It's a strange spot, holding an opponent down, answering each small run, watching a lead bounce between nearly comfortable and just too uncomfortable. The Badgers were in that spot against Duke, holding off the Blue Devils and then saw the shoe on the other foot, never quite able to get over the hump against UW-Green Bay.
So of course it followed that same script against Marquette, right?
No. 20 Wisconsin (8-2) weathered a slew of small runs from in-state rival Marquette (7-4), almost blowing a 17-point lead in the process, pulling out a 72-63 win before 17,230 raucous fans at the Kohl Center.
""We knew we had to win this game,"" senior guard Trevon Hughes said. ""You can't lose two in a row, first of all, and second of all, you can't lose two in-state games. Basically it's bragging rights, we probably see each other around all year long, we've got bragging rights for the year.""
Marquette struggled out of the gate, trailing by double digits after the game's first five minutes. And with seven and a half minutes to go in the first half, a free throw from Badger junior forward Tim Jarmusz extended it to 17. Marquette sophomore guard Darius Johnson-Odom pulled his team back into the game with three 3-pointers in a three-minute stretch as the Eagles roared back to within five points.
Wisconsin answered with the next six, before watching the lead close to five and grow back to 12. But again the Eagles had an answer and senior forward Lazar Hayward closed the score to 52-49 with 11:34 left in the game.
It stayed tight for the next few minutes, but strong defense and a big play from freshman forward Ryan Evans helped turn the tide. Evans swooped in, putting back a Jordan Taylor miss with a twisting layup before the defense took over.
Marquette would not score for the next four minutes and head coach Bo Ryan singled Evans out for praise.
""Both defensively and on the glass, he made some good rotations,"" Ryan said. ""He made Lazar [Hayward] work a little harder and he sure works hard. Ryan answered that and we needed it.""
One last MU run brought the lead down to four, but the Badgers hit their free throws to hold on.
Junior forward Jon Leuer anchored Wisconsin with 24 points and 12 boards, and joined Hughes and sophomore guard Jordan Taylor as the team's double-digit scorers.
Taylor showed an aggressive streak offensively, often attacking the center of the Eagle defense or pulling up for a mid-range jumper.
""Coach always calls [Taylor] a bulldog, and that's what he is,"" Hughes said. ""He's always fighting for things on the defense end. He's feisty, he makes great plays and good decisions. He's good with the ball, he's strong, and just having him out there on the court, he's more precious than anybody else out there.""
That Badger defense also limited an Eagles team that likes to get in transition to three fast break points.
After the game, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams lamented his team's struggles in holding on to the ball (his squad lost the ball 13 times) and keeping the Badgers off the free-throw line.
However, Williams was displeased with the way his team came out in the first 12 minutes, taking shots a little too quickly after the advantage on fast breaks had dissipated.
""Everybody was excited to be here and we didn't handle the excitement in the right way initially, and then I thought from that point on, I thought we were fine,"" Williams said. ""Not to say that we should have won ... but you can't play from behind against a great team.""