John Kuester doesn’t feel as if he has gotten even with Jim Boylan.
After meeting as players in the 1977 NCAA championship game, with Boylan’s Marquette beating Kuester’s North Carolina, the pair squared off as coaches Friday night. This time, it was Kuester’s Detroit Pistons posting a 105-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Boylan while Scott Skiles served a one-game suspension.
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“Did you have to bring that up?” Kuester asked when the title-game loss was mentioned in his postgame press conference. “This didn’t help much – that’s still one of the most disappointing moments of my life. Jim has always been very cordial about that game, but it still hurts.”
Ironically, Friday’s rematch turned on a battle of rookies that never saw an NCAA court. Detroit’s Jonas Jerebko scored 16 points, including a crucial jumper in the last two minutes, while Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings finished with 15 on 6-of-20 shooting.
“Jonas has emerged as one of the best rookies in this league – he is really expanding his game,” Kuester said. “He was huge, and it was big to hold Jennings in check.”
The Pistons, with Charlie Villanueva returning from a broken nose, won for just the second time in 10 games. Detroit outrebounded Milwaukee 46-30 and finished with a season-best 28 assists.
“That’s how we want to play,” Jerebko said. “We had a lot of energy, we were running the floor and our point guards had a great game. I always run, but tonight I got paid for it.”
The Bucks, who were missing Michael Redd (knee) for the fourth straight game, have lost six of their last seven.
“They dominated us on the glass, and their backcourt dominated us,” Boylan said. “We’ve been talking a lot lately about our defensive approach to the game, but that’s all it was – talk. There was no substance tonight to what we’ve been talking about the past few days.”
Ben Wallace added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, and Ben Gordon scored 16 in his second game back after spraining his ankle.
“It’s still sprained, so I’m just trying to do what I can out there,” Gordon said. “I probably set myself back a bit by playing tonight, but I can rest it on our days off, and it will get better.”
Reserve Luke Ridnour led the Bucks with 21 points, and former Piston Carlos Delfino had 15.
“We set the tone for the game when we gave up 34 points in the first quarter,” Ridnour said. “We let them know they could do whatever they wanted, and they did.”
Detroit took a 63-55 halftime lead when Gordon stole the ball under the Milwaukee basket and hit Stuckey with a floor-length pass for a buzzer-beating layup.
The Pistons started the second half with an 8-2 run to expand the margin to 14. Milwaukee couldn’t put together a rally until the final six minutes. Aided by Stuckey’s technical for arguing with Jennings, the Bucks got to 98-91 with 2:16 left.
Jerebko, though, answered with a long jumper and the Pistons held on to win.
“I feel confident in hitting that shot, and my teammates are confident that I’ll make it,” the Swedish rookie said.
NOTES: Skiles was serving a suspension for his ejection Wednesday night in a loss to Washington. … Gordon was called for a second-quarter technical after arguing a call, while Hakim Warrick picked one up in the fourth. … Villanueva wore a mask to protect his nose. “It was a different feeling,” he said. “It was a little uncomfortable, because it isn’t easy to breathe in that thing.” … The teams combined for only eight offensive rebounds. Milwaukee had just one in the first half, while Detroit didn’t have any in the second half.