Braun: Hughes’ ‘D’ making Flowers forgettable

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first_imgGoing into the 2008-09 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball season, few thought scoring would be a problem for UW’s starting guards.A pair of juniors — Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon — were each coming off breakout years.Bohannon gave the Badgers everything he could coming off the bench, and he was rightfully awarded the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year trophy in 2008. Although Hughes wasn’t formally recognized for his play at the point, he was a major scoring threat for Wisconsin, averaging 11.2 points per game last year.But what most thought the Badgers would miss so much — Michael Flowers’ defensive play — seems to have become a mere memory, with good reason.While Bohannon has continued stroking three pointers — 36.5 percent from beyond the arc — it has been Hughes’ defense that has kept the Badgers’ opponents in check.That is not to say he hasn’t been challenged; several of the teams Wisconsin has faced can boast about their stellar guard play.In UW’s game against Purdue, Hughes was assigned standout guard E’Twaun Moore. Normally averaging 14.3 points per game, Hughes held him to four points on 1-for-12 shooting.Against Penn State, Hughes took on Talor Battle, the Big Ten’s top scorer. Although the Badgers barely eked out that 65-61 win, Hughes held Battle to a mere six points on 2-for-11 shooting.Still don’t believe me?After losing to Texas, the Badgers faced Michigan, where they would be challenged with yet another strong guard in Manny Harris. Among the leaders in scoring in the Big Ten at 18.3 points per game, Hughes once again won the battle on the defensive side of the court. Harris was held to only nine points, shooting 3-for-13.So, what does this mean for Hughes, or even more importantly, for the Badgers?Well, if those recent games show us anything, it is that Badger fans aren’t missing Michael Flowers nearly as much as they thought they would.Say what you will about Hughes’ overall play, but those accusations are poorly backed at best. He has improved in nearly every aspect of his game, and his defensive effort has been the most important attribute brought to the team this season.Hughes has struggled late in games, however. Aside from a game-winning shot against Virginia Tech in the ACC Big Ten Challenge, he folded against Marquette and Texas in those two eventual losses. Instead of looking for an open shooter, he tried to carry the team on his back by forcing shots.Nevertheless, Hughes’ vast improvements outlast his few blunders. Even on the offensive end, he has become a much better ball handler and is not afraid to take control of the game.Last year, in his first season as a starter, Hughes struggled to control the ball, averaging over two turnovers a game. This season, he dropped that turnover average by nearly a full point and increased his assist total, proving he is worthy of leading the team.His field goal percentage has risen from 39.4 to 44 percent, and his 3-point shooting has similarly improved.At the moment, he might not be the player the Badgers should give the ball to in key situations, but at least the Badgers can rely on him to stop his man and get the ball in the hoop.So, say what you will about Trevon Hughes, but keep in mind that he has another season-and-a-half to improve. Remember that, as much as you might miss Michael Flowers, he was never the scorer Hughes is.Who knows? With another full year to improve under head coach Bo Ryan, maybe Hughes will surpass Flowers in all aspects of the game — yes, even defense.After guarding Texas standout guard A.J. Abrams, Hughes declared himself the team police officer on defense, showing he’s ready to be a leader on that side of the court.“I tried my best on [Abrams],” he said. “He was just in and out. It was like [he was] speeding through traffic in the 65 lane, and I’m telling you to slow down before I get my ticket.”So, for those facing off against Hughes, make sure you’re not speeding, because he’ll slow you down.Jonah is a sophomore majoring in journalism and Hebrew. How much are the Badgers missing Michael Flowers? Have different opinions about Trevon Hughes’ play? Jonah can be reached at [email protected]last_img

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