Hard? Yes. Productive? Not so much.
Ranked No.11 just two weeks ago, Wisconsin has tumbled out of both national polls because its once hot shooting has evaded them. Over the last three conference losses, two coming against ranked Michigan schools, the Badgers (12-5, 1-3 Big Ten) have shot 33.3 percent (58-of-174) from the field and 21.4 percent (15-of-70) from three-point range.
If Wisconsin, which is unranked in the Associated Press poll for the first time in 19 weeks, is going to shake out of its slump, it will have to happen Thursday against Purdue (13-4, 3-1 Big Ten) at Mackey Arena, a place UW has won just twice in since it opened in 1967.
Don't expect Ryan either to do any superstitious rituals, like the one he referenced of Pedro Cerrano wanting to sacrifice a live chicken in the baseball movie ‘Major League' so he could hit an off-speed pitch.
"As a coach and coaching staff, we present situations in practice that simulate games," said Ryan Monday. "I felt pretty good about what we had going into the Michigan game based on the results on specific possessions, shooting percentages (and) taking care of the ball ... Sometimes in the game, it doesn't always play out the way it's supposed to."
When things don't go as planned, such as Wisconsin's last three defeats by a combined 28 points, Ryan puts his team through the same shooting drills in a competitive environment, relying on the repetitive situation to develop a positive routine that hopefully carries over to the court.
"You still have to do shooting drills, you have to do them competitively with guys running at them and you have to make x-number of shots to not do crunches," said Ryan. "You have to keep it competitive."
And for those calling for Ryan to switch up his rotation, don't expect much to change.
"I can't trade any of the guys," said Ryan. "We always tell guys in practice, anybody that wants to keep making a statement and getting more minutes or get out on the court, there are always places to show it.
"We're trying to make things happen. We're trying to make good things happen that helps the team."
One of the few bright spots from Wisconsin's 59-41 defeat against No.16 Michigan Sunday was the play off the bench from true freshman Traevon Jackson. Playing eight minutes, Jackson hit a three pointer, his only bucket, and seemed to provide a slight lift defensively after he missed the last two games.
"He brings some energy," Ryan said of Jackson. "He takes a step forward and maybe a step back, that type of thing when you were younger. There are so many guys as freshmen that were about in his position who later on became pretty big contributors. It's still about what's coming, but he works hard every day. He loves being in a competitive situation on the floor. Guys like that can make you better and make the team better."
This season, Jackson is averaging 1.7 points and 7.9 minutes in the 11 games he has played.
To say Purdue fifth-year senior Robbie Hummel has spent some time on the training table would be an understatement. Tearing his ACL in his right knee his junior year, forcing him to miss the team's final eight games and derail a potential Final Four run, Hummel re-tore the ACL on the first day of practice last fall, causing him to use his redshirt as the Boilermakers' veteran team struggled at points without him.
This season, Hummel, with his tendinitis in his left knee and braces on both legs, is shooting 41.8 percent from the floor, 38.5 percent from three-point range and is averaging 16.2 points per game.
"That's an example of young adulthood experiencing things that aren't exactly the way you want to (experience them)," said Ryan, who coached Hummel in the 2009 World University Games in Serbia. "Robbie has been hit with some things injury wise due to landing improperly, not because he's not coordinator. Sometimes that's the way the body works. He handled the rehab, did all the work that was necessary and made the changes he needed to make to be able to physically play the game again.
"Anytime there is a story like that out there, that's what college athletics is supposed to be doing, and that's teaching young people how to deal with a lot of things internally and externally. He's done it well."
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