Dukan contributing off the bench for UW
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin opponents must again account for Duje Dukan.
That probably wasn't the case from late January through UW's first game this month.
During an 11-game stretch beginning Jan. 20 against Iowa and ending March 1 against Michigan State, the fifth-year senior forward attempted 15 3-pointers.
He made one, Feb. 10 against Nebraska.
“Just missing shots,” Dukan said when asked about that stretch. “There's really no explanation for it.”
In the days leading to UW's game Feb. 21 at Minnesota, Dukan spent extra time after practice working on 3-pointers.
He hit 1 of 2 attempts in a 73-63 victory over the Gophers and enters the NCAA Tournament on a hot streak.
Beginning with the Minnesota game, Dukan has hit 8 of his last 18 3-pointers (44.4 percent), over a span of five games. He hit 6 of 12 in UW's three victories in the Big Ten tournament.
“I think I've found it now and hopefully it's here to stay,” he said.
Dukan struggled at times on defense in the tournament but UW needs his scoring and energy off the bench.
His offensive resurgence began in the regular-season finale at Ohio State when he scored seven points in the first half to help UW to a 14-point halftime lead en route to a 72-48 victory.
Dukan provided timely scoring in the Big Ten quarterfinals against Michigan and the title game against Michigan State.
He contributed eight points and two rebounds in 16 minutes against Michigan, with all the scoring coming in the second half, when UW pulled away for a 71-61 victory.
Dukan hit a key 3-pointer to end an 8-0 Michigan run and lift UW into a 44-44 tie, added another 3-pointer for a 49-46 lead and scored on a drive and dunk for a 54-51 lead.
“Coach always preaches for the guys coming off the bench to bring energy and contribute in any way possible,” Dukan said, referring to coach Bo Ryan. “You know, the opportunity presented itself where I got a wide-open three to start it off, hit that, and kind of carried my confidence throughout, and then just played my game and tried to help us as much as I could to get the win.”
Dukan contributed 11 points, two assists, one rebound and one steal in 15 minutes against Michigan State. Dukan scored eight of his points in the first half to help UW build a 20-17 lead.
“People have been saying I've been in a slump,” he said. “To see one go down obviously is a big confidence-booster.”
When Dukan is shooting well from the perimeter, his presence gives UW's post players an outlet if they are double-teamed.
That was evident several times during the Big Ten tournament when defenders collapsed on Frank Kaminsky and he found Dukan open beyond the 3-point line.
The difference for Dukan, beginning with the regular-season finale at Ohio State, is that the shots have started falling again.
That was his hope when he spent extra time on his jumper.
“When you get to the gym you get more shots up and you feel more comfortable,” he said. “So when you get on the court it feels like a routine shot.”
The UW coaches never fretted over Dukan's shooting. They focused on other areas of his game—defense, rebounding and ball-handling.
“We never talk about him missing shots,” assistant Lamont Paris said. “But you miss a box-out or you try to dribble in a crowd and it gets stolen, those are things we'll say something about.
“Ultimately your shooting numbers will come back.”
Dukan's have, and ESPN analyst Dan Dakich liked what he saw in Chicago.
“I'm going to get through the entire year without saying X-factor,” Dakich said during the UW-Michigan game. “He's the guy who can change a game for Wisconsin—Duje Dukan.”