The Illinois ship has been righted. Wins over Wisconsin and Penn State has Bruce Weber's team sitting a half-game behind Michigan State and in excellent position to win the Big Ten regular season championship.
Illinois has significantly improved its defense since the early part of January. But the area that may make the biggest difference is the play of guard Dee Brown. The quicksilver point guard had a spectacular game in the 66-58 win over Penn State - 24 points, 6-of-10 on three-pointers - but Weber is not naive enough to believe that Brown has turned the corner.
Weber's concerns may be even greater after Brown's great game. Brown is shooting 38 percent for the season and has struggled with his outside shot. If he has a new dose of confidence as a result of his great game against the Nittany Lions and starts firing from all angles, the Illini could be in for some difficult games down the stretch.
But that negative view was far from the surface after the win at Penn State. As many observers predicted, Illinois had a huge target on its back following the win over Wisconsin, and Penn State came out with a great effort. The Illini needed someone to step up and Brown was not hesitant to fill that role.
"I knew I was going to shoot it once I got it in my hands," Brown said. "Once I hit a couple, there's no more passing. When I'm hot, there aren't too many shots I don't like."
Every once in a while, every team needs a player who won't hesitate to put it up under any circumstance. It usually makes a difference against a fired-up team of overachievers. However, Weber knows that if Brown becomes greedy, it could result in major problems the rest of the way.
Illinois leads the all-time series with Penn State 16-6. The Illini has won 7-of-10 games at Penn State.
- Illinois is the hottest team in the Big Ten with eight wins in its last nine conference games.
- Illinois is connecting on 46.3 percent of its shots from the field - which is tied for second in the Big Ten with Iowa. Michigan State is the best-shooting team in the conference.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Forward James Augustine, forward Roger Powell, center Nick Smith, guard Dee Brown, guard Deron Williams
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He had a breakout game when we needed it. Just magical. When he released it, you knew it was going in. It didn't matter where it was from." - Illinois head coach Bruce Weber on the 24-point effort by Dee Brown against Penn State on Feb. 21.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: at Iowa, Feb. 25; vs. Northwestern, Feb. 28
KEYS: The Illini started to right the ship in a January win over Iowa. In that game, Bruce Weber's team played well in the second half and played solid defense for 40 minutes. The same effort will be needed if the Illini is going to register a win on the road. Northwestern defeated Illinois in Evanston, so look for a sensational effort by the Illini in this revenge one.
- Guard Dee Brown had his best game of the season with 24 points and six assists in the win at Penn State.
- Guard Deron Williams is the team's leading scorer. He is averaging 13.9 ppg this year.
- Guard Luther Head made 4-of-9 three-point shots in the win at Penn State and is a key option off the bench.
Say this about Mike Davis. This season's version of the Hoosiers bears absolutely no resemblance to the team that former Indiana head coach Bob Knight used to lead.
While the environment around the team might be much more peaceful off the court than it ever was when Knight was coaching, there is no resemblance to the team on the floor. Especially on the defensive end.
After losses to Minnesota and Ohio State last week, an argument can be made that the Hoosiers are playing worse than any team in the Big Ten. Even if the Hoosiers can pull out of their funk and win a few games down the stretch, the interior defense is abominable.
Center George Leach was supposed to be the big stopper on the interior this season, but he has been a liability when he has been in the lineup. Various injuries kept him out early in the season, but he is healthy now. He is also ponderous and slow and Big Ten teams have been taking advantage of him.
The latest to do that is Ohio State center Velimir Radinovic, who scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds. Radinovic operated with impunity as he made 10-of-14 shots.
"We haven't stopped anyone in the paint all year," Davis said. "Everybody we play will have a career night in the post."
Davis has to figure out an answer or the Hoosiers will be on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament. A trip to Northwestern this week will be a very difficult one to handle.
The Hoosiers had won eight of their previous 10 home games against Ohio State before losing at home Feb. 21.
- The Hoosiers continue to struggle from the field. They are connecting on 39.6 percent of their shots - ranking 10th in the Big Ten.
