Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Badgers beat Gophers

Just when it seemed that Wisconsin men’s basketball had turned a corner with the upset win Sunday at Ohio State, UW got cold yet again at home, somehow surviving a 30 percent shooting effort from the field en route to a 52-45 win over struggling Minnesota.
The first half Tuesday night can best be described as ugly. After making three of their first four shots, the Badgers (11-6 Big Ten, 22-8 overall) were just 1-for-17 from the field over the final 16:26 of the half, their only field goal in that span coming on a three-point shot by senior guard Jordan Taylor with 12:34 remaining. Neither team cracked the 25 percent mark from the field, with the two teams combining for just nine made baskets as the Gophers (5-12, 17-13) took a 23-16 lead into the locker room.
“You just have to go back to thinking of ways to score,” Taylor said. “We were trying to get more movement in the offense. I was able to get a post touch and from there it’s all about being aggressive and trying to make the play.”
To their credit, the Badgers came out strong in the second half. Finally getting a jumper by Taylor to go just over a minute and a half in, UW scored nine of the first 11 points of the half. Wisconsin was finally about to knot the game at 25 after a controversial three-point play by junior forward Mike Bruesewitz that was initially ruled a charge only to be overturned following a lengthy conference amongst the officials.
“An official can make the call and if he is not sure, he can go ask the other official,” head coach Bo Ryan said after the game. “That’s what they did.”
“I thought I got there,” Bruesewitz said. “I thought he was in the circle, that’s why I went up.”
Sparked by their good fortune, the Badgers took control of the game from there. Taylor was back to his usual self after a tough first half, finishing with a game-high 22 points on 4-of-9 shooting and 11-of-12 from the field throw line. Taylor’s 17 second-half points (out of UW’s 36) got the Minnesotan to the twenty-point mark for just the third time this season, with two of them coming against the Gophers.
On the other end it was once again freshman guard Andre Hollins giving the Badgers fits on the defensive end. After coming off the bench to score 20 against UW in Minneapolis, the Memphis, Tenn. native again led the Gophers in scoring, this time with 18 points, 13 of those in the first half alone.
“He took more shots than anyone in the game so I thought he was pretty aggressive,” Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said of Hollins. “Unfortunately he couldn’t make any of them [in the second half].”
Wisconsin was able to adjust at the half and ultimately that was enough to get them the win they needed to clinch a spot in the top four in the Big Ten standings and thus clinch a first-round bye in next weekend’s Big Ten Tournament.
“We didn’t do a good job of throwing the first blow or getting out to a good start,” Taylor said. “But we did a good job in the second half of turning things around.”
One thing that allowed the Badgers to quickly regain control of the game was their ability to finally get to the free throw line. With Minnesota committing seven fouls in the first 5:35 of the second half, Wisconsin had the benefit of being in the bonus for the majority of the backstretch. The Badgers took advantage, hitting 15-of-20 free throws in the second half en route to a comparatively explosive 36-point output.
“Getting to the free throw line was definitely huge in this game,” junior forward Ryan Evans said. “There were a lot of free throws and that’s where a lot of the points were scored.”
Due in large part to the multitude of free throws, there was never any flow to the game. Neither team seemed comfortable on the offensive end and neither team was able to pull away when they had the chance. Ultimately, Wisconsin was able to cut down on turnovers and make their free throws, the formula necessary to win in these low-scoring games Badger fans should be well accustomed to by now.
While hopes of a Big Ten title were washed away with the Badgers’ 67-66 defeat at Iowa last week, they continue to have plenty at stake with just one game remaining on their regular season schedule. With Illinois coming to town Sunday for senior day, the Badgers still have an outside shot to overtake either Michigan or Ohio State in the standings, in turn avoiding a quarterfinal matchup in the Big Ten Tournament with No. 20 Indiana down in Indianapolis.
More importantly, the Badgers have a chance to finally head into the postseason with momentum.
I hope the Badgers cab make it to the sweet sixteen.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Badgers play at Iowa tonight

