Every game, Trevon Hughes wears the number three across the chest of his jersey. After nights like Wednesday against Michigan he might need to trade that three for a Superman ""S.""
Hughes came up big in the second half, leading the Badgers (5-2 Big Ten, 15-4 overall) to a 54-48 comeback win over the Wolverines (3-3, 10-8) before a raucous crowd at the Kohl Center. The Badgers could not have gotten off to a worse start, but their lead guard, with an assist from Rob Wilson, led the way for the comeback.
""I had to get a spark and get something going, that's all it was,"" Hughes said. ""I know my teammates feed off of that. I'm not much of a vocal leader, but I do show my aggression out on the court, and I believe my teammates feed off it.""
With the game knotted at 43, Hughes took the reins of the offense. First he dropped a long 2-pointer after Wilson rebounded his missed layup and fed him in the corner to give the Badgers their first lead of the game.
After a missed 3-pointer from Michigan senior forward DeShawn Sims, Hughes found himself far beyond the arc with the shot clock winding down. He waved off his teammates to take sophomore guard Zack Novak one-on-one, attacked, appeared to be stopped and suddenly burst down the lane, leaning in to kiss a layup off the glass. Hughes finished with 16 second-half points.
The surprise of the night, however, was Wilson, who dropped 11 of his 13 points after the break, mostly scoring around the basket and splashing a key long-range shot to keep his team close.
""We see glimpses of it in practice, we know he's a great player,"" Hughes said. ""Any time he comes over to the main squad, he doesn't bring it. It took him all season to come out and play with us today. We needed it.""
""Today's the day I broke out of the shell I guess,"" Wilson added.
Wilson had never scored more than nine points in a game but drew a crucial foul and hit both free throws in the final minute to put his team up six.
For much of the night, however, it looked like Wisconsin would have a tough time ever getting a lead. The Badgers suffered through quite probably their worst start of the season as the offense struggled mightily to convert its open looks. Six minutes in, Wisconsin scored its first basket, taking three more minutes before tallying another point and finally reaching seven points just before the 12th minute had passed.
""If you're not hitting shots, it's called a slow start,"" Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said after his team hit just 34 percent of its shots. ""It wasn't like we weren't making them guard ... but in every game there are those spells, we've talked about this a million times. It could have been with five minutes to go in the half that the other team goes on a 10-0 run or a 8-0 run or a 10-2 run. In this case it happened early.""
But the Badgers closed the gap and, after the 5:30 mark, finished the half with an 8-0 run to cut an 11-point deficit down to three.
For Michigan's top two players, the game yielded a pair of decidedly contrasting nights.
The Badgers had no answer for Sims most of the game as he wreaked havoc down low, spinning past junior forward Keaton Nankivil and freshman forward Ryan Evans on multiple occasions and drawing contact seemingly at will. He finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds while often venturing to the high post to facilitate John Beilein's offense.
For Michigan junior swingman Manny Harris, the evening was far more challenging, as junior forward Tim Jarmusz made him work hard for the open looks he got.
""He does that, he understands what it takes to be successful defensively, positioning, angles,"" Ryan said. ""He does a great job of that, and he did a great job tonight, because we all know how good Manny is.""
Harris came in as the top scorer in the Big Ten, averaging nearly 20 points per game, but left Madison with only 11 on 29-percent shooting.
After the game, Beilein was not shy in complimenting the opponent that prevented his squad from matching a season-high three-game winning streak.
""They have a great team, and they have a system where they don't beat themselves, and that is why they win whether they're at home or away,"" Beilein said.
""They don't beat themselves and they didn't beat themselves today. They just do the right things.""