- The Hoosiers are under .500 (6-7) at home after losing to Minnesota and Ohio State.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Center George Leach, forward A.J. Moye, guard Bracey Wright, guard Donald Perry, guard Marshall Strickland.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Every loss here is like the end of the world. It's so hard around here when you lose." - Indiana head coach Mike Davis on the demanding atmosphere around the Indiana basketball program.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: at Northwestern, Feb. 25
KEYS: The Hoosiers have lost six of seven games and they may have sealed their fate last week with home losses to Minnesota and Ohio State. The last thing they need is a trip to Northwestern. The Wildcats may not be the most talented team in the Big Ten, but head coach Bill Carmody has them playing disciplined, smart basketball. Northwestern is especially aggressive at home, so the first five minutes of both halves will be critical for the Hoosiers.
- Guard Bracey Wright is starting to feel the pressure of being the team's most consistent go-to offensive threat. Wright is averaging 19.8 ppg, but his shooting percentage has dipped to 38.7 percent.
- Backup center/forward Sean Kline is still unable to play as a result of a severely sprained knee.
- Guard Marshall Strickland is second to Wright in scoring at 11.2 ppg, but he's shooting just 37 percent.
The Hawkeyes made the most of their opportunity last week and took apart Ohio State on the road.
Now comes the true test. They get a chance to host Illinois, the hottest team in the Big Ten.
Iowa lacks depth and firepower off the bench, but Steve Alford has gotten his team to play very consistently over the past month. The Hawkeyes are choosing their shots carefully and are not putting the ball up at the first available opportunity. Instead, they are carefully breaking down their opponents and using their possessions wisely.
In the 78-67 victory at Ohio State on Feb. 18, guard Brody Boyd scored 23 points and connected on 8-of-12 shots from the field. His excellent shooting opened up opportunities for his teammates.
"When Brody's shooting like he was (Wednesday), it opens a lot of avenues for the other guys," Pierre Pierce told the Des Moines Register. "He was the reason I was able to score so well."
Iowa shot 62.1 percent in the first half and 56.3 percent for the game, the second-best performance of the season. The Hawkeyes were 9-for-15 from three-point range, and got great looks against Ohio State's porous defense.
That's what Alford has emphasized from his players. He wants them to keep working the ball around and looking for good shots. They will be tested by the Illini, a team that appears to have found its own rhythm.
Iowa is now the top-scoring team in the Big Ten with an average of 73.7 ppg.
- The Hawkeyes are the leading three-point shooting team in the Big Ten with a mark of 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.
- Head coach Steve Alford has his team in fourth place in the Big Ten with a 7-5 record. If the Hawkeyes can finish over the .500 mark, it will be the first time they have had a winning conference record during the Alford era. Alford was named head coach prior to the start of the 1999-2000 season.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Brody Boyd, guard Jeff Horner, forward Greg Worley, guard Pierre Pierce, forward Greg Brunner.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We took it to them in the second half. We played hard and didn't let their big guys operate." - Iowa forward Greg Brunner on the hard-nosed style the Iowa frontcourt used in its Feb. 18 win at Ohio State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Illinois, Feb. 25; vs. Minnesota, Feb. 28
KEYS: The Hawkeyes have been playing harder and much smarter basketball. The result has been a 7-5 record that has impressed Big Ten coaches. However, the Hawkeyes will learn a lot about themselves when the Illini comes to Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will need to find a way to combat the athleticism and quickness of Dee Brown. Iowa is much better than Minnesota, but could have a hard time if Kris Humphries has a sharp game.
- Guard Brody Boyd leads the Big Ten with 2.4 steals per game.
- Guard Jeff Horner leads the Hawkeyes with 4.5 assists per game.
- Guard Pierre Pierce leads the Hawkeyes in scoring with an average of 16.8 ppg.
It was the question on everybody's mind - yet few people from Michigan wanted to talk about it.
The Wolverines played their best game of the year in beating Wisconsin 71-59 on Feb. 22. The victory improved Michigan's record to .500 in the Big Ten and allowed them to have realistic hopes of making the NCAA tournament.
Michigan players were not interested in discussing those postseason chances. Michigan is more concerned with upcoming games against Michigan State and Ohio State.
"I try not to talk about the NCAA tournament," said Michigan guard Lester Abram, who scored 17 points against the Badgers. "We don't know what it is going to take to get us in, so coach (Tommy Amaker) doesn't want us worrying about it."
Amaker wants his team to take care of the basketball and take good shots. It did just that against Wisconsin as the Wolverines made 25-of-43 shots from the field - including 4-of-11 from beyond the arc.
