Madison - University of Wisconsin guard Kirk Penney circled this date on the schedule some time ago.
Some of the senior's best games have come against Minnesota, but the sight of the Gophers taking the floor at 7 tonight at the Kohl Center is not what the man from down under has been looking forward to since the start of the season.
It will be the sight of his "mum" in the stands.
While Penney's father, Paul, left
"It's just good to have mom here in general and show her around so she can see what the whole Kohl Center environment is all about and see what I've been doing with the last four years of my life," Penney said.
Her timing couldn't be better.
Penney has enjoyed more success against the Gophers' than
almost every team in the conference, and this game will
Maybe she'll bring the Badgers some luck, too.
Wisconsin, picked by various media to finish among the top four in the conference, needs a victory to protect its home court and avoid its first 0-3 Big Ten start since 1986-'87 when it lost its first eight and finished 4-14.
Penney, who leads
He averaged 24.5 points in two victories over
"Most teams have one wing player that they rely on to shut off the other team's best wing player, for us that is (sophomore) Moe Hargrow," Monson said. "We've got to find someone else who can guard on the wing also because Penney and Harris together are such a balanced and good combination out there."
Penney has done that against the Gophers.
Overall, he is shooting 51% (26 of 51) against them - his
highest percentage against any Big Ten opponent - and is 13 of 32 (41%) from
three-point range. In the last three games against
But when Penney's mother watches him tonight, she'll see more than a scorer. Penney's biggest improvement has come as a passer. His 50 assists are just five fewer than he had all of last season. And he is also the only player in the Big Ten among the top ten in scoring, rebounds and assists.
But basketball is just a small part of the visit.
Since classes do not resume until Jan. 21, Penney expects that the two won't do much beside spending most of the time in his apartment watching movies. He'll probably get his fill of home cooking, too. Shortly after she arrived Sunday night, she whipped up a little something in the kitchen that a day later still put a smile on his face.
"It was just fantastic," Penney said.
The Badgers hope they get some home cooking tonight against Minnesota. Afterward, Penney and his mother will go back to his apartment and continue to bond.
A version of this story appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Jan. 15, 2003.