chest hair.

-Minnesota had a really good team, so deep and balanced. Courtney James was a stud. Sam Jacobson was an awesome athlete. Quincy Lewis was just flashing what he would become. That doesn't even mention Bobby Jackson, the best of the bunch.

-All that said, looking at Clem Haskins makes my blood boil. He and the athletic department that enabled him got what they deserved.

-Calderwood's shot wasn't pretty, but it was courageous. That kid was just a winner, flat-out. You could see his importance to our program in how the team did the next year when he was injured - the last losing season we've had.

-Did you know Mike Kosolcharoen's dad was an Olympic swimmer for Thailand? Ahh, Special K. My memory's fuzzy, but didn't we do a point-counterpoint in the Cardinal debating whether he should be starting (when he was), with Gitter taking the point that he shouldn't be? And didn't Mike call Gitter up to share his opinion?

-Man, did the Fieldhouse get loud. Always thought the move to the shiny new Kohl Center would mean a diminished home court advantage. Good call.

-The Badgers played great defense in that game, but it looked different than the great defense we play now. It was much more frenetic and scrambling than our current scheme, and probably more than Bennett's usually was. Minnesota was the first and only opponent to score 60 points in the Fieldhouse that year, that's impressive.

-I really like that on the Badgers' last offensive possession, which ended with Calderwood getting fouled, Bennett didn't call timeout. Trust your kids, let them play.

-Okey, Okey, Okey ... what could have been. I wonder how he would have fit in under Bo, or Stu Jackson for that matter.
There were times when I'd go "Huh" or "nice shot" and Jana would say "I thought you were at this game." True, but I didn't remember every last bounce of the ball. I remembered the winning free throws and steal, but that's about it. That's what's great about this series on the BTN, and why I can't wait to watch the other games.


Anonymous said...

One of the guys I hung out with at La Crosee was good friends with Koso and he brought Okey up to La Crosse one weekend to hang out with us. Okey wore a full length black leather trench coat and backwards Kango to Brother's which confirmed to me he was a total D-bag.

Millie said...

This, along with the Badger/Penn State football game Dayne's freshman year were the absolute highlights of my Cardinal career. Two fantastic games to cover and be a part of.

Slightly aside, but I still don't understand how Barry let Joe Jurevicious get deep on Penn State's last series in that game.

Frank said...

Won't pin that Penn State game on Barry -- I can still see Cyrill Weems getting blown by on that stop and go by Joe J like he hadn't seen that move before. It's funny -- that Penn State game and this '97 Minnesota game were probably two of the best three games I covered for the Herald, along with that crazy UW-Minnesota hockey game on senior night in 96 when the seniors scored 7 straight goals to come back from 3-0 down to beat the No. 2 team in the country. IIRC Tappa was at that game too.

Anyway, this Minnesota basketball game was the first real huge win for the program, and they've only missed the tournament once since. Crazy. I also noticed the defense in that game -- different, and hard to believe but it was far better than I remembered. That team wasn't flashy (obviously) but holy crap did they get after it on D. Great, great game.

Scott Tappa said...

It was a pleasure being at those games with you guys. At the hoops game, we were so excited afterward it was downright unjournalistic. But what the hell, right? Nobody in the Fieldhouse could tell we were "media."

frank said...

Yeah, wasn't all that professional that day. I just remember being damn happy that in my college time I'd get to go to a big-time event. Had no clue there were a couple Rose Bowls coming.

And, that tourney performance wasn't what I'd call memorable.

eda said...


Anonymous said...

I was not a student of UW at this time, but this game has a special memory for me as I was sitting at the scorer's table right next to Dick Bennet, due to knowing one of the stats guys for the team...this game was one of the most exiting sports moments I've ever witnessed in person, if not the most