"I just thought our kids were in a good frame of mind," Amaker told the Detroit Free Press. "We're staying in the moment. We're not getting all caught up in the talk about needing wins or whatever. We're trying to get better. When you stay in the moment, you have a chance to control some of the things you can."
One of the Wolverines who took that to heart was forward Bernard Robinson. He scored 11 points before leaving with a head injury and keyed a decisive 22-5 run by the Wolverines late in the first half. Robinson had two three-pointers and two assists in the run.
Michigan will try to keep its momentum this week vs. Michigan State and Ohio State.
Michigan's 71-59 victory over Wisconsin improved its all-time record to 85-55 vs. the Badgers.
- Michigan has dominated Wisconsin at Ann Arbor, winning 10 of the last 11 meetings.
- Michigan is allowing 63.5 ppg, which ranks third in the Big Ten.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Daniel Horton, forward Bernard Robinson, forward Graham Brown, center Courtney Sims, guard Lester Abram.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "His play got us out of the blocks early. He played pretty much the way I think he's played all year for us. He's been as efficient and as consistent as anybody." - Head coach Tommy Amaker on the play of Bernard Robinson against Wisconsin.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Michigan State, Feb. 24; vs. Ohio State, Feb. 29
KEYS: Was the win over Wisconsin a fluke, or did it signify a key growth spurt for the Wolverines? There is no doubt that Tommy Amaker has a very talented team, but the Wolverines had been dreadfully inconsistent prior to the win over the Badgers. They are thrown right back into the fire with a home game against hot-shooting Michigan State. A win over the Spartans would give the Wolverines an almost-certain berth in the NCAA tournament.
- Guard Lester Abram scored 17 points in the win over Wisconsin and leads the team with an average of 13.0 ppg.
- Guard Daniel Horton continues to play erratically. In Michigan's 12-point win over Wisconsin, Horton missed all five shots he took from the field.
- Forward Bernard Robinson scored 11 points in the win over Wisconsin and keyed a 22-5 run late in the first half with two three-pointers. He left the game in the second half with a minor head injury.
The key to Michigan State's resurgence in the Big Ten this season has been its hot shooting.
The Spartans followed their usual formula in registering a 66-56 win over Northwestern at the Breslin Center on Feb. 21.
In that game, Michigan State connected on 27-of-50 shots from the field and played tough defense to put away the Wildcats. The Spartans led by just four at halftime, but their athleticism and depth was too much for the Wildcats in the final 20 minutes.
It was balanced scoring that keyed the Michigan State offense. Chris Hill led the way with 16 points and three other Spartans scored 10 or more - Paul Davis (15), Maurice Ager (14) and Alan Anderson (12).
With Hill and Davis remaining the main cogs in the Michigan State offense, head coach Tom Izzo implored the rest of his team to look for its shots more aggressively.
"Coach Izzo told me to be more aggressive on offense and look for some shots," Anderson told the Chicago Tribune. "It helps the team a lot when I can be a scoring threat. I hit some shots early, so it forced Northwestern to guard me. That's when it opens things up for the other guys."
That is the tried-and-true formula for the Spartans. Hill and Davis have to carry the biggest share of the load, but the rest of the team must connect on scoring opportunities or the Spartans will be just an ordinary team.
That's what they were at the start of the season, but Michigan State has moved to the top of the Big Ten. To stay there, MSU will have to beat Michigan and Penn State on the road this week.
Michigan State has dominated Northwestern by winning 41 of 48 games at home.
- The Spartans are the No. 3 scoring team in the Big Ten behind Iowa and Illinois.
- The Spartans are shooting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc - second to Iowa in the Big Ten.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Chris Hill, center Paul Davis, guard Kelvin Torbert, forward Alan Anderson, guard Shannon Brown.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we wore them down a little bit. That was just depth." - Head coach Tom Izzo on Michigan State's win over Northwestern.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: at Michigan, Feb. 24; at Penn State, Feb. 28
KEYS: Look for Michigan State to come up with one of its best games of the season against Michigan. The Wolverines will be sky high for this game after beating Wisconsin, but Michigan State's great strength is its ability to play with poise. The Spartans are much more consistent than the Wolverines. Penn State plays tough at home, so the Spartans could be challenged.
- Center Paul Davis leads the Spartans with an average of 15.8 ppg.
- Forward Alan Anderson did a solid job leading the offense with six assists against Northwestern.
