January 21, 2010

Good, bad and ugly: Michigan

MADISON - Wednesday's game was far from pretty for the Wisconsin men's basketball team, but in the end a hard fought come-from-behind win salvaged a lot of potential heart break. Now, before moving towards Penn State, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look back at the good, bad and ugly from the Michigan win.

THE GOOD:

Rob Wilson's play:

Since Jordan Taylor was promoted to the starting lineup when Jon Leuer went down with an injured wrist, the Badger bench production had been severely lacking.

In the first two games following the Leuer injury, only six of UW's 111 points came from the bench. That was until last night when Wilson came off the pine and scored 13 of UW's 19 bench points.

With the Badgers struggling to find consistent offense against a desperate and motivated Michigan squad, the sophomore guard entered the game and sparked a 13-4 run with his team trailing by nine to even the score.

His three point shot in the corner was one that UW desperately needed as Hughes, Nankivil and Bohannon combined to shoot 3-of-15 from downtown. To put it simply, somebody needed to hit a shot. Why not Rob Wilson?

"We were going to play him straight up," Michigan head coach John Beilein said following the game. "We knew he could shoot. He's made four threes, I think he was four-for-eight going into the game, so he's a 50 percent shooter. We were playing him straight up. We knew we had to get to him if he was open, but he found one on his own one time."

UW's defense:

If you're going to have a miserable shooting night from the floor, your defense had better be playing at a high level. Luckily for Wisconsin, that was the case Wednesday night. Though the Badgers struggled to shoot only 34 percent from the floor, they also held Michigan to a 36.2 percent clip that wasn't much better.

In a game that didn't look to be going in the right direction for Wisconsin, it was the defense that kept the Badgers in the game.

"Defensively you just have to keep going toe to toe and give yourself a chance," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "Just hang in there, hang in there. That's all we kept talking about."

UW's turnovers:

Short and to the point, you won't lose many games if you only commit five turnovers throughout the 40-minute span.

THE BAD:

Nankivil's three-point shooting:

Without Leuer, one of the biggest and most obvious downsides this team has is post production. On Wednesday against Michigan, Keaton Nankivil seemed to be a bit more aggressive than he has been in the past. While that didn't necessarily equate to points in the paint for the junior forward, it was still nice to see him trying to become more assertive.

On the other hand, his shooting night was not necessarily one to write home about, particularly from downtown. Overall he nearly finished with a double-double, but his 1-for-7 shooting night from beyond the arc left a little something to be desired.

If teams are going to continue to give him that much space and room to operate, his jump shot could really become a weapon in favor of UW.

"Offensively, we gave Keaton his chances," Ryan said. "He's going to bury somebody sometime if they keep that five man back there in the paint."

THE UGLY:

UW's offensive start:

Usually at the Kohl Center the Badgers get off to a hot start and ride the momentum to victory. On Wednesday, the exact opposite happened. Michigan, though it didn't necessarily shoot lights out either, jumped out to a quick 13-2 lead after the Badgers opened the contest by hitting only one of their first 13 shots, including an ugly 0-for-8 mark from distance.

When shots finally did start to fall for Wisconsin, the Badgers started to claw back into the game and eventually entered the locker room down only three points. As a true testament to the desire of the team, Wisconsin was able to slowly work back into the game and squash several Michigan runs and earn a hard fought victory, even though it was one of the worst shooting performances of the year.

"We're not hitting shots," Ryan said. "It's called a slow start. But you know, offensively they hit a couple of tough shots. It wasn't like we weren't making them guard. The more we made them guard the more we got some decent looks. In every game there are those spells and we've talked about this a million times. It could have been with five minutes to go in the half when the other team goes on a run.

"In this case it happened early."

Relying on the three:

Since Leuer's injury, UW's reliance on the three-point shot has dramatically increased. Now in three games without the junior forward, UW's shots from downtown have comprised approximately half of the shots the Badgers have taken.

Wednesday was no different as 24 of the team's 53 shots were from distance. And the percentage (16.7) was nothing pretty. So it leaves one question to be asked. Are the Badgers relying too much on the three-point shot?

"I wouldn't say relying," Trevon Hughes said. "We all guard them and take the shots if they're open. I wouldn't say relying on it, but it looked that way. We going to have to change that and we know that. We're going to have to get things done and play Wisconsin basketball which is getting into the post and shooting more free throws than our opponent makes."



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