A Suffocating Style

There have been plenty of great defensive performances to choose from for UW coach Bo Ryan. After holding another opponent to a season low in points, this one being a Big Ten conference opponent, Ryan believes he saw the best No.11 Wisconsin has offered up to this point.

LINCOLN, NE - The notes and clips that the University of Wisconsin has on every team in the Big Ten is a large file cabinet full of scouting reports, tendencies and miscellaneous whatnot that is supposed to give the Badgers an edge.

After Tuesday's Big Ten opener, Bo Ryan and his staff should consider thinning the files.

Approaching their game against Nebraska, the first between the two schools since 1998, as a nonconference game, the Badgers' stifling defense continued right into Big Ten play, holding Nebraska to 30.6 percent shooting in a 64-40 victory Tuesday.

In limiting its 18th straight opponent to 65 points or less, extending the longest streak in the nation, and giving its 12th opponent a new season low in points, No.11 Wisconsin (12-2, 1-0 Big Ten) held the Cornhuskers to 14 second-half points, their fewest in a half since December 2006.

After making its first three shots of the game, Nebraska (8-4, 0-1 Big Ten) didn't hit more than two in a row the rest of the game.

"Defensively after that, I'd say that was our best performance of the year," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "You take seven minutes away, I thought we played pretty well."

Credit for that goes to Wisconsin sophomore Josh Gasser for his job on Nebraska senior guard Bo Spencer, who entered the night leading the Huskers with 16.0 points per game. Watching Spencer over the Christmas weekend, Gasser saw an impressive, strong guard that could score in a variety of ways, much like UW senior guard Jordan Taylor.

The result of Gasser's leaning lessons was holding Spencer without a field goal until the 14:53 mark of the second half and just five points on 2-of-12 shooting.

"Josh is a solid defensive player and he got a lot of help from teammates," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "He'll be the first one to tell you that. I think Bo Spencer is pretty good. We got tons of clips on him and defensively, that was about the best I think we've played a guy of his caliber this year."

For Gasser, making Spencer uncomfortable meant chasing through a lot of ball screens, being aggressive on pick-and-rolls and having a hand in his face every time he squared to shoot.

"I got a lot of help on those plays," said Gasser. "In the end, it's not one guy. We all contributed to playing great defense on him and the team. We are starting to realize that we've shut some good teams down and we can get a lot better."

According to both players, the real hero wasn't even in the city of Lincoln. Assigned to mimic the role of Spencer, true freshman point guard George Marshall, who is redshirting this season because of the overwhelming depth UW has at guard, apparently gave UW's starting guards fits in a couple days of practice, making the actual job of guarding Spencer just a little bit easier.

"George Marshall is probably one of the best scout team guards in the history of college basketball," said Taylor. "To have a guy like that on the scout team right now makes our team so much better."

The Badgers have showed their versatility with their post players, have held four teams to 33 points or less and have a couple aces up their sleeves on their scout teams. The question is how much better can Wisconsin get?

"We're finding out," said forward Ryan Evans. "Every day we are getting better."


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