Keaton Nankivil and the Wisconsin Badgers allowed Shawn Vanzant (right) and the Butler Bulldogs to build a 20-point deficit that ultimately proved too dificult to overcome, despite a late comeback.[/media-credit]Try as they might, it was just too little, too late for Wisconsin.After 35 minutes of basketball that can only be described as ugly, the Badgers (25-9, 13-5 Big Ten) used the final five minutes of Thursday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with the Butler Bulldogs (26-9, 13-5 Horizon) to, at the very least, make the game interesting.After trailing by as many as 20 points, the Badgers slowly built a comeback run until they were down just seven with around two minutes remaining. Yet, the Bulldogs maintained their composure, sunk most of their free throws down the stretch and sealed the victory. They will face the Florida Gators Sunday in the Elite Eight while Wisconsin faces a long trip back from New Orleans.Below are the turning point, most valuable player, unsung hero and statistic of Wisconsin’s final 2010-11 season.Turning Point: 19:48, Second HalfIt wasn’t the most remarkable play of the game, nor it was the most significant by itself. Yet, Butler’s Shelvin Mack’s layup at the 19:48 mark in the second half was the first basket scored out of halftime. The Bulldogs held a 33-24 lead at the break, and Mack’s layup began a 9-0 Butler run that extended the lead to 42-24. UW’s Mike Bruesewitz finally put Wisconsin on the board in the second half with a jumper at the 14:03 mark.Yes, it took the Badgers nearly six minutes to score out of halftime.The stunning drought seemingly sucked all life out of Wisconsin, as Butler’s lead quickly ballooned to 20 points after Andrew Smith made a layup at the 11:34 mark. Trailing 47-27, the Badgers spent the remainder of the game attempting to crawl back. They ultimately came within four points of tying the game, but their ice-cold shooting for most of the game – they finished 17-for-56 (.304) from the field and 7-for-29 (.241) from 3-point range – made the deficit insurmountable.Point guard Jordan Taylor took 19 shots and made just six (.315). Leading scorer Jon Leuer (more below) was just 1-for-12 and finished with three points. In their final games as Badgers, seniors Tim Jarmusz (3-for-4, seven points) and Keaton Nankivil (3-for-7, nine points) had the best shooting nights for UW.Most Valuable Player: F Matt Howard, ButlerTaylor led all players in scoring with 22 points, but Butler’s Matt Howard was the most valuable player on the New Orleans Arena court Thursday night. Howard finished with a team-high 20 points on 4-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range and 9-for-10 from the free throw line. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound senior also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, contributing significantly to Butler’s rebounding 35-28 advantage over Wisconsin.Howard’s rebounds also highlight perhaps his most significant contribution – his hustle. In a game where his counterpart on Wisconsin struggled through one of the worst games of his UW career, Howard won nearly every battle with Leuer – corralling seemingly every loose ball and rebound over Leuer.Howard’s supporting cast was undoubtedly crucial in allowing the Bulldogs to build and maintain their lead – Mack finished with 13 points and Shawn Vanzant (see below) finished with 10 – but Butler’s leading scorer was trouble all game long for Wisconsin. As poorly as the Badgers shot the ball and ran their offense, they also had very few answers for Howard. With Leuer’s outside shots not falling and his inside game also not working, Howard was the better player on both sides of the ball.Unsung Hero – G Shawn Vanzant, ButlerThe senior guard filled in his role behind Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack for the Bulldogs nicely, scoring 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field while also leading his team with four assists and two steals.On a night where both teams, at times, had trouble getting their offenses going, Vanzant remained a steady opportunist for the Bulldogs. Butler effectively translated turnovers into points in the first half, and Vanzant was one of the main nuisances for Wisconsin’s offense by translating both of his steals into breakaway layups in the first 10 minutes.All four of his assists came at critical moments for the Bulldogs, as well. Nine minutes into the game, Vanzant found Howard on the perimeter, who knocked down a trey to break the tie. That spurred a quick 7-0 run for the Bulldogs and proved to be vital in establishing a lead that would never disappear.Five minutes later, Vanzant found Khyle Marshall on an easy alley-oop pass to maintain the seven-point lead.In the second half, the senior again kicked it out to Howard on the arc, who executed a perfectly placed shot from deep behind the line on the right wing to give the Bulldogs an 18-point lead.But none were as important as his last when, in the midst of a late-game Badgers surge, he handed the ball off to Mack with 55 seconds left and screened his defender just enough to allow Mack an open fadeaway jumper from the right elbow that gave the Bulldogs a six-point lead. It was just enough to hold on and put the lights out on the Badgers’ season.Stat of the Game – 3 pointsThree points was Leuer’s scoring production for the game. Entering last night’s contest, Leuer had scored in double digits in each of his last 40 games and averaged 18.7 points per game during his senior season, tops on the team.Now, the All-Conference forward ends his accomplished career at Wisconsin with an undeserving stat line of three points on 1-of-12 shooting from the field, six rebounds and two turnovers before fouling out in the game’s final seconds. Leuer accepted handshakes from his teammates upon returning to the bench but seemed despondent all the same.The senior struggled to hit open looks all game, but his will to win never disappeared. He got into the mix of the Badgers’ last minute momentum swing by blocking a layup by Mack with less than two minutes remaining. The turnover eventually saw Taylor knock down a 3-pointer at the other end that cut the deficit to four points, the closest UW had come to regaining the lead since the 5:43 mark in the first half.But the senior failed to roll that key defensive stop into his own momentum, as he missed an attempt of his own from the perimeter on Wisconsin’s next possession that would have cut the deficit to three.He committed his fifth and final foul less than 20 seconds later in an attempt to get Butler to the line and the ball back to his teammates.
