Eyes Shift to Badger Basketball

With Wisconsin football consuming the airwaves over the past month, Bo Ryan's Wisconsin basketball team has quietly put together a solid stretch. With a record of 11-3 after its seven-game win streak was snapped Sunday at No.23 Illinois, the Badgers host Michigan on Wednesday before a big match-up with Michigan State Tuesday.

Badger Nation: UW basketball always seems to fly under the radar, so was the last few weeks any different with all the Rose Bowl coverage?

Greg Gard: They had a great year and did a great job of winning the league. It comes down to one play but as Bret (Bielema) said, there were a lot of little things. We look back a lot of ours games and we can say the same thing. Even though the end gets magnified, there are usually a dozen things that happen throughout the course of the game that affect the final score. I'm happy for those guys. I know a lot of them personally. They are great guys, a great year for them and a great week for our university.

Badger Nation: How do you look at the last week, starting off with a win over a very good Minnesota team and then a tough, close loss Sunday at Illinois were you didn't shoot the ball particularly well?

Greg Gard: We haven't started off well enough because we wanted to be 2-0 instead of 1-1. We did some things better against Illinois than we did against Minnesota and vice versa. We did some things better against Minnesota and the thing jumps out if shooting. It's a simple game, you try to put the ball in the basket more than the other team and we weren't able to do that. We had really good looks, too. It wasn't like we were taking tough shots or bad shots. Of the 35 threes that we took, there were a couple that were in desperation in the final minute, there was less than five that were quick shots or bad shots or maybe we should have turned down for a different opportunity. When we went through the film, there were a lot of them that were open and there for us and we ran some pretty good offense prior to getting those shots. Illinois made a decision at halftime that they were not going to let us get to the rim, take away the paint and double the post, so you have to take advantage of what a team gives you and we weren't able to do that. A lot of shots rattled out for us. You make two or three more, it really changes the complexion of the game.

Badger Nation: The M.O. of Wisconsin in the past has been grinding in the paint and getting to the free throw line, but this year's squad has started off as a jump shooting, perimeter team. Are you happy as a coaching staff with the amount of three-pointers you are taking or as long as they are good shots within the flow of the offense, are you pleased?

Greg Gard: What you do offensively always morphs with the type of players you have. This group has a lot of good perimeter shooters and a lot of bigs that are comfortable facing the rim. You want to rack up fouls, but we've noticed throughout the years that teams quit fouling us as much as they used to. Strategically, trying to do some things different as a whole, and avoid trying to putting people on the foul line, keeping the ball out of the paint and forcing teams to hit the three. When it works, you look great and when it doesn't, it looks like a poor decision. It's a game of give and take. We obviously want to get to the free throw line and touch the post as most as possible, but I think the strength of this team lies more in knocking shots down from the perimeter. I think teams are gravitating towards Jordan Taylor when he puts the ball on the ground or tries to attack the rim, and then people are left wide open on the perimeter. Now, it's about guys knocking them down.

Badger Nation: Jon Leuer and Taylor are having great years so far, but who do you think is the closest to becoming that third consistent scorer for this team?

Greg Gard: We've never yell at a guy for shooting the ball or shooting it poorly. We don't get consumed with finding a third scorer, because it's all in the maturation of the player. Some guys are going to develop faster than others and we've been down this road before when we've been asked about it. Right now, it's basically by committee and how matchups present itself. There are some nights where Keaton Nankivil gets more looks at the rim, some nights Jared Berggren has done a better job and has been more comfortable. Josh Gasser is experiencing what normally happens to a freshman with the ups and downs of a first season. Ryan Evans is trying to figure things out and become more consistent. Mike Bruesewitz and Rob Wilson are starting to do some things away from putting the ball in the basket that have helped them. As long as they are defending, rebounding, hustling and making those types of plays, we'll be all right. I think each of them are at different stages of when they can take that next step forward. We need them all to help, not just one guy, and I think there is potential for at least two guys to step up and be more productive.

Badger Nation: Tim Jarmusz struggled mightily last year with his shots and his confidence. That seems to be well behind him now. Can you talk about the stretch he's on? He seems to be playing with a good head of steam right now.

Greg Gard: He's more confident that he probably was a month ago and having the ball goes it helps. There is nothing that we can really say or drills we can do that to make sure that he is mechanically correct, which he has been. He continues to work on his shooting, but what I think has helped him is that he's had a few baskets go in for him. That just snowballs the confidences and we've seen him grow more and more confident. He's been more impressive in practice and it's come out in the games, where he's made some big shots for us. Defensively, he's always done a good job for the most part being in the right position. He's a smart defender, a lot like Clayton Hanson was of trying to be in the right position. He knows he's not the quickest guy in the world so he has to play positioning and angles very well. I think the biggest thing is that he's got some confidence, which is nice to see during his senior year.

Badger Nation: Michigan lost a lot of good players from last year, but who is the player that people should watch for that could make a difference? What are some things that could pose a problem to Wisconsin Wednesday that are different from the Gophers and the Illini?

Greg Gard: They have more shooters on the floor than both those teams. I think they have one of the best young point guards in the league in Darius Morris. He leads the league in assists, top five nationally, and I've been real impressed with him on film. He's improved a lot since last year. He reminds me of a young Demetri McCamey, just how he gets to the basket, finds people and makes good decision. He turned the ball over more than what Coach Beilein probably would have liked and he didn't shoot it very well, but he seems to have cleaned up both those areas.

Zac Novak and Stuart Douglass have been around, but those guys are young with Tim Hardaway and Jordan Morgan playing at the three, four and five. For freshmen, they play very confidently, very aggressive and they haven't been shell shocked in some of the places they've been. They went to Clemson in a hostile environment and got a win. They've been able to produce. They laid an egg at Purdue, which was a-typical of the way they have played thus far, but they were able to bounce back and beat Penn State. They shoot it very well, you can't give them any threes and they have the ability to attack and make plays at the rim. They are similar to us in a way. They take more threes than we do and have a point guard that does a good job of distributing and making them go.

Badger Nation Top Stories