February 10, 2010

UW squanders chance to move up standings

MADISON - There is an old saying that claims actions speak louder than words. However, after Tuesday night's surprising, if not stunning, loss to Illinois at home there was one word that spoke louder than any others.

When Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was asked about the disappointment inside the locker room following the home defeat, the ninth year veteran simply deflected the question by saying, "next."

Though it was more of Ryan shooting down a lollipop question, it also served as an effective moniker for his team, one that simply prepares for the next day, next practice and next opponent regardless of what happens on the court.

"We're not looking at one loss like that," UW junior forward Keaton Nankivil said after the game. "There is a lot of season left and a lot of things could still happen. So with as many games and as much of a cluster as it is in the Big Ten there is no point in dwelling on one loss.

"We've still got to go out, play and do everything we can to put ourselves in a good position."

With Purdue's win over Michigan State last night, there is now a four-way tie among the league standing in the loss column. With its win over Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State are tied with identical 9-3 losses in league play while Purdue and Ohio State each have an 8-3 mark.

UW currently sits alone in fifth place, one game behind the leaders of the pack.

"We've just got to get ready for the next game," UW senior guard Jason Bohannon said following the game. "We have to put this game behind us and realize that there is another very good team coming in on Saturday and we've got to come in ready to play. That's just the nature of the Big Ten. If you lose a game and you're still focusing on that game then the next game down the road you're more than likely to lose that game, too.

"So we've got to turn the next page and come ready to play for practice on Thursday."

Streak snapped:

Under Bo Ryan, the Badgers simply do not lose many games inside the Kohl Center. Entering the game against Illinois, UW has only lost five conference games on its home court in the eight-plus years Ryan has been at the helm.

Now that number is six, and three of those losses have come from the hands of the Illini.

"It's amazing what Bo has done here," Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. "The arena is great, the fans are great, but it's Bo and his system and then the players. They believe in the system. They grind it out, make it a possession game and then the crowd gets into it and they're able to win the game down the stretch. Tonight we were just fortunate. I don't know if we wanted it more, but we made the plays and the ball bounced our way."

Overall, the loss to Illinois snapped a 58 game winning streak against non-ranked opponents inside the Kohl Center as well as a 51-game streak against non-ranked conference opponents.

It also snapped UW's 18-game home winning streak that included such wins as Illinois, Ohio State, Duke, Purdue and Michigan State.

"It means our guys have been playing well," Ryan said. "They made shots and they played defense and they're taking care of business. If it was so easy, how come everybody else doesn't do it? So it means something when it comes to guys taking pride in what they do."

Losing control:

When the Badgers opened the game on a quick 8-0 run that featured back-to-back three-point makes from Trevon Hughes and Tim Jarmusz, it seemed as though UW was picking up right where it left off in Ann Arbor.

UW eventually stretched that lead to 11 on three separate occasions in the first half and looked prime to move up the Big Ten pecking order. There was no way they were going to blow an 11-point first half lead at home and lose a game to an unranked opponent.

But then again, funny things do happen.

Demetri McCamey started scoring at will and Mike Tisdale continued to knock down jumpers. Before anyone inside the Kohl Center could bat an eye, the Illini had erased UW's lead and stolen all of its momentum.

"Anytime you get an opponent down by 10 points you want to make that deficit even larger," UW senior guard Jason Bohannon said. "We didn't necessarily do the right things for a period of time. McCamey had three three's in a row and that got them right back in the game. Anytime you have a player that is struggling like that you want to keep pushing it and forcing them to make tough decisions.

"We didn't necessarily do that tonight."

Timid going to the lane:

In the second half, UW only managed to get to the charity stripe for two shots. It seemed as though the Badgers made an early, conscious effort to get into the lane, particularly to start the second half, but when a few drives ended with contact and no foul the Badgers seemed to back away from penetration.

As a result, Wisconsin settled for hoisting 29 three-point shots again. And unfortunately for the Badgers they weren't falling down the stretch when the Badgers needed them most.

But was the team timid in driving the lane, particularly during the final 10 minutes when the team only scored six points on 2-of-16 shooting?

"We drove to the basket several times," Ryan said. "I thought we were going to get to the free throw line with some penetration and some contact. I think our guys got a little gun-shy when we didn't get to the free throw line. I think that did affect us. You've just got to be tougher and play through that."

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