Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Penney out of touches

Michael Rand, Star Tribune


Published March 28, 2003


Kirk Penney had more chances to talk about his lack of opportunities in the second half than he had opportunities in the second half.

Each time, though, Penney's lament was limited only to missed opportunities for his team.

Penney, Wisconsin's senior guard, attempted only three shots in the second half after scoring 17 points in the first half of Thursday's NCAA Midwest Regional against Kentucky at the Metrodome. Still, the Badgers were in position to knock off the No. 1 team in the country before fading to a 63-57 loss.

"We were where we needed to be," Penney said. "Four minutes left, that's usually when we make a run. Things just didn't work out for us."

Such was Wisconsin's maddening fate.

"These guys believed. We had a chance," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "Anytime you have a chance, you want to take advantage of it. It stings."

Penney's dynamic first half helped keep Wisconsin within 32-28 at the break. It was a prevailing sentiment that if Wisconsin was going to stay close after halftime, Penney would need to duplicate his heroics.

But Kentucky's Chuck Hayes, who spent much of the first half in foul trouble, returned in the second half as Penney's personal shadow. Penney made a three-pointer early in the half. After that, he could barely breathe.

"They were chasing Kirk hard," Ryan said. "They just hunted him down."

Penney, like any shooter, gladly would have taken more shots had they presented themselves. But Ryan's offense stresses flow and ball movement. There is no room for rushed shots. The attention paid to Penney left other shooters open. But while Penney was 5-for-7 from long distance, his teammates were a combined 3-for-14.

There was a sense that the pain was magnified for Penney. Losing as a senior is a difficult fate. Having little say in that fate -- even if it was the right decision not to force shots -- curled at the edge of his lips. Still, he spoke the right words.

"The team was getting good shots. In hindsight, maybe I would have wanted a few more looks," Penney said. "But it doesn't matter who scores as long as we do. And we were right there."

Penney's consolation is that he leaves the program in far better hands than when he arrived as a skinny freshman from Auckland, New Zealand. The Badgers went to the Final Four his first season. This year's Sweet 16 squad returns several top players and has a strong incoming class.

"I'm proud of the guys. It was a great run," Ryan said. "You hate to see it end. But we have to take Kirk's jersey away from him. That's the way it works."

That notion was a far more difficult one for Penney to discuss than whether he would have liked a few more shots at the end of Thursday's game.

"I have mixed emotions right after the game," Penney said. "It's kind of sad. Everything kind of fades out, and I guess you move on to the next thing."