Date/Time -Tuesday, November 12, 8 p.m. Central
Arena –Kohl Center (17,230)
Television -ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Florida leads 2-1 (Wisconsin leads 1-0 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Florida won, 74-56, on November 14, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla.
Wisconsin Probable Starters
1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 15.0 ppg)
12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 13.0 ppg)
15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 16.0 ppg)
21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 19.0 ppg)
44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 2.0 ppg)
Off the Bench
3 George Marshall (5-11 Sophomore Guard, 4.0 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 2.0 ppg)
13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 15.0 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 0.0 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Freshman Forward, 0.0 ppg)
Florida Probable Starters
0 Kasey Hill (6-1 Freshman Guard, 15.0 ppg)
4 Patric Young (6-0 Senior Center, 2.0 ppg)
20 Michael Frazier (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 19.0 ppg)
24 Casey Prather (6-6 Senior Forward, 28.0 ppg)
25 DeVon Walker (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 4.0 ppg)
Off the Bench
1 Eli Carter (6-2 Junior Guard, 15.0 ppg)
30 Jacob Kurtz (6-6 Junior Forward, 4.0 ppg)
Last Time Out
Junior Josh Gasser, playing his first game since the 2012 Sweet 16, scored a team-high 19 points in 35 minutes while junior Duje Dukan added 15 points to propel No.20 Wisconsin to season-opening 86-75 victory over St. John's in the inaugural college basketball game at the Sanford Pentagon.
Sophomore Sam Dekker scored 16, senior Ben Brust had 15 and junior Treavon Jackson added 13 for the Badgers (1-0), who opened the season against a "power six" school for the first time since 2000 but opened with a victory for the 12th straight season.
"This is a quality opponent, a national opponent; that's why we wanted to do this," said associate head coach Greg Gard. "St. John's is going to be good … This is going to be a big year for them and for us to get this against a quality opponent early, hopefully we can keep stacking these (wins) up and cash this in when we get to March."
Leading by as many as 18 points, St. John's (0-1) scored 52 points in the second half, but never took the lead and only got as close as four based on the Badgers, at least for one night, fixing two problems that plagued them throughout last season.
UW went 23 of 25 from the free throw line in the second half, including converting its final 14, and went 25 of 30 overall to finish 83.3 percent for the game. Wisconsin also made 11 of 23 3-pointers (47.8 percent) compared to only 2 of 7 for the Red Storm.
A year ago, UW shot only 33 percent from the 3-point line and 63.4 percent from the 3-point line, both of which cost the Badgers a number of games.
Sluggish on screens and suffering too many breakdowns defensively, No.22 Wisconsin suffered a bitter learning lesson Wednesday by getting soundly beaten by No.10 Florida, 74-56, at the O'Connell Center.
Wisconsin (1-1) was dominant defensively last season with its scoring defense. The Badgers allowed only 53.2 points per game (first in the NCAA) and only let one team score 71. Florida (2-0) surpassed that mark by a red-hot hottest shooting exhibition.
The Gators won their 12 straight nonconference games at home by shooting 61.9 percent (26-for-42) overall, 50 percent (6-for-12) from three-point range and 80 percent (16-for-20) from the free-throw line.
"We got away from our defensive scouting report," said senior Jared Berggren, who led UW in points (11) and rebounds (6). "We don't have excuses, but it comes down to being more disciplined." Out rebounded 39-21, the Badgers allowed three different Florida players had at least seven rebounds. Wisconsin only had one player over three rebounds.
"I thought their experience really showed, especially how Young controlled the glass," said Gard, referring to junior Patric Young. "He ended up with only seven rebounds, but he was such a physical force in there with what he did."
Senior center Erik Murphy was the biggest weapon for the Gators, hitting all seven of his first-half shots and all 10 overall to finish with a career-high tying 24 points. It is tied for best single-game field goal percentage by a Gator over last 15 seasons (min. 10 made).
"When they got their chance," said UW coach Bo Ryan, "they didn't miss."
Senior guard Kenny Boynton – who led the team with 15.9 points per game last season – had just 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting, but had five points on the Gators' 7-0 run over the first 3:48 in the second half to extend the lead to 19 points.
"They are good for a reason," said Gard. "They have a lot of weapons. When one or two don't click, they have backup. For tonight, Murphy was the guy they went to."
At the first media timeout, Wisconsin was 0-for-6 overall, 0-5 from three-point range, on its first seven possessions, and unable to crack Florida's 2-3 zone defense. It was ugly foreshadowing.
The Badgers only previous match-up with UF in Madison was an 86-81 win at the UW Field House on Dec. 20, 1967.
UW is 23-17 all-time against members of the SEC, going 1-2 against the conference a year ago. In addition to UF, the Badgers topped Arkansas, 77-70, and lost to Ole Miss, 57-46, in the NCAA tournament.
Florida is 16-28 all-time against members of the Big Ten. The Badgers are the only school the Gators has a winning record against (2-1).
Florida is 0-9 on the road against Big Ten opponents.
Wisconsin tallied 7 wins over teams ranked in the AP Top-15 a year ago - tied with Indiana for the most in the country. Over the last four seasons, the Badgers have gone 11-3 at the Kohl Center against teams ranked in the AP top 15.
Wisconsin has also won 15 consecutive home openers, a streak that began with a 66-29 win over Loyola Chicago in 1998.
