TSX REPORT: Wisconsin Badgers

When the regular season ends, senior forward Jon Leuer and point guard Jordan Taylor are going to be voted to the Big Ten's all-league team. But if Wisconsin intends to make a run at the Big Ten title, other guys are going to have to approach that level of play more often than not.


When the regular season ends, senior forward Jon Leuer and point guard Jordan Taylor are going to be voted to the Big Ten's all-league team. But if Wisconsin intends to make a run at the Big Ten title, other guys are going to have to approach that level of play more often than not.

Senior center Keaton Nankivil seems like the most likely candidate to provide such a boost. With his recent 3-point shooting spree, Nankivil is causing even more grief for opponents' defensive schemes that already are stretched to the limit against the Badgers.

In Saturday's 76-66 home win over No. 16 Illinois, for example, Nankivil helped turn a 27-25 halftime edge into a 37-25 bulge by swishing a pair of 3-pointers. Even though the Illini defenders had been warned not to leave Nankivil alone on the perimeter -- or to pretend to collapse against a driver and then jump back into his face -- Nankivil kept getting open.

Point guard Jordan Taylor penetrated and kicked to Nankivil on the wing for two of his three second-half 3-pointers, while big man Jared Berggren fed him for the other. In Big Ten play leading up to Thursday's home game with Indiana, Nankivil is shooting 57 percent (16 of 28) from beyond the arc and averaging 13.2 points per game.

"Taylor and Leuer are obviously your two main guys," said Illinois coach Bruce Weber, "but Nankivil, he's a great spot-up shooter. He knows the system. He's older. He knows how to play off of Leuer, play off of Taylor, play off of the system to get open shots. If he's open, you kind of know, you have a feeling, it's going to go in. When that's your big guy doing that, that really spreads your defense."

Now, if only Nankivil shoot as well when he has an unimpeded dunk. Late in the the second half against Illinois, Nankivil took advantage of a drawn-out defender and drove past him for a monstrous dunk. But as quickly as Nankivil threw it down and shook the rim, the ball flew out of the hoop. It was the second time this season that Nankivil couldn't get a dunk to go.

"You see that once in a lifetime," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. "I am hoping he can't do it three times."


--In all five of Wisconsin's Big Ten games this season, three players have scored in double figures. In all five games it was the same three guys: senior forward Jon Leuer, junior point guard Jordan Taylor and senior center Keaton Nankivil.

They've teamed up for 243 of Wisconsin's 332 points (73.2 percent) during the team's 3-2 league start. In fact, Taylor enters Week 4 of Big Ten play as the league's scoring leader. He's averaging 20.4 points per game, which says plenty about his consistency because his season-high is 22 points.

--Redshirt sophomore Jared Berggren earned his first career start Saturday against Illinois. Part of it had to do with matchups as the 6-foot-10 Berggren fit nicely alongside Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil against Illinois' tall front line of Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis and Bill Cole. Part of it had to do with Bo Ryan's continuing search for the right fit of players.

"A lot of times maybe it's an initial matchup," Ryan said. "Maybe it's just some guys need to get on the bench and watch from the bench. And maybe some guys just need games where they need to get their psyche back."

--Wisconsin continues to be the nation's runaway leader in fewest turnovers per game. Despite committing a Big Ten-worst 11 miscues in their overtime loss Jan. 11 at Michigan State, the Badgers are averaging just 8.2 turnovers per game.

BY THE NUMBERS: 16.9 -- This year's Wisconsin edition hasn't been getting to the free-throw line anywhere near as frequently as the usual Bo Ryan squad. But the Badgers' per-game free-throw average jumped from 15.4 attempts to 16.9 in one afternoon as Wisconsin made 34 of 41 free throws in Saturday's win over Illinois. The Badgers' previous FTA high this season was 26.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If it was 'The Gong Show,' they would have hooked us all. There wouldn't have been anybody left. Players. Coaches. But I told the officials, I really wouldn't want that job. I think he thought he was being funny, but I was being honest. How would you like to have to officiate that?" -- Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan talking about the Illinois contest that featured 54 fouls and 77 free-throw attempts. The Badgers and Illini combined to shoot 48 free throws in the final 10 minutes and 26 in the final two minutes.

--vs. Indiana, Jan. 20

KEY MATCHUPS: The Hoosiers will roll into the Kohl Center with a head of steam after earning their first Big Ten win of the season. Sophomore power forward Christian Watford will be a tough matchup for the Badgers. While he has the size and the athleticism to score inside, he tends to prefer to drift outside and drill 3-pointers. Depending on whether the Badgers go big or small with their lineup, Jon Leuer could be responsible for taming Watford (16.4 points per game).

--at Northwestern, Jan. 23

KEY MATCHUPS: Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon used to love to shoot against Northwestern's zones, but the guard tandem is long gone from Madison. This game could turn on the battle between high-scoring forwards Jon Leuer and John Shurna. They roomed together in Las Vegas during the summer while working against the U.S. National team, so they're familiar with each other on and off the floor. Both love to shoot 3-pointers, but have improved their ability to put the ball on the floor.


Redshirt sophomore Ryan Evans looks like he should be a solid reserve at a few spots on the floor, but the 6-foot-6, 210-pound swingman is working on a short leash these days. He played a season-low 1 minute on Saturday against Illinois as he came in, didn't do the right thing immediately in the first half and came out of the game.


--Senior F Jon Leuer rebounded from a subpar effort Jan. 11 at Michigan State (10 points on 3 of 9 shooting) by going off for a game-high 26 points in Saturday's home win over Illinois. Leuer, who also grabbed 9 rebounds, showed his intentions early when he ripped the game's first rebound away from Illinois' Bill Cole. He also spent a little more time scoring on the post as he kept hitting jump hooks over 6-foot-9 Mike Davis.

--Junior G Rob Wilson started and played 32 minutes in Tuesday's loss at Michigan State, then didn't get off the bench on Saturday against Illinois. Sophomore center Jared Berggren started for Wilson, who might have been Bo Ryan's target audience when he said that "some guys need to get on the bench and watch from the bench."

--Freshman G Josh Gasser might not be in Wisconsin's starting lineup anymore, but he's in Bo Ryan's good graces. Gasser, who has come off the bench in the last three games after making 13 starts, earned 23 minutes against Illinois for his solid defense and floor play. He didn't shoot from the field, grab a rebound or hand out an assist, but he made 2 free throws and drew a crucial fourth foul from 7-foot-1 center Mike Tisdale when he got caught guarding him in the post.

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