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December 12, 2010MILWAUKEE -- Growing up in Port Washington, just 35 minutes north of Milwaukee, UW freshman Josh Gasser was a Marquette fan. As a Madison native, Marquette freshman Vander Blue was more familiar with Wisconsin basketball.
By a twist of fate, and Blue's own decision making, the two squared off Saturday at the Bradley Center. Both in the starting lineup, Blue wore No. 2 in the blue and gold uniform for which Gasser once cheered, while Gasser donned his red No. 21 jersey for the Badgers.
As the final buzzer sounded and Wisconsin headed home with the 69-64 victory, it was clear Gasser was the perfect fit for the Badgers, while Blue may have been wishing he'd brought some big men along with him down I-94.
"Josh is happy to be a Badger. Couldn't wait to be one. Didn't have a scholarship for awhile, gets a scholarship," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "Hasn't said a word -- just goes through every drill, and when the drill's over, 'Josh did this.'
"Then I look at practice tapes and look at efficiency and things about positioning, he's not going to wow you with a 360. But he can do a lot of things to put you on the left-hand side."
The two starters nearly mirrored each other on the stat sheet.
Gasser played 30 minutes, scored four points on 2-of-6 shooting, grabbed two rebounds, dished two assists and grabbed one steal. Blue added seven points for Marquette in 29 minutes, while pulling down three rebounds and collecting one assist and one steal.
While Blue's stats are slightly more impressive in the box score, the key difference comes on each player's highlight of the game.
Blue's first half steal led to an impressive two-handed breakaway dunk on the other end, which cut Wisconsin's lead to 28-25. Gasser shined in the game's final moments, however, as he split Dwight Buycks and Darius Johnson-Odom, knocking an attempted dribble hand-off out of bounds off Buycks with 2.6 seconds left.
"I didn't even look at the official because they were trying to foul -- they were up three," MU head coach Buzz Williams said. "Then when I did look at him he said, 'Turnover.' We were looking for a handoff and fade screen, which is what we had done the previous possession."
On the previous possession, the Badgers were burned by that play, as Jimmy Butler connected from beyond the arc to cut the lead to just three points.
This time, Gasser didn't even let Marquette get the shot off.
"I jumped it, got a hand on the ball and maybe bumped him a little bit, but nothing big," Gasser said. "It hit right off his leg and was our ball. If it would've been a foul, so be it. It was a big play for us."
True to form, Gasser's head coach kept him grounded as the freshman talked to reporters outside the locker room after the game.
"Josh, you're not that good yet," Ryan quipped on his way out the door.
Ryan may have had a point -- Gasser certainly has plenty of room for improvement -- but one thing is clear: Gasser is happy to have switched to the other side of the rivalry.