Preview: No.14 Wisconsin vs. Savannah State

Less than 48 hours after a physical road test in Milwaukee, No.14 Wisconsin has one more hurdle to clear in Savannah State before taking an eight day break for finals.

Savannah State (4-7, 1-1 MEAC) vs. No.14 Wisconsin (9-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Thursday, December 15, 7 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,230)

Television - Big Ten Network (Dave Revsine and Jim Jackson)

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

Series – Wisconsin leads 1-0 (UW leads 1-0 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 79-32, on November 15, 2011 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

5 Ryan Evans (Junior Forward, 10.2 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (Senior Guard, 11.8 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (Sophomore Guard, 7.4 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Junior Forward, 5.9 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Junior Forward, 12.3 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Ben Brust (Sophomore Guard, 11.9 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (Freshman Guard, 1.4 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Senior Guard, 2.5 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (Freshman Forward, 3.5 ppg)

Savannah State Probable Starters

1 Preston Blackmon (Junior Guard, 7.5 ppg)

3 Deric Rudolph (Junior Guard, 9.1 ppg)

22 Rashad Hassan (Junior Forward, 13.0 ppg)

23 Cedric Smith (Junior Guard, 4.6 ppg)

44 Jyles Smith (Sophomore Forward, 4.5 ppg)

Off the Bench

11 Stephen Wilson (Sophomore Guard, 2.9 ppg)

12 Joshua Montgomery (Junior Forward, 6.8 ppg)

34 Arnold Louis (Sophomore Forward, 0.7 ppg)

Last Time Out

MILWAUKEE - For the first 36 minutes of the basketball game, Jordan Taylor admitted he was one of the worst offensive players in the country. His shot, again, evaded him, his ball control was surprisingly suspect and his underhanded layups weren't even close to the rim.

But with Milwaukee holding all the momentum after reeling off a 21-4 run to tie the score and No.14 Wisconsin needing a big shot to turn the tide, there was no doubt in the Badgers' huddle of who was going to make the key shots.

After missing the mark in back-to-back losses two weeks ago, Wisconsin's All-American showed cold water still runs through his veins. Taylor scored seven of his team's final nine points and half of his 14 points down the stretch, including a dagger three-pointer with less than a minute to go, to lead the Badgers to a 60-54 victory over Milwaukee Tuesday night in front of 10,143 fans at U.S. Cellular Arena, the largest regular-season home crowd in school history.

"How can you not want a guy like that taking a shot?" questioned junior Jared Berggren, who led all scorers with 17 points. "When it comes down to it, we all have confidence in him to make that big shot. I think the majority of the time he's going to come through for us."

The end result was far from expected early in the second half, not with Wisconsin (9-2) seemingly controlling the post and tempo in building a 44-27 with 15 minutes, 17 seconds left. Slowly but surely, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan saw his team get away from its fundamentals, miss 6 of 7 shots, turn the ball over three times and see Milwaukee (8-3) hit three consecutive 3-pointers in a 10 minute span to pull even.

Human nature would say the Badgers were blindsided but it provided Taylor a platform to finally shake off some cobwebs.

It started with Jared Berggren hitting a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to give UW a 51-48 lead. Following a dunk by Milwaukee's Ryan Allen, Taylor unleashed a spin move in the paint that resulted in an uncontested layup for his first points since the 19:22 mark of the second half.

There was more to come. After knocking down two free throws to make the score 55-50 and seeing his counterpart, Kaylon Williams, follow with a layup of his own, Taylor stood at the top of the key, saw Allen sag off slightly to give him an opening a hit a 3-point dagger to make the score 58-52 with 41.8 seconds left.

Milwaukee never cut the lead below four again.

Last Meeting

MADISON - Size does matter — the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team showed that in its 79-32 win over Savannah State.

The Badgers big men — Greg Stiemsma and Brian Butch — established themselves early, allowing Wisconsin to dump the ball into the post for the entire game and expect either an easy bucket or a foul.

