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February 20, 2011

Leuer, Nankivil pace UW in win

MADISON - Keeping recent outcomes in mind, it's become commonplace for both Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer to headline the Badger offense.

Sunday night, in a 76-66 win over Penn State, Keaton Nankivil joined the brigade.

The senior forward, one of the better spot-up shooters in the Big Ten, connected on all five 3-point shots he took. By the time the final buzzer sounded Nankivil had logged 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor.

He set the tone early and the rest of his teammates followed suit.

"He was just catching and placing, putting pressure on the defense," Leuer, who scored 22 points and collected 10 rebounds, said of Nankivil. "If you want to shoot the three you fly it to him, make an extra pass.

"He was in a rhythm tonight and we just got him the ball."

Leuer wasn't too shabby himself.

The senior forward opened the game with a nifty turnaround jumper and followed that with a couple of other buckets, including a powerful flush from a Taylor pass. His sharp shooting helped the Badgers jump out to a quick 20-10 lead on a team that had beaten them less than a month ago.

"We played really tentative at the start of the game," Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis, who's won one game against Wisconsin during his tenure, said. "I'm not sure why. We didn't look like we had a lot of juice or energy but credit Wisconsin. They made shots.

"They just made baskets tonight."

Overall, Wisconsin shot 54 percent from the field and 53 percent from downtown, a far cry from what happened at Purdue earlier this week. Leuer and Nankivil combined to score 44 of the team's 76 points on 16-of-23 shooting from the field.

It was just another night inside the friendly confines of the Kohl Center where there's nothing unusual about the Badgers shooting at a high clip.

"I think our fans have a lot to do with that and making it a tough place to play," Leuer, who finished with double-digit scoring for the 33rd straight game, said. "We're comfortable playing here. We have a good routine and everyone's comfortable playing here.

"We have some of the best fans in the country and with them behind us we don't feel like we can lose."

Penn State, a team that entered Sunday's tilt as winners of two in a row, never seemed to find an offensive rhythm. Talor Battle, who entered the game as one of the leading scorers in the Big Ten, was held to just three points in the first half on 1-of-6 shooting.

His Nittany Lions were down 13 at the break.

"I thought they got into him," DeChellis said of the way UW defended Battle. "I thought they made him work."

Though the talented senior guard finished with a game-high 23 points, it took 17 shots to get there and a few late 3-pointers that needed to be made while being defended how one might expect a team to defend with a late lead.

For the most part nothing came easy for him. And a lot of that had to do with the way Josh Gasser got into him defensively.

"His positioning was, 90 percent of the time, pretty good," UW head coach Bo Ryan said following Gassers' 11-point, five-assist effort. "Twice he ended up not getting up on Battle and he hit that one from about 30 (feet). He helped off a little bit on a dribbler and that's all Talor Battle needs, just for someone to get off him just a little. As soon as it gets in his hands he can let it go with the best of them.

"So he should have stayed with Battle, but other than that he stuck his nose in there and he was tough on defense."

Jordan Taylor, who also tried his hand against Battle defensively, seemed to have a rare off night. The junior guard still found a way to score 13 points even though he only hit four of his 11 shots. Taylor also dished seven assists and didn't commit a turnover against a pesky Nittany Lion defense.

Though he had a quiet night in comparison to some of his recent offensive explosions, Taylor still found himself as the centerpiece during a questionable sequence late in the second half, though.

Following a fast break where Leuer tried attacking the rim only to be whistled for a charge, one of the officials wrongly told the scorer's table that Taylor committed the foul.

Shortly after the announcement was made Taylor was flagged with a technical foul when voicing his side of the story, particularly the fact that the foul wasn't on him.

"I obviously knew that I was the one that ran into him, but I thought that maybe after Jordan passed it that he might have run into someone and knocked him down," Leuer said. "Otherwise I would have gone over to the ref and told him that I went into him. I don't really know what Jordan said. I was kind of close to him and I think he just said that the foul wasn't on him. Obviously the ref gave him a technical.

"Later he said that was the wrong thing to do."

In the end it didn't hurt the Badgers too much, even though Battle made two free throws that would have never happened had the original call been made the way it was meant to be. After the penalty throws, the referees reversed the foul call and rightfully issued it to Leuer.

That was about the only thing that went wrong for the Badgers, though, as they improved to 20-6 on the season while keeping faint hope for a regular season conference title alive. UW also extended its home winning streak to 18 games and it's winning streak following a loss to 20 games.

"Losing leaves a sour taste in your mouth," Leuer said. "You just want to get rid of that as quickly as possible. The group of guys that we have, have done a great job of refocusing after a loss and picking up things that they didn't do well, and correcting them. When we're faced with some adversity after a loss, we just rally together and work off one another.

"That's the biggest thing, just staying together as a team, listening to the coaches and we right the ship."

GAME NOTES:

-Keaton Nankivil did not address the media following the game as he was getting treatment on his nicked up ankle. Jordan Taylor also did not address the media, though he wasn't requested enough by members of the media covering the game to warrant an appearance.

-With the win, Wisconsin has now compiled five straight seasons with at least 20 wins. That is good for the longest such streak in school history. Bo Ryan has now led eight of his 10 teams at UW to the 20-win plateau.

-UW also became the only team to have beaten all of the other 10 conference teams this season with the victory.

-The Badgers have not lost back-to-back games since losing six in a row during the 2009 season.

-Gasser and Taylor combined to dish 12 assists during the win over Penn State. Together they only committed one turnover.

-UW hit 18 of its 21 attempts from the free throw line (85.7 percent) and improved its season percentage from the line to a Big Ten-leading 82.6 percent.

-By hitting all five of his 3-point attempts, Nankivil upped his career 3-point percentage to .424. That ties him with Shelton Smith (1985=87) for fifth on the Badgers all-time 3-point shooting percentage list.

QUOTABLE:

Bo Ryan describing what happened when Taylor was whistled with a technical foul:

"I believe there was an erroneous number given to the scorers table for the foul. They announced it as a foul against Jordan Taylor. Jordan Taylor said that foul was not on me from what I asked Jordan and Jordan was hit with a technical. So, they realized that it had been reported incorrectly, but it would behoove my players not to ever question a call. By questioning the call he was T'd up. That's exactly how I was talking to the official when I gave my version of it."






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