Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Penney enjoys time with his mother

Parent makes first trip to watch son

Last Updated: Jan. 14, 2003

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 New Zealand to settle here three years ago and is a regular at Wisconsin's games, Penney's mother, Marie, had not been able to visit her youngest son at college until she arrived in town Sunday.

"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 Wisconsin's Big Ten home opener. His 13.7 points per game average against Minnesota is second to Michigan (14.5) among Big Ten teams, and two of his top four Big Ten scoring performances games have come against the Gophers.

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 Wisconsin in scoring with 16.3 points per game, rebounding (6.3) and assists (3.6), will surely play a key role in the outcome.

He averaged 24.5 points in two victories over Minnesota last season, including a 30-point outburst at Williams Arena that included 27 points in the second half.

According to Minnesota coach Dan Monson, what makes Wisconsin difficult to match up against is Penney's play along with that of sophomore guard Devin Harris.

"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."

Minnesota also plays some zone defense, which can leave openings for long-range shooters if they find the right spots.

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 Minnesota, he averaged 23.3 points while making 56.8% (21 of 37) of his shots and 50% (12 of 24) from three-point range.

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.