November 18, 2009

UW defense stymies Oakland in win

MADISON - You can chalk this one up to Wisconsin's defense.

By the end of Wednesday's tussle with Oakland, the Badgers had held the Golden Grizzlies to a paltry 27.3 percent shooting clip from the field, forced 16 turnovers and blocked eight shots.

With that defense and adequate offense, UW improved to 2-0 heading into next week's Maui Invitational after a scrappy 58-42 win Wednesday night.

"We never leave it to chance," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said following the win. "We play screens a certain way and we chase them and try to force them to certain areas. From scouting reports we try to find out where their comfort zone is. It's the same thing we've been doing for almost 30 years."

UW and Oakland were locked in a physical affair midway through the first half when senior guard Trevon Hughes forced Oakland's lanky center Keith Benson, who junior forward Jon Leuer called a "load to handle," into committing his third foul.

On the play, Hughes drove the lane, got under the basket and pump faked twice before Benson left his feet. He rose up for the block but Hughes drew enough contact to warrant the foul call.

From that point on and with Benson (12 points and nine rebounds) off the floor, Hughes and the Badgers were able to carve up the Golden Grizzlies inside and continually force them into difficult situations defensively.

"I didn't know he had two fouls on him but I should have known," Hughes, who finished with a game-high 15 points said. "Just pump faking. In the scouting report we knew that he liked to leave his feet and block shots. It was just a smart play at the time."

After that, UW expanded a 23-14 lead to a double-digit halftime margin. In the second half, the Badgers were able to completely open up the game and eventually pulled ahead by 20 points.

The catalyst in the second half was Keaton Nankivil. He had 11 of his 13 points in the final frame on 5-of-8 shooting. He also collected nine boards, blocked four shots and dished an assist while being matched up with Benson and Madison native Will Hudson for the majority of the night.

"I think that for them it wasn't as much for who we had on the floor," Nankivil said following the game. "It was about their big guy. He's a big time shot blocker. As a shot blocker you are going to get a lot of that in the paint and that's probably where he felt most comfortable.

"So the way the match-up worked, he was in the paint a lot more than not. I think we made good reads all the way around and we hit the guys that need to be hit, like Jon. Jon knocked down the shots."

Leuer, who entered the game as the Badgers leading scorer through one game, finished with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He was instrumental in the paint and displayed a soft knack around the rim.

He also chipped in two blocks, helping his team begin the season with 19 blocks in only two games. In addition to that, neither IPFW or Oakland were able to score 50 points on the Badgers.

A welcome sign as Wisconsin prepares for stiffer competition in Hawaii next week.

"That's what our whole system is predicated off of - getting stops defensively, forcing teams to take tough shots. We've been able to do that so far. We still feel like we have some room for improvement. Tonight the guys did a great job chasing. The bigs played physical down low.

"Overall, I think it was just a good team defensive effort."

For Oakland, losing two of its bigger players to foul trouble and shooting only 3-of-19 from downtown really hampered any chance of an upset.

"We came out, got it inside, we scored, I think we were up 8-4, and then we had both of those guys on the bench with two fouls," Oakland head coach Greg Kampe said. "That changed the whole game. We had to go with smalls and we couldn't guard them."

Post-game notes:

-Oakland's 42-point performance was the fewest by any opponent since the Badgers held Michigan to 34 in the 2008 Big Ten Tournament. The Golden Grizzlies 27.3 percent shooting is also the lowest shooting percentage by an opponent since Michigan only shot 20 percent in that same game.

-To put the Badgers 11 and eight blocks throughout the first two games into perspective, just look back at last year. Throughout the entire season, UW only tallied more than six swats in three separate games.

-In addition to his game-high 15 points, Hughes also recorded a career-high seven rebounds.

-Nankivil's four blocks also set a career-high and matched his career high with two steals.

-Freshman Ryan Evans played 22-minutes and ripped down a career-best seven boards.

-Mike Bruesewitz answered any redshirt questions when he stepped foot on the floor late in the second half. He played two minutes and committed two turnovers.


-When asked what Hughes gave Bo Ryan during his play on the court tonight, this is how the coach responded. (Note: Hughes had four assists and four turnovers)

"A headache….Because on some of those passes, there's no way in the world. That would be like taking a needle and taking a thread and throwing it through the eye of the needle. I don't think Pop could do that. He's better with the ball than that."

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