The No. 16/15 Wisconsin men’s basketball team (9-5 Big Ten, 20-7 overall) looks to get an important road win against Iowa (6-8, 14-13) in Iowa City on Thursday.
Although Iowa delivered the Badgers a shocking defeat at the Kohl Center at the end of December, no one considers it a revenge game.
“They exposed us a little bit. We obviously didn’t play our best game when they came down here and it kind of set the tone for the Big Ten that we didn’t want, obviously,” sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. “We think we’re back on track here and ready to go. We’ll take it to them again. I wouldn’t say revenge, but we’re playing to get a win.”
Though the Badgers will not call it a revenge game, they will certainly want to play better against the Hawkeyes this time around.
In their loss earlier this year to the Hawkeyes, the Badgers gave up a season-high 72 points, including 14 points off the fast break. The Badgers also struggled on the offensive side of the ball, turning in one of their worst shooting performances of the year.
Wisconsin shot just 35 percent from the field and missed 25 of their 28 three-point attempts. Missing those outside shots not only hurt Wisconsin’s shooting percentage, but exacerbated the Badgers’ troubles in transition as well by allowing the Hawkeyes to grab the long rebounds and run.
A game with an up-and-down pace that the Hawkeyes like to play does not suit Wisconsin’s slug-it-out style, so it will be very important for the Badgers to slow the pace down this time.
One way to stop the Hawkeyes from getting in transition is by making shots. In order to do that, the Badgers must find an inside presence that has been somewhat absent in their last two games. In those games, Wisconsin was outscored by the Spartans and Nittany Lions in the paint by a combined 42 points.
“We’ve got to work the ball in the post a little bit more. I think we’ve got to establish a strong inside game, especially with [junior center] Jared [Berggren],” junior forward Mike Bruesewitz said. “I think we’ve got to get him back going on the block because he can be really dominant down there.”
Getting the ball in the paint also gives the Badgers more free-throw attempts, slowing down the Hawkeyes’ transition game even further.
“Getting to the line obviously slows them down. It just changes the pace of the game,” Bruesewitz said. “It kind of makes the tempo more of what we want it to be, a little more of a ground-it-out game than trying to get it up-and-down and run with those guys.”
Thursday’s game could be a big one for Wisconsin’s momentum and possible NCAA Tournament seeding moving forward. If the Badgers are able to slow down Iowa and get a road win in a tough environment like Iowa City, it could give them a boost of confidence they could use when they visit Columbus, Ohio. to battle the Buckeyes on Sunday.
Thursday’s showdown with the Hawkeyes is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and can be seen on ESPN2.
Let's hope Bucky wins so they help themselves with tournament seeding.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Badgers look forward to Michigan St.

Last week might have been the border battle, but if you are looking for two schools with a lot of recent history, look no further than Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Looking beyond the memorable battles on the gridiron last fall, the Badgers and Spartans have needed overtime to decide two of their last three meetings on the hardwood, the most recent coming back on Jan. 3 at the Kohl Center when junior forward Ryan Evans’ 3-point shot at the end of overtime was infamously wiped off the board upon video review.
While that tough defeat came during a stretch of three straight early season losses for the Badgers, the rematch is going to be played under far different circumstances.
No. 15/17 Wisconsin (8-4 Big Ten, 19-6 overall) has won eight of 10 since that loss, while Michigan State’s 58-48 defeat of Ohio State Feb. 11 has put the No. 7/8 Spartans (9-3, 20-5) in a virtual tie with the Buckeyes at the top of the Big Ten standings. However, both the Badgers and Michigan State lurk just one game back in the loss column, each controlling their own destiny over the final two and a half weeks of the regular season.
Simply put, there is plenty on the line Thursday night at the Breslin Center.
“It’s definitely a good feeling [to control our own destiny] but we kind of knew someone was going to lose eventually,” sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. “We just have to take it one game at a time and it starts Thursday with a big one against Michigan State because they are right up there with us.”
In order to maintain control of that destiny, Wisconsin will have to shut down the Spartans’ high-octane transition game. Michigan State has averaged over 10 points per game on fast break opportunities while adding nearly 16 points per game off turnovers.
“We’ve been playing really well in transition,” Gasser said. “Anytime you can take away a couple easy transition baskets in games like this, where it’s usually decided by one or two possessions, it’s definitely huge.”
But throughout the season, the Badgers have been second to none on stopping the transition game, holding opponents to under five points per game on fast break opportunities.
“Its always an emphasis. We don’t want teams to come down and get easy shots,” junior forward Mike Bruesewitz said. “I think we have some of the best transition defense in the country and that’s something we work on.”
Led by the front line trio of senior Draymond Green, junior Derrick Nix and sophomore Adreian Payne, the Spartans have dominated both in the paint and on the glass this seasn. Michigan State has outscored its opponents by over 13 points per game in the paint while posting a rebound margin of plus 10.2 per game.
“They take a lot of pride in doing that,” senior guard Jordan Taylor said of the Spartans’ play in the paint. “We definitely want to out-rebound them. We know they are big, but we have guys who can rebound too.”
Having already won in hostile environments at Purdue, Illinois and just last week at Minnesota, the Badgers are more than ready for whatever the “Izzone” has in store.
“We’ve won in some tough road environments this year,” Taylor noted. “We just have to execute offensively and defensively and do whatever we can to get the win.”
A Badger win on Thursday night would truly shake things up in the Big Ten. With Wisconsin set to face Ohio State yet again in just over a week’s time, the next 10 days mark just about as pivotal a stretch as any that the Badgers will face this season.
“If the juices aren’t flowing for what we’ve got coming,” head coach Bo Ryan said. “You need help.”
Let's hope Bucky can take down Michigan St.   GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Badgers beat Gophers in OT