- Guard Kelvin Torbert leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting. He is connecting on 47.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
A week to prepare for Michigan State allowed the Wildcats to give the Spartans a scare - but it was not enough to come away with upset in East Lansing.
Northwestern used its zone defense to win six games in the Big Ten this season and tried to get a seventh in East Lansing. The Spartans, however, would have none of it. Michigan State worked the ball around extremely well and also played tough defense of its own. The Spartans forced 10 turnovers in the first half, and that caused plenty of problems for Northwestern.
"We played well in the first half, but we just turned the ball over too much," head coach Bill Carmody said. "We had 10 turnovers in the first half and they converted them into layups. In the second half, they had more intensity. They got the ball inside and they penetrated."
The loss damaged Northwestern's flimsy chances of making the NCAA tournament. A spot in the NIT is a distinct possibility, but the Wildcats must take advantage of three remaining home games. The first is against struggling Indiana this week.
"We actually learned a lot from playing this team (Michigan State)," guard Jitim Young told the Chicago Tribune. "We just have to look forward to Indiana."
The Wildcats continue to do a great job of passing the ball. They registered 26 assists in the 66-56 loss to Michigan State on Feb. 21.
- Three-point shooting was a key issue in the loss to Michigan State. Northwestern made just 2-of-16 from beyond the arc against the Spartans.
- The Wildcats are averaging 63.0 ppg this year - ranking them 10th in the Big Ten.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Jitim Young, guard T.J. Parker, center Davor Duvancic, forward Vedran Vukusic, guard Mohammed Hachad
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is definitely a goal that is attainable." - Northwestern guard Jitim Young on the team's chances of earning a spot in the NIT.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Indiana, Feb. 25; at Illinois, Feb. 28
KEYS: The Wildcats play with tremendous effort and consistency and they have a very good chance to come up with the home win over the Hoosiers. Head coach Bill Carmody realizes the Hoosiers have problems defending the interior, so look for him to attack with Davor Duvancic. Northwestern defeated Illinois at home earlier this year, so look for a max effort by the Illini. It could get ugly for the Wildcats.
- Guard T.J Parker was held in check in the loss at Michigan State. He had just eight points and two assists.
- Guard Jitim Young leads the Wildcats with an average of 17.6 ppg.
- Guard Evan Seacat did not play against Michigan State after suffering a concussion in a win over Penn State. He should be available to play against Indiana. Seacat is an important outside shooting option for the Wildcats.
Size is not the issue for Ohio State. It never has been and head coach Jim O'Brien has been urging his team to use its frontcourt size to make a difference.
Center Velimir Radinovic and forward Terence Dials bring plenty of size and strength to the table. Radinovic checks in at 7-0 and 230 pounds, while Dials is 6-9 and 240 pounds. More often than not, the Buckeye bangers have not pounded their opponents for 40 minutes this year. They have played well in spurts, but consistency has not been their greatest asset.
That was not the case when the Buckeyes went to Indiana on Feb. 21. While the Hoosiers are fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament, they could not handle the Buckeyes who came up with a 59-56 victory. In that game, Radinovic and Dials dominated. Radinovic scored 23 points - 19 in the decisive second half - and had 10 rebounds. Dials was right behind with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
While Indiana head coach Mike Davis was beside himself at his team's inability to stop the Ohio State duo, Dials and Radinovic were ecstatic with their production. "We were just playing with confidence," Radinovic said. "Terence and I were playing well off each other and we were able to get some easy shots."
Their play - along with J.J. Sullinger's baseline jumper with 17 seconds to go - keyed the upset. The Buckeyes will try to sustain their recent success with road games at Minnesota and Michigan this week.
Ohio State's win at Indiana was just its third in Bloomington in the past 11 years..
- The Buckeyes are shooting just 43.8 percent from the field, ranking seventh in the Big Ten.
- Ohio State outrebounded Indiana 34-29 in its 59-56 victory.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Tony Stockman, guard J.J. Sullinger, forward Terence Dials, center Velimir Radinovic, guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We knew we had the advantage. Velimir just had an awesome game and I played well in the first half. If we can both play well, it's going to be tough to beat us." - Ohio State forward Terence Dials.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: at Minnesota, Feb. 25; at Michigan, Feb. 28
KEYS: The Buckeyes aren't going to the NCAA tournament, but they can end their season on a positive note with a strong finish. Beating Minnesota is a distinct possibility, but the Buckeyes will have to bring the same kind of effort they had at Indiana. A desperate Michigan squad may be tough to beat on the road.
