Lessons Learned From The First Semester

Wisconsin's road win against Marquette will serve them well as they enter Big Ten played against a stacked conference this year.

MADISON — Not to commit the cardinal sin of over looking Coppin State, but unless a Christmas miracle occurs for the great fans of Baltimore, the non-conference season will wrap up for Wisconsin Thursday with a 10-2 record several lessons learned for the upcoming Big Ten season.

Lesson No. 1: Not to state the horribly obvious, but Wisconsin cannot withstand too many off games from Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor. As of right now, the Badgers haven't found a consistent third scorer to support the trio, thought both Keaton Nankivil and Mike Bruesewitz have tried out for the role.

In the loss at UNLV, Leuer shot 3-of-11 from the field and finished the game with 10 points and just four rebounds. UW as a team shot 36.5 percent, with only Ryan Evans making any sizable contribution to help out Leuer and Taylor on the scoring end.

Against Notre Dame, Taylor finished the game 6-of-19 from the field, and only Leuer and Taylor finished the game with double-digit points.

Games like this will happen again during conference play. The Badgers will need someone to shoulder a bit of the scoring load when the two stars don't have their 'A' games for the night.

"Those guys cannot be the only ones scoring for us," Nankivil said. "You cannot win games like that. We need more guys, myself included, to step up on that end … I have to become a little more assertive, but right now, being consistent is at least a start for me."

Lesson No. 2: The Badgers will be ready for some road battles.

UW took the unusual step of scheduling two true road games for the non-conference portion of the season, a rarity in today's college basketball. Further, both games were against strong opponents likely to be in the NCAA Tournament mix at seasons end.

The Badgers paid for the added experience with an early loss to UNLV, but showed some resolve at Marquette to close out a tough win. With freshman guard Josh Gasser and sophomore forward Mike Bruesewitz figuring as top-5 contributors in the rotation, the hostile and rowdy road crowds should pay dividends along the line.

With the Big Ten vying for position as the deepest and best conference in the land this year, the ability to steal a road game or two could make all the difference as strong team's jockey for conference position.

"We are the kind of team that is never satisfied, but at the same time I think we have made some good strides in the very short going. It becomes very apparent in that first Big Ten game," Nankivil said.

"The road games were great for us. UNLV is a tough loss but at the same time you get the experience with a hostile crowd playing a tough team. Marquette is a great win, it goes a long way to the end of the season when you are playing in different arenas almost every week."

Lesson No. 3: Like all good Bo Ryan coach teams, they are doing the little things to win games better than anyone else.

Heading into Thursday's contest against Coppin State, the Badgers have turned the ball over just 9.5 times per game — good for the top mark in the nation. Leading UW in that category is junior point guard Taylor, who has put together a remarkable 3.4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio despite averaging 33 minutes a game as the team's primary ball handler.

His brilliance has been so understated, his own teammates even forget how unique a 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio actually is.

"I am not impressed by it because I have seen it throughout all of his career," Leuer said. "I have come to expect that out of him. But it is definitely an amazing accomplishment what he is able to do with his assist to turnover ratio and make people better. He is one of the best in the country."

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