Cathy Liang | Daily TrojanUSC’s all-time career saves leader, five-time MPSF Player of the Week winner and 2016 summer Olympian: Those are just some of the many titles held by McQuin Baron, the men’s water polo team’s senior goaltender. Yet, despite all the accomplishments that he has achieved throughout his years in the pool, water polo wasn’t always what he wanted to do. In fact, it wasn’t even his favorite sport when he was younger.“My dad played basketball in college and my mom played soccer and tennis,” Baron said. “I was super into soccer and basketball just because that is what my parents had played.”While neither of his parents had played water polo, one of his older brothers played for the SoCal Water Polo club team near his hometown of North Tustin, Calif. It wasn’t until Baron went with his mom to pick his brother up from practice one day that someone got him into the pool. “When I was like 7 or 8 years old … our family friend was the head coach,” Baron said. “He kinda just tossed me in there with my brother. My brother was a goalie, so I was automatically the goalie. Honestly, ever since then, it just stuck.”From then on, Baron began playing water polo, yet continued to play soccer, basketball and baseball throughout middle school. It wasn’t until high school that he finally decided to focus on water polo.“I didn’t really want to play any other sport once I got there,” Baron said. “It was an addicting sport for me once I got to that level.”Anyone who has grown up in Southern California knows that Mater Dei High School is an athletics powerhouse. Baron even recalled at one point during his time there that the school took a whole week off because so many teams had won their championships, which earned a day off of school each. It was only natural that Baron chose Mater Dei, even though his brothers had played sports at its rival, Orange Lutheran High School.“I loved it,” Baron said. “We had a 111-game win streak throughout my career [and] I won three of four championships there.”Baron’s looks back on Mater Dei as a sort of mini-college. He felt it was the best transition into playing water polo for USC that he could have asked for with the positive experience that he had and the people he met throughout his time there. However, coming to USC still was a huge transition that created a lot of pressure to do well and a tough, competitive environment that was different from the one at his high school.“Goalie is a hard position,” Baron said. “If you win a game, it usually is on the guy who scored the most goals, but if you lose a game, it is usually on your goalie. So, losing a game and then being a 17-year-old goalie for such a high-profile team … it was a difficult transition especially coming from a senior in high school where you are the oldest at the level and you hit your prime and then are back at the bottom when you come to college.”From coming in as a freshman to playing in his final season this year, Baron feels he has grown. He especially feels that playing for one of his coaches at USC who he has had all four years, Marko Pintaric as well as the national team has helped mold him into the player he is today.Even with everything he has learned and how far he has come as a player, Baron is not satisfied just yet. Having never won a championship here at USC, he and the other seniors feel as if they have something left to finish before they can leave.“We don’t want to leave here without leaving our mark on this program and leaving some type of legacy,” Baron said. “Especially coming from a team that had won six straight titles coming into our freshman year.”With the end of the season rapidly approaching, Baron is focusing on his goal to leave behind yet another legacy with his teammates by winning the national championship. At 18-1 on the season so far, the Trojans are proving they are a strong force in the pool, but they are not going to let off the gas until that trophy is theirs. Baron also has another achievement on his radar. He is just 95 saves shy of the current holder of the MPSF all-time saves, Alex Malkis. By the end of this season, two more titles could be added to his already impressive list. But by then, Baron will have already turned his eyes toward the next thing on his to-do list — an Olympic gold medal.