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Wisconsin Sports Briefs: Wisconsin falls to South Carolina, 34-24, in 4th straight bowl loss…

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Wisconsin has lost four straight bowl games, after falling to No. 8-ranked South Carolina 34-24 at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on New Year’s Day.

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The 19th-ranked Badgers had trouble controlling the Gamecocks' quarterback Connor Shaw. The senior ended his college career with three touchdown passes, a rushing TD and a receiving score.

Shaw completed 22 of 25 passes for 312 yards and seemed to have no problem slicing through the Badgers' secondary.

Wisconsin had a one-point lead at the half, and a 35-yard field goal from Jack Russell gave the Badgers a 17-13 lead after the first drive of the second half.

South Carolina scored twice to go up by 10.

Kenzel Doe then ran back a kickoff 91 yards to get Wisconsin back to within three. It was the Badgers' first kickoff touchdown return since 2010.

Shaw responded with a one-yard TD run, and South Carolina never looked back.

Bruce Ellington was the Gamecocks' top receiver with six catches for 140 yards and two scores. Shaq Roland had 112 receiving yards on six receptions.

Badgers coach comments

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said the Badgers lost way too many contested catches to the Gamecocks' fast receivers. He called it a "defining moment" which the Badgers must address.

Wisconsin's two top running backs rushed for a combined 250 yards. Melvin Gordon had 143 yards on 25 carries, and James White had 12 runs for 107 yards.

Badgers quarterback Joel Stave completed 9 of 13 passes for 80 yards and two scores before he left with a right shoulder injury. His main backup, Curt Phillips, completed 7 of 12 for 37 yards with two late picks. Wisconsin ended its first season under coach Andersen at 9-4.

South Carolina finished 11-2. After the game, Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney told a TV reporter he would skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft.

Packers prepare

The Green Bay Packers had a light walk-through on New Year’s Day to start working on their game plan for Sunday's NFC Wild Card home contest against San Francisco.

Packers running back Eddie Lacy walked around without the walking boot he's had since spraining his right ankle Dec. 8. Coach Mike McCarthy expected Lacy to practice Thursday and play against the 49ers.

McCarthy said a full-fledged practice with pads would take place mostly outdoors Thursday, to help get the team ready for the cold weather expected on Sunday.

After a warmer day with snow on Saturday, the Weather Channel says the high Sunday will be down to 4 above with a low of -15 on Sunday night.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he'd be OK with "a good hand warmer and some sort of heat" around his head.

Rodgers says he'll have to make small adjustments, because the cold changes the texture of the ball.

The 49ers also practiced on New Year’s Day. They plan to leave Friday for Green Bay, so they can used to the cold weekend ahead.

Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick grew up in the Fond du Lac and New London areas. He said the cold is something which has to be blocked out.

Packer captains

The Packers have chosen six captains for the playoffs. The players selected quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Jordy Nelson on offense, safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker A.J. Hawk on defense, and kicker Mason Crosby and corner Jarrett Bush for the special teams.

Unlike most teams, the Packers rotate captains during the regular season and nobody wears the special "C" designation on their uniforms until the post-season.

Nelson and Burnett will be playoff captains for the first time. Rodgers has the most selections with five.

Cobb says Packers are more balanced

Packers receiver Randall Cobb says the Green Bay offense enters the playoffs with a lot more balance, and a lot more unpredictability, than a year ago.

Teammates say Cobb's versatility will keep opposing defenses guessing throughout their playoff run, which starts on Sunday at home against San Francisco.

Just like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Cobb returned from a major injury in last Sunday's victory at Chicago, which catapulted Green Bay into the post-season.

Media reports said the Packers were planning to limit to Cobb to 15 or 20 snaps against the Bears. Instead, he had around twice that number with 37 snaps, including both Green Bay receiving touchdowns.

Packers receiver James Jones says Cobb is "probably one of the most explosive players that we have in our game today." Jones said Cobb can be moved around in order to create a number of mismatches. He said it's great to have Cobb back and healthy. Cobb broke a leg on Oct. 13 at Baltimore.

Badger men begin Big 10 play

The fourth-ranked Wisconsin men's basketball team will open its Big Ten schedule tonight against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. The Badgers went 13-0 in their non-conference schedule, their best start in exactly 100 years. They started 15-0 in 1914.

Northwestern is 7-6 after losing by a point to DePaul last Friday. Redshirt sophomore Tre Demps scored a career-high 23 points for Northwestern in that game. Also, the Wildcats have stepped up their defense. Their last four opponents shot just 33 percent from the floor, and 21 percent from three-point range.

Wisconsin is coming off an 80-43 pounding of Prairie View A&M last Saturday. Sophomore Sam Dekker leads the Badgers with 14.5 points and just over six rebounds per contest.

Wisconsin has won 10 straight Big Ten openers.

Also Thursday night, there's a pair of Horizon League men's contests involving Wisconsin teams. UW-Milwaukee hosts Youngstown State and UW-Green Bay is at home against Cleveland State.

Ex-Badgers make Olympic hockey teams

Brother and sister hockey standouts Phil and Amanda Kessel were among 10 players with Wisconsin ties who were named yesterday to the U.S. Olympic hockey teams.

Both are from the Madison area. Wing player Phil Kessel is an NHL All-Star with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Forward Amanda Kessel received a number of national player of the year honors with the University of Minnesota last season.

Also on the U.S. men's team are four ex-Badgers who are now in the NHL - Madison native Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild, Plover native Joe Pavelski of San Jose, and Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers.

Phil Kessel, Pavelski and Suter all played on the silver-metal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 2010 in Vancouver.

On the women's side, Amanda Kessel will be joined by four ex-Badgers - goaltender Jessie Vetter and forwards Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and Meghan Duggan.

Knight, Vetter and Duggan were all on the second-place U.S. Olympic women's team from Vancouver in 2010.

Also, former Badger Meghan Mikkelson was named last month to Canada's national Olympic squad.

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