- Forward Terence Dials had 10 rebounds in the win over Indiana and leads the Buckeyes in rebounding with 6.5 per game.
- Guard Tony Stockman leads the Buckeyes with 12.7 ppg. He was just 2-of-9 against Indiana and is shooting 37.2 percent for the season.
- Center Velimir Radinovic scored 23 points against Indiana and is shooting 67.4 percent from the field.
The Nittany Lions found themselves in the unfortunate position of going up against the hottest team in the Big Ten when Illinois came to Happy Valley on Feb. 21.
Penn State, which had been destroyed at Illinois by 43 points Jan. 21, came after the Illini without hesitation. Penn State was in the game throughout before Illinois finally pulled out an eight-point win.
Guard Marlon Smith and power forward Jan Jagla were the keys to the Penn State offense. Smith scored 16 points and handed out a team-leading five assists. Jagla threw his powerful 7-0 body around and came up with 10 points for head coach Ed DeChellis.
The Nittany Lions actually took a brief lead when Smith hit a layup with 15 minutes left, but Penn State could not contain Illini guard Dee Brown. The superquick Brown burned the Lions with 24 points.
But DeChellis like the attitude and effort he got from his team - especially on the heels of that blowout loss at Illinois. Penn State is clearly a more competitive team this year than it was last season under former coach Jerry Dunn, but the Nittany Lions have lost six straight games and haven't won since beating Northwestern 63-61 Jan. 28.
The frustration is growing significantly in Happy Valley and games against Wisconsin and Michigan State are not likely to alter that.
Penn State has lost 7-of-10 home games to Illinois and trails the all-time series 16-6.
- Penn State is averaging 59.4 ppg - ranking last in the Big Ten.
- Penn State had one of its best shooting games of the season in the 66-58 loss to Illinois. Penn State connected 20-of-43 shots from the field, but the Nittany Lions are shooting 39.5 percent for the season.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Power forward Jan Jagla, guard Marlon Smith, guard Ben Luber, forward Ndu Egekeze, center Robert Summers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's huge. I'm trying to shoot over him and he's just a mountain." - Illinois guard Dee Brown on Penn State power forward Jan Jagla.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: at Wisconsin, Feb. 25; vs. Michigan State, Feb. 28
KEYS: This could get nasty for the Nittany Lions. Wisconsin is coming off a 12-point loss at Michigan and will be more than happy to take it out on Penn State. The Lions just don't have the weapons to stay with Wisconsin or Michigan State.
- Freshman guard Marlon Smith is coming off a sensational 16-point game against Illinois. He is averaging 12.5 ppg, but he is shooting 34 percent.
- Forward Jan Jagla is averaging a team-high 14.1 ppg and also leads the Lions in rebounding with 8.4 per game.
- Freshman guard Ben Luber leads Penn State with 4.2 assists per game.
Don't tell the Boilermakers that their 65-47 win at Minnesota was just a routine accomplishment.
While the Gophers are sitting in last place in the Big Ten, Purdue head coach Gene Keady saw his team play with emotion and toughness for 40 minutes. As a result, Purdue got a rare road blowout.
Keady and his coaching staff were very concerned with Minnesota freshman forward Kris Humphries, the leading scorer in the Big Ten. He was coming off a 36-point effort against Indiana and Keady thought Purdue needed to get off to a quick start if it wanted to control Humphries and the Minnesota offense.
"I wanted our guys to get off to a great start and play with a lot of energy," Keady said. "That's what I put on the blackboard. They listened to me and we had control of the game. The defense and the pressure were right there."
The win was a crucial one for Purdue because it had lost at Michigan State in its previous game. With a crucial game coming up at Wisconsin, Keady knew his team couldn't take a losing streak into Madison if it wanted to have a realistic chance of winning.
Purdue got balanced scoring with four players in double figures. Melvin Buckley led the team with 15 points, and David Teague had 13. Kenneth Lowe and Brandon McKnight each had 10 points.
The Boilermakers are averaging 65.9 ppg - ranking seventh in the Big Ten.
- The Boilermakers are getting the job done at the free throw line. They are shooting 73.8 percent - second to Michigan State in the Big Ten.