"That's our first goal—to score inside," said Stiemsma, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. "And if we can get fouls on them early to shoot some free throws later, those are some definite points that we need to take advantage of."

But Wisconsin's big men didn't just overpower Savannah State with their size; they also outplayed them in other ways.

With four assists, Stiemsma was able to create some buckets for his teammates by stepping out to the wing and passing the ball.

"Especially early, our passing from the big's was very crisp," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "I just thought we were unselfish moving the ball. I thought that was very good team play."

The ball movement from the big men opened up the offense, allowing for other Wisconsin players to drive the lane and score, such as sophomore guard Trevon Hughes who scored a game-high 21 points.

After jumping out to the early 17-0 lead, Wisconsin was able to cruise for the rest of the game. Every team member saw playing time—except for walk-on guard Wquinton Smith, who just joined the team as a walk-on this week. So given the large lead, maybe most impressive in the Badgers' win was the free-throw shooting.

Wisconsin shot 28-of-35 from the line, taking advantage of some early foul trouble by Savannah State in the first half and knocking down the free shots given in the second half.

Series Notes:

Wisconsin and Savannah State have one common opponent this season. The Tigers lost to Indiana, 94-65, on Nov. 19. The Badgers will host Indiana on Jan. 26, 2012.

UW is a perfect 11-0 all-time vs. teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, winning those games by an average margin of 25.0 points per game (78.7 to 53.7).

Wisconsin Notes

UW also owns the nation's longest streak of holding its opponents to 65 or less - currently 15 straight games. The last Badger opponent to reach 66 points was last season - Ohio State on March 6, 2011.

Wisconsin has led the nation in fewest turnovers per game in each of the last two seasons and has its sights set on a three-peat. For the 3rd year in a row, UW leads the nation, turning the ball over just 8.4 times per game.

Josh Gasser (60.7%) leads the Big Ten and would also lead the NCAA if he met the minimum 2.5 treys per game criteria. Fresh off a 7-for-7 performance against UNLV, Ben Brust is now shooting 49.2% on the year, which ranks 5th in the Big Ten.

After averaging a mere 0.7 points per game last year, Brust has increased his scoring average to 11.9 points per game in 2011-12. That increase of 11.2 points per game is the 2nd-largest increase among Big Ten players.

Savannah State Notes:

The Tigers are in their first year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference after competing as an independent and have no seniors on their roster.

Savannah State has lost to Georgetown, Indiana, Butler and Georgia Tech by an average of 23.3 points this season.

Horace Broadnax, 69-118 in his seventh season at Savannah State. Broadnax was a point guard on the 1984 Georgetown team that won the NCAA title.

Prediction

Wisconsin was in a 40-minute slugfest on Tuesday and has to jump right back on the court two days later. Big deal? Not at all, especially since Wisconsin does it every March in the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin even did it this season in Chicago playing on back-to-back nights, and shot a better percentage and scored more points on the second day.

"This isn't a big deal and mentally it's good to get right back on the court and not go through a couple days of practice," Gasser said. "It's good to get back on the court and compete against some different teams. We've practiced against each other for months, so we like playing against different plays and different teams. We've got good conditioned bodies and we're ready for it.

"Plus, it's really going to help us come tournament time to have this kind of experience."

Savannah State is 1-6 on the road and came through with an 80-42 defeat over College of Coastal Georgia 80-42 on Monday to snap a two-game losing streak. I don't think many are impressed with a 53.2 percent shooting performance against a NAIA school.

Here's the telling sign that Wisconsin is going to win this one in a rout. The Tigers' sports information director isn't coming to the game and Savannah State isn't sending a radio crew. I guess only the BTN want to publicize this potential massacre.

Savannah State is 0-9 against Top 25 teams since joining Division I. It has lost five straight against ranked opponents by an average of 36.8 points. Make it 0-10 as UW wins by 34 … only because their legs are a little tired.

Worgull's Record: 10-1

Points off Prediction: 114 (10.4 per game)


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