Dukan posted career highs in nearly every statistical category, tallying 15 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes. Dukan went 2-for-3 from behind the arc and 5-for-6 at the FT line. Entering the game, Dukan had a total of 11 career points and career highs of 4 points, 2 rebounds and 11 min.
In 12 seasons under Bo Ryan, the Badgers are 20-6 against AP Top-15 teams at the Kohl Center, including an 11-3 mark over the last four seasons.
Florida looks to replace its three top scorers from last season in Mike Rosario (12.5), Erik Murphy (12.2) and Kenny Boynton (12.0). That trio accounted for over 50 percent of UF's points in 2012-13. Patric Young (10.1) is the Gators' top returning scorer.
In 2012-13, UF had the nation's No. 2 scoring margin (+17.0) and ranked third in scoring defense (54.4) and ninth in field goal percentage defense (.382). Florida recorded its best field goal percentage defense since the 1957-58 season (.367).
Both Casey Prather (28) and Michael Frazier (19) posted career-high scoring days in the Gators' season- opening 77-69 win over UNF. Prather's 28 marked the most on opening day by a Gator since 1985 (Vernon Maxwell, 28).
The Gators went 4-2 against teams in the top 25 last season, including 4-0 at home, defeating Wisconsin, Missouri, Ole Miss and Kentucky in the O'Connell Center. Florida's losses came at Arizona and vs. Michigan in the NCAA Tournament.
As Wisconsin boarded the plane to fly down to Gainesville last November, the Wisconsin rotation was in disarray. The Badgers had already lost their starting point guard, Josh Gasser, to an ACL tear only a couple weeks before, causing George Marshall and Traevon Jackson to be pressed quickly into duty.
UW was also working to get Mike Bruesewitz back to 100 percent health after his gruesome collision with the exposed part of a basketball standard, causing him to miss the majority of preseason after dozens of stitches and taking another big man out of the lineup.
Knowing all that and still figure out a way to slow down an elite team in their home gym, was Ryan nervous?
"Do I ever look nervous?" he quipped. "I wasn't nervous."
Wisconsin has never worried about things outside of its control with Ryan at the helm, so the Badgers were never overly concerned with their difficult start to this season of a neutral site game against a BCS opponent, their matchup with Florida and then their road tilt this weekend at Green Bay, who is picked to win the Horizon League.
The only small concern for Ryan is the fact that Wisconsin's scout team can't quite equate the size of some of the big interior opponents that dot their nonconference schedule.
"Unfortunately our scout team doesn't have the athleticism of a lot of the teams, if not most of the teams, we're going to be playing," said Ryan, with a smile. "They're smart players that we have on the scout team. What you have to realize the guys we're going to be going against are quicker (and) stronger for the most part than what they're seeing in every drill."
Florida is a prime example of a group quicker and stronger that Wisconsin's scout team. Ryan mentioned that playing a team the caliber of Florida isn't ideal this early in the season, especially with Wisconsin still ironing out its rotations and having new players adjust to the formula. Florida is arguably in the same boat with three Gators serving suspensions for violating team rules and three other players on the roster recovering from injuries.
It's hard to notice that on film with the Gators, according to Ryan, still competing hard and having played in attack mode through the two games Wisconsin has on film.
"They really go to the rim hard," he said. "They are very athletic that way. They slash."
Florida will be without four starters from last year's team but, as Ryan noted, the ability of Florida coach Billy Donovan to recruit high school players with "unbelievable" credentials makes those missing pieces less of a factor than it would be for other programs.
One of those pieces is Patric Young, a two-year starter who was a second-team All-SEC and All-Defensive team selection last year. Young had eight points in seven boards in last season's meeting with UW, and the work he has done over the last year as Ryan impressed.
"He's as powerful as any big man that we've gone against," said Ryan. "They've got size and they also have athleticism to get to the rim and create a lot of contact situations. We've got to make sure we get rim position and do a good job containing."
I was pleasantly surprised by Wisconsin's performance on Friday in the season opener, but the surprise comes from players like Josh Gasser's 19 points and Duje Dukan's production off the bench. As the season wears on, Wisconsin will need much more from Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes to solidify some stability at that position, but the work of Traevon Jackson's ball security, Sam Dekker's defense and the always-confident Ben Brust make this team dangerous when they can hit some shots.
A team that began in the top 10 this season should exploit some things with Wisconsin's frontcourt, but the Gators aren't all that they seem.
Florida had two 18-point leads against North Florida in its home opener but allowed the visitors to stay competitive because of poor defense, rebounding and a lack of offensive flow. Playing a team of Wisconsin's caliber usually doesn't bode well for teams who are in a scoring funk.
"They're a really good, hard, driving team and they shoot threes," Donovan said. "You've got to certainly have a great level of awareness. You've got to be in the right position and you've got to know what they're doing with their movement. They're very, very efficient and very effective.
"Any time you've got that kind of shooting space on the floor, it always provides good space for your offense with an open lane for either post feed or drive."
Wisconsin hasn't opened up the season at home against a top 10 opponent since December 3, 1968, beating No.4 Kansas, 67-62. The Badgers went 11-13 that year and finished in a tie for eighth in the Big Ten. I'll go out on a limb and say UW will do slightly better this year.
It's been hovering around 30 degrees in Madison all day, hardly balmy weather for the Gators. Combine a rocking Kohl Center, a talented UW team and a depleted Florida team, Wisconsin wins by 13.
Worgull's Record: 0-1
Points off Prediction: 16 (16 per game)