Preview: No.18 Wisconsin at Northwestern

After winning its second in a row at home on Thursday, No.18 Wisconsin looks to get past the tricky Welsh-Ryan Arena and Northwestern in the first of back-to-back road contests.

No.18 Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) vs. Northwestern (13-5, 3-4 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Sunday, January 23, at 11:30 a.m. Central

Arena – Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)

Television - Big Ten Network (xx)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin Leads 107-61 (NW leads 38-37 in Evanston)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 70-63, on Feb. 21, 2010 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

11 Jordan Taylor (Junior Guard, 17.6 ppg)

24 Tim Jarmusz (Senior Forward, 4.0 ppg)

30 Jon Leuer (Senior Forward, 19.2 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Sophomore Forward, 5.0 ppg)

52 Keaton Nankivil (Senior Forward, 9.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Ryan Evans (Sophomore Forward, 2.9 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (Freshman Guard, 5.2 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Junior Guard, 2.3 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Sophomore Forward, 3.4 ppg)

Northwestern Probable Starters

1 Drew Crawford (Sophomore Guard, 13.4 ppg)

12 Luka Mirkovic (Junior Center, 8.6 ppg)

22 Michael Thompson (Senior Guard, 14.8 ppg)

23 JerShon Cobb (Freshman Guard, 7.9 ppg)

24 John Shurna (Junior Forward, 19.5 ppg)

Off the Bench

4 Alex Marcotullio (Sophomore Guard, 4.9 ppg)

30 Davide Curletti (Junior Forward, 4.4 ppg)

Last Time Out

Last Meeting

Leuer's offense is still a work in progress, but his defense was the key, helping No.14 Wisconsin evade a colossal breakdown to outlast Northwestern, 70-63, giving the Badgers (20-7, 10-5 Big Ten) its seventh 20-win season under Head Coach Bo Ryan, and ninth in the past 12 seasons, a fitting tribute seeing as Dick Bennett and the 2000 Final Four team that were honored at halftime, the first team to make 20 wins a standard benchmark.

In the last seven games played at the Kohl Center in the series, Wisconsin a perfect 7-0 record against the Wildcats, winning by an averaging of 19.7 points per game. With a 14-point lead six minutes into the second half, the synopsis seemed to follow a similar path, especially after Wisconsin shot 71 percent in the opening half to build the 14-point cushion – its highest shooting percentage for a half this season and a vast turn around after shooting 30.5 percent in its loss to the Gophers.

But playing against a squad hoping to set a program record for wins and make the national tournament for the first time, Northwestern (17-10, 6-9) made its push, with sophomore John Shurna being the catalyst. After scoring 11 in the first half, Shurna scored 15 points down the stretch to help the Wildcats cut the lead to one twice on two separate occasions in the final 3:06.

That ‘almost' happened fortunately for Wisconsin down the stretch, as Northwestern was held without a field goal after junior Michael Thompson driving layup cut the lead to 62-61 with 3:06 remaining.

Taylor shrugged off a 1-for-8 shooting performance against home-state Minnesota on Thursday by making his four shots and scored 14 points in the opening half, but committed three second-half turnovers and finished with 16 points.

Hughes finished with 13 points and five rebounds and Leuer, playing in his second game since returning from a broken bone in his left wrist, looked more comfortable in the offense, finishing with 11 points. Bohannon scored a team-high 17 points (his sixth straight game scoring at least 15), but it was his two plays that made a big difference in ending the first half on a 12-2.

Series Notes:

The Badgers have won six of the last seven match-ups. Bo Ryan owns a 4-4 record at Welsh-Ryan Arena and his Badgers have won in three of the last four trips to Evanston.

Northwestern Notes:

Wisconsin Notes:

Prediction

Northwestern is an interesting team to figure out. On paper, they look pretty good, averaging over 75 points per game, shooting over 46 percent from the field and dishing out over 17 assists per game. As of Thursday, the Wildcats lead the Big Ten and are eighth nationally with an average of 9.4 3-point makes per game this season. John Shurna ranks third among all Big Ten players with an average of 2.7 triples per contest.

That NW zone, however, hasn't been as reliable as in past years. Northwestern is allowing opponents to shoot over 45 percent a game and almost 40 percent from three-point range. Both of those are big reasons the Wildcats let the Spartans off the hook – twice – in a 12-day span, losing by three at home and four on the road in overtime.

Wisconsin has been clicking as of late at home, winning 32 of its last 33 at the Kohl Center, but have dropped three of its last four on the road, including the last two. Welsh-Ryan Arena is one of the oddest venues in the conference. It's more like a glorified high school gym than a BCS arena, a big reason NW has been pretty good at home.

My gut says this game will go to the Wildcats, but something tells me the Badgers will find a way to win this game. Wisconsin pulled off a great victory here last January in its first game without Leuer, who suffered a broken bone in his wrist the game before. Leuer and Taylor have been on fire as of late, Nankivil is coming on and the Badgers are doing a good job defensively, which spells trouble for Shurna.

Both teams have been tested in these close nail-biting games before and have come up short. I think UW will have enough veteran experience on the floor at the end to win this game by four.

Worgull's Record: 17-1

Points off Prediction: 105 (6.2 per game)


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