--Purdue's defense was sensational against Minnesota, holding the Gophers to a season-low 47 points. Northwestern also held Minnesota to 47 points Jan. 31.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Kenneth Lowe, guard David Teague, guard Brandon McKnight, forward Brett Buscher, center Ivan Kartelo.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's probably our best big man defensive player and he's been that way for three years now. We didn't have to do a double-team on (Kris Humphries) much because they didn't go in to him much. But Buscher gets a lot of credit for that." - Head coach Gene Keady on the defensive effort by Brett Buscher on Minnesota forward Kris Humphries.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: at Wisconsin, Feb. 29
KEYS: The Boilermakers probably need to play their best game of the season if they are going to win at Wisconsin. The Badgers have struggled in losses to Illinois and Michigan and have a few weaknesses, but they are letter-perfect at home and Purdue will need a great defensive effort and consistent scoring to hang with the hosts.
- Forward Matt Kiefer tried to play with a lingering foot injury and was in the lineup against Minnesota on Feb. 21, but went only three minutes before he had to sit the rest of the way.
- Purdue lost forward Matt Carroll to a right shoulder injury with 2:04 left in the first half against the Gophers.
- Purdue center Ivan Kartelo was arrested after punching a bouncer at a bar. Kartelo hit the employee of the Wabash Yacht Club early on Feb. 22 and faces preliminary charges of battery and public intoxication, police said. Prosecutors will decide what formal charges will be filed. Kartelo was booked into the Tippecanoe (Ind.) County Jail and released after posting bond. Purdue coach Gene Keady said he is investigating the incident and had not decided if Kartelo will play in the team's next game, at No. 12 Wisconsin on Feb. 29.
By nearly all accounts, this is supposed to be a down year for the Big Ten.
Talented but enigmatic Michigan is up one game and down the next. Illinois is hot right now, but started the season in uninspired fashion. Michigan State is resurgent in the Big Ten race, but lost all its quality non-conference games in November and December.
The one shining light the conference could point to has been Wisconsin.
Bo Ryan appeared to have a powerhouse on his hands. His team has long been noted for its physical style and he was impressing fans and foes with the ability to grind opponents down. Additionally, the Badgers had quite a bit of athleticism and could get up and down the court if the game turned into a track meet.
The Badgers had been holding down first place in the conference and they appeared to be well on their way to their third straight Big Ten title. However, they hit a huge pothole last week in losses at Illinois and Michigan.
The Badgers played hard in both games, but not very effectively. The loss to Michigan was especially troubling because it came on the heels of the loss to Illinois. The Badgers are always fired up, but they just didn't get the job done against Michigan. While Lester Abram and Bernard Robinson were making shots for the Wolverines, star Devin Harris was missing for the Badgers. He connected on just 5-of-20 shots against the Wolverines and was a horrifying 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.
More than the poor shooting, Wisconsin got beaten inside by Michigan. The Wolverines played with attitude at home and the Badgers did not always match the intensity.
"They beat us inside," Ryan said. "They just kept bringing them off the bench."
Wisconsin will try to right the ship at home this week in games against Penn State and Purdue.
The Badgers struggle badly at Michigan. They have lost 10 of their last 11 games in Ann Arbor.
- The Badgers have seen their shooting percentage dip to 44.5 percent - fifth in the conference.
- The Badgers bring a 26-game home winning steak into games this week against Penn State and Purdue.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Devin Harris, guard Zach Morley, forward Mike Wilkinson, forward Andreas Helmigk, center Dave Mader.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just have to play. We can't look at the standings and worry. We just have to play." - Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan on Wisconsin's two-game losing streak.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Penn State, Feb. 25; vs. Purdue, Feb. 29
KEYS: The Badgers are facing true adversity after losing two conference games in a row. They should be able to devastate Penn State if they come out strong in the first half. Purdue should present a challenge, but if Devin Harris can shake off his recent shooting woes the Badgers should prevail.
- Guard Devin Harris is the dominant player on the Badgers and is averaging 19.0 ppg. However, he is coming off a poor game against Michigan in which he made just 1-of-10 shots from beyond the arc.
- Center Dave Mader does not always play well on the road. He had just six points against Michigan and did assert himself.
- Forward Mike Wilkinson continues to play consistently. He scored 14 in the loss at Michigan and also had a team-high nine rebounds.
Big Ten Report: Strengths, flaws showing
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