The Lonely Road

Wisconsin has developed itself into one of the best true road teams in the country over the last five seasons, but don't think the road has become its second home. When Wisconsin tips off against Marquette this afternoon, the Badgers will be looking for their first complete road game of the season.

MILWAUKEE – Nobody can argue with the success Wisconsin has had at the Kohl Center under the direction of Head Coach Bo Ryan.

In Ryan's 10 years as head coach, the Badgers are 140-11 (.927) at home, the fourth-best winning percentage in the country, 72-5 against non-conference teams, 55-1 against unranked teams and 19-1 against in-state teams.

This season, Wisconsin is 5-0 at home, averaging of 81.6 points per game with an average margin of victory of 30.5 points and shooting 50.3 percent from the field. If only the Badgers could translate that success away from Madison.

In four road games, Wisconsin (7-2) is shooting just 38.4 percent from the floor, 26.3 percent from three-point range and averaging only 57.8 points, holding a 2-2 record that nobody is satisfied with.

"We've had some rough first halves," said sophomore Mike Bruesewitz, as Wisconsin is shooting 40.8 percent in the opening 20 minutes compared to 49.6 percent in the second half. "It's just about us getting use to one another because we've had a lot of guys get a big jump in minutes. That's probably the thing right now, getting us to click."

The main difference in production can be noticed in Wisconsin's biggest offensive threat. At home, preseason All-Big Ten senior Jon Leuer has five 20-point games (23.4 points per) and is shooting 68.9 percent. In four games at road and neutral sites, Leuer is averaging 15.8 points and shooting 41.8 percent.

"I think he's forced some shots (in the two losses)," associate head coach Greg Gard said. "He's seen it. He knows about it and he's seen it on film. You've got to know when to shoot and when not to shoot. It's something he'll continue to get better at because he already has improved at it."

Gard went on to brush off the differences, citing the small sample pool (only four games) and the fact the Badgers have played three top-end opponents, as Boston College, Notre Dame and UNLV have a combined record of 24-3.

Still, the inability to handle certain fundamental aspects on the road compared to games at home is what is disconcerting.

In Las Vegas, the Badgers had the ball for 51 of the final 55.9 seconds and trailing by one, but couldn't secure the win, as missed jumpers and a total of 15 turnovers equaled their demise. In the championship of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Wisconsin had an 11-point second-half lead, but saw it wither when Notre Dame scored 15 straight points in the final four minutes to pull away.

"We've played some really good teams away from home … and sometimes pressure forces us to do things we typically wouldn't do," said Gard. "Decisions get magnified because of the type of game we are in. When you are playing tied and throw the ball away or dribble off your foot, those situations tend to stick out more than when you have a 20-point lead."

Even with the disparity, don't think for one second Wisconsin will be intimidated when it tips off against in-state rival Marquette (7-2) at a raucous Bradley Center. Over the last five seasons, Wisconsin owns the sixth-best record in true road games among BCS Conference schools, compiling a 26-18 (.591) when playing in opposing arenas.

The reason – as is the case with most UW victories – is the combination of solid defense and ball security.

Wisconsin leads the Big Ten and is tied for third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 52.6 points per game. UW opponents are shooting just 37.1 percent on the year, which leads the Big Ten, and for the second straight season, Wisconsin also leads the nation in fewest turnovers per game (9.2).

"You just have to go in there, keep the same mentality and we're confident that we can do that," said junior Jordan Taylor, who is 10th in the nation with a 3.82 assist-to-turnover ratio. "(It's about) making good decisions with the ball and not turning it over. (Marquette) is obviously very explosive in the open court and we don't want to give them a lot of chances for fast break points."

Marquette, a school known to push the tempo and score in transition under Head Coach Buzz Williams, is hoping schools play its pace, thus committing easy turnovers. The Golden Eagles have forced their opponents into an average of 17.8 turnovers a game compared to 0.9 assists per content.

With Wisconsin hoping to win in the Bradley Center for the first time since 2006, the Badgers recognize that speed is their enemy.

"Teams have tried to make it an up-and-down game, so we have to make sure that we control the tempo and the pace to what we want," Bruesewitz said. "If we want to make sure we don't get into a track meet and make them control the game."

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