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November 29, 2011No one in the country badgers their opponents better than Wisconsin does.
The No. 7-ranked Badgers are 6-0 after holding their opening six opponents to 39 points per game and, even more impressive, 30.5 percent shooting from the field.
"The 39 points is not the most impressive thing to me," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "We can go out there and hold teams to 50 points. We can. But I don't know that we can hold teams to 30.5 percent from the field."
Conversely, Wisconsin is shooting 47 percent from 3-point range as a team.
On top of those statistics, the Badgers have out-rebounded their opponents by an average of 14 per game.
"They are really something," Williams said. "They are shooting 47 percent as a team from the 3-point line. They have one guy who is shooting 71 percent from the 3-point line. They're really impressive. They have five guys who can score, five guys who can shoot the 3-point shot.
"They're outrebounding teams by 14 rebounds a game, and we've never done that and we've been one of the best rebounding teams in college basketball."
Until this year, Williams might have said that about UNC's rebounding. Michigan State stayed in the game with its rebounding in the season-opener, and last weekend UNLV dealt the Tar Heels (5-1) their first loss by grabbing 14 of their 48 rebounds on the offensive end.
By comparison, the Tar Heels pulled down 38 rebounds against the Rebels.
Teams are physically pushing the Tar Heels around beneath the glass at times, and UNC is not exerting itself with as much energy as is necessary to win the games and the rebounding margin.
"The lack of intensity, more than anything, [is what disappointed me]," Williams said. "I was just dumbfounded by that. We didn't rebound well and we didn't defend well."
Carolina has been playing its way into the season all along, not necessarily giving its best effort against teams it could beat on talent alone.
That will not be the case this week. Wisconsin is gifted, as its statistics reveal. On Saturday, the Tar Heels travel to Lexington, Ky., to play the top-ranked Wildcats. If any team has more raw talent than UNC, it would be the Wildcats.
Carolina must find a way to play much harder if it hopes to win those two.
"We know that," point guard Kendall Marshall said. "Coach is constantly telling us things we have to get better if we want to be the team we are capable of being. You have to put that effort out there. We have to rebound better. We have to guard the ball better.
"So we know we're not playing like a number-one team in the country at this point. If we were, it wouldn't be a bad thing, but we would rather be playing like the number-one team come March."
To be the top team in March, the Tar Heels will have to make a habit of out-performing its opponents, playing hard on both ends of the court and holding their ground when they are not racing for fast breaks.
Marshall put a positive spin on the loss.
"We didn't plan on losing this early in the season," Marshall said. "But I think it's a nice monkey to have off our back, people talking about how great we are, with us hearing it all the time. Now we can get back to basketball. The main thing the loss did was made us regroup and refocus."
There could not be a better week to do it before ACC games begin.
"That is part of the preseason," Marshall said. "You get these marquee matchups of powerhouse programs, teams that are supposed to be great. You want to match up. You want to see how you stand against the competition.
"Wisconsin is known to be a great team. Then we have Kentucky, who obviously is a powerhouse program. We look forward to these matchups."
The Badgers' point guard Jordan Taylor is anxious to play this one as well.
"It's kind of special," Taylor said. "It's kind of fun. Not everybody gets to go down North Carolina and play. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to it. Obviously because all of the great players that have come through there, but you know we've played in gyms like that.
"Michigan is the same way to some extent. You have to get your looking around at the gym and at the banners done right away and then get down to business because we're going down there to play a basketball game."
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