The No. 21/22 Wisconsin men's basketball team (8-4 Big Ten, 19-6 overall) rebounded from its most recent loss against Ohio State, albeit not easily, as it defeated Minnesota (5-7, 17-8) in the 190th meeting of the Border Battle Thursday night, 68-61 in overtime. This was the Badgers' first win at The Barn since 2008.
"I'd be lying if I said this didn't mean a lot," senior guard Jordan Taylor said. "I'm elated to get a win here [at Minnesota]."
In sports, the saying goes that when one has an opponent down they have to step on their throat and finish them, but the Badgers were unable to do this to the Gophers. The Badgers led comfortably for most of the second half, even leading 49-36 with just under nine minutes left. But there is a reason they call it a rivalry. With the Badgers unable to deal the final blow, Minnesota got on a 15-2 run to tie the game with 1:02 to go. There was no scoring from that point on and the game was forced to overtime.
In the overtime period Wisconsin's nine-minute scoring drought was finally broken by a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Josh Gasser to put the Badgers up by two. Junior forward Ryan Evans then stepped up, hitting a jumper and a pair of free throws to put the Badgers back up by six. The Badgers continued to make their free throws down the stretch to finally vanquish their arch-rival.
The star for Wisconsin was a man who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, senior guard Jordan Taylor. What a homecoming it was for Taylor as he was unstoppable in the first half, making 5-6 shots including 4-4 from three to score 14 points. Although he cooled off in the second half and overtime, he still finished with a game-high 27 points.
Evans also had a big game for the Badgers, posting a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Evans was clutch in the overtime period, leading the Badgers with six points in the extra session.
One of the big reasons for the Badgers' disappointing loss to the Buckeyes on Saturday was their inability to hit the three-point shot, shooting only 5-26 on the day.
This was definitely not the case against Minnesota as the Badgers made nine threes and made more threes in the first half against the Gophers, seven, than they did against Ohio State. This quality three-point performance makes perfect sense if you look at the Badgers' season numbers. The Badgers came into this game shooting 40 percent from three on the road, but only 23 percent at home.
A big reason for this great shooting performance was the unselfish passing the Badgers displayed. Wisconsin found open man after open man, assisting on 13 of their 19 made baskets.
Wisconsin started the game off on fire, making five of their first six shots. Wisconsin then went on a 0-6 cold streak, however, that lasted over six minutes and found them down by two. But Taylor stepped up for the Badgers and propelled the team to a six-point lead by scoring eight straight Badger points. The Badgers would continue the momentum from there, taking a 32-24 lead into halftime.
The team that Wisconsin fans dread to see reappeared once again late in the game as the Badgers went on one of their patented cold stretches and shot 28 percent in the second half.
The leading scorers for the Golden Gophers were freshman guard Andre Hollins with 20 and junior forward Rodney Williams with 16 points.
The Badgers will now have a week to gear up for another Big Ten road showdown against Michigan State next Thursday.
It is good to see the Badgers are living up to the hype.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Badgers Beat Penn State

The Wisconsin men's basketball team (7-3 Big Ten, 18-5 overall) got its sixth straight win Tuesday night and now stand alone in second place in the Big Ten, but it did not come as easy as maybe one would have suspected against a 12-loss Penn State team.
Penn State came out like a team with nothing to lose in the first half, giving the Badgers all they could handle and taking a 23-17 lead into halftime.
Despite taking the Badgers' best shot, Penn State would not go down without a fight. Leading the charge for the Lions in the second half was junior guard Tim Frazier. The Big Ten's second-leading scorer answered every time it looked like the Badgers were going to pull away, scoring 17 of his game-high 21 in the second half.
With the Wisconsin lead cut down to 40-38, senior guard Jordan Taylor once again stepped up for the Badgers and hit a big three to put the Badgers back up by five. Taylor and the rest of the Badgers hit their free throws down the stretch and Badgers were able to hold on for a 52-46 win.
Taylor finished with a team-high 18 points, with most of them coming in crunch time as he scored 13 of the Badgers last 16 points.
The Badgers' shooting woes reared their ugly head once again in the first half of the game as the Badgers missed 19 of their first 26 shots, including nine of their first 11 three-pointers. Reliance on the outside shot combined with anemic shooting kept the Badgers in single digits for the first 16 minutes of the game.
Penn State on the other hand exploited the normally sound Badger defense in the first half, shooting 46 percent from the field.
Penn State also dominated Wisconsin on the glass as the Nittany Lions outrebounded the Badgers by seven in the first half.
The leading scorer for Penn State in the first half was sophomore guard Jermaine Marshall, scoring 10 points on 5-7 shooting.
Wisconsin turned things around in the second half by making an early emphasis to get the ball inside. By pounding the paint, the Badgers got easy inside shots and regained the lead. Junior center Jared Berggren and junior forward Ryan Evans were instrumental in the Badger comeback, scoring Wisconsin's first 10 second-half points.
The Badgers also shot the ball much better in the second half overall, making 10 of their 22 second-half shots.
Wisconsin returned to form defensively as well, holding Penn State to 7-of-26 shooting.
The Badgers will now gear up for a showdown at the Kohl Center with Big Ten leader Ohio State at 1:00p.m. Saturday. If the Badgers are able to win this game, they will take the outright lead in the Big Ten standings.
One thing is for certain, the Badgers will have to be much more consistent offensively and defensively if they are going to have any chance of beating a team with as much offensive firepower as the Buckeyes.  
Let's hope the Badgers can go on a roll when tournament time comes around.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!