Breakdown: North Dakota vs. No.12 Wisconsin

Ranked in the AP top12 for the first time in almost two years, No.12 Wisconsin begins a busy stretch at the Kohl Center, hosting North Dakota tonight in its first of three games this week. Badger Nation breaks down the matchup.

North Dakota (1-0, 0-0 Big Sky) at No.12 Wisconsin (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Tuesday, November 19, 7 p.m. Central

Arena –Kohl Center (17,249)

Television -Big Ten Network (Cory Provus and Mike Kelley)

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

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

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 85-53, on November 14, 2010 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 11.3 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.7 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 15.0 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 10.0 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 8.7 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 George Marshall (5-11 Sophomore Guard, 2.0 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 5.3 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 6.7 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.5 ppg)

North Dakota Probable Starters

0 Aaron Andersen (5-10 Freshman Guard, 23.0 ppg)

1 Jaron Nash (6-8 Senior Forward, 15.0 ppg)

5 Troy Huff (6-5 Senior Guard, 18.0 ppg)

11 Jamal Webb (6-1 Senior Guard, 4.0 ppg)

41 Ryan Salmonson (6-9 Junior Forward, 4.0 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Lenny Antwi (6-1 Junior Guard, 18.0 ppg)

10 Shane Benton (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 2.0 ppg)

21 Quinton Hooker (6-0 Freshman Guard, 17.0 ppg)

33 Chad Calcaterra (6-9 Junior Forward, 3.0 ppg)

Last Time Out

ASHWAUBENON - The outside shot wasn't there and it seemed like every other shot attempt from the low block was being blocked or altered. The defense was suspect along with some of the box outs, allowing open looks and uncontested drives to the lane, and saw a player go 13-for-26 from the floor.

And yet, the Wisconsin men's basketball team found a way again.

"We've got a young team, but we've guys who've been through games like these before," said junior Treavon Jackson, as No.20 Wisconsin, despite a game-high 32 points from Green Bay junior Keifer Sykes, escaped with a 69-66 victory in front of 9,906 at the Resch Center, a program record. "We're able to handle adversity when it comes."

A hero has seemed to step up every night for Wisconsin (3-0), which survived its first road test despite shooting 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) from 3-point range, committing more turnovers (10) than assists (9) and missing three free throws (not including a lane violation) in the final 2:14 to allow Green Bay (1-1) to have a pulse.

In the opener it was Josh Gasser's 19 points; against No.11 Florida it was Sam Dekker's spark and Jackson's late jumper. This time it was Frank Kaminsky against the Phoenix.

Despite starting 1-for-5 from the floor, pushing him to 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) to start the season, Kaminsky went 5-for-7 for 14 points over the final 12-plus minutes. He scored nine points on a 17-4 run, erasing Green Bay's largest lead at 50-43 with 11:30 remaining.

And the Badgers led from that point on thanks in large part to Kaminsky. After Jackson went 1-for-2 from the line, giving UW a two-point lead with 10.9 seconds left, Sykes drove from the right baseline, but Kaminsky registered one of his four second-half blocks and went to the line with 4.3 seconds left.

Kaminsky made the first, was whistled for a lane violation on the second and celebrated with his teammates after Sykes' 3-point shot bounced off the front iron and harmlessly to the court.

Last Meeting

Wisconsin shot 62 percent from the field for the game, assisted on 20 of 31 made field goals and easily did away with visiting North Dakota 85-53.

Senior forward Jon Leuer led the way for the Badgers, scoring 22 and adding six rebounds and seven assists. Frontcourt partner Keaton Nankivil added 17 points on seven of eight shooting and sophomore Ryan Evans led four other Badgers in double figures with 11 points.

The Badgers could've faltered when Jordan Taylor went to the bench with two fouls with 8:37 left in the first half. With limited experience in the ranks of his guard depth, Ryan put the keys to the offense in the hands of freshman Josh Gasser and walk-on senior Wquinton Smith, and with great success.

Wisconsin scored six of the next eight points to push their lead from 11 to 15 points and later finished the half on a 9-2 run. Wisconsin's lead was never less than 13 points for the final 23 minutes of the game.

Encouraging for Wisconsin was the way Gasser and Smith controlled the offense in Taylor's absence. Neither committed a turnover during the first half, and Gasser, given the starting nod in just his second collegiate game, had four assists.

Series Notes

Wisconsin is 7-1 all-time against teams from the Big Sky. UW's only loss to the conference was a 73-69 decision in Bo Ryan's third game with the Badgers at the Big Island Invitational in 2001. (73-69 to Weber State in Hilo, Hawaii).

Wisconsin and North Dakota are well-known rivalries on the hockey rink. Wisconsin owns an 86-65-12 all-time record against UND.

Wisconsin is the only Big Ten school UND has played since making the move to Division I prior to the 2008-09 season. The Green and White played Nebraska, a current Big Ten member, during the 2010-11 season as well, but the Cornhuskers were a Big 12 member at the time of that game (77-46 loss; Jan. 3, 2011).

Wisconsin Notes

Under Bo Ryan (since 2001-02), Wisconsin owns an overall record of 120-30 (.800) in nonconference games, including a mark of 91-7 (.929) at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin is 3-0 for the ninth time in Ryan's 13 years and is looking to go to 4-0 for the fifth time under Ryan.

Wisconsin is shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range (25-for-61) on the season, the second-highest mark in the Big Ten behind Nebraska's 41.9 percent.

Wisconsin is ranked in the top 12 of the AP poll for r the first time since being ranked No.11 in the Dec.26, 2011 poll.

North Dakota Notes

Senior Troy Huff is a Milwaukee native who played at Brookfield Academy. He led the Big Sky Conference in scoring last season at 19.2 points per game. He was a freshman and scored 21 points off the bench the last time these two teams played. His mother, Theresa, starred at UW from 1979-83 and graduated as the program's all-time leading scorer (1,879) and rebounder (1,201).

The 2013-14 season will mark the second for the club in the Big Sky Conference. In year one, Jones led UND to 12 wins, which were the most ever by a league newcomer and a third-place finish in the league standings. UND opened the campaign 1-4, but finished with an 11-4 mark and won a Division I-program record six games on the road.

Prediction

He meant no slight toward last year's battle-tested team, but sophomore Sam Dekker couldn't argue against the idea that the chemistry of this year's Wisconsin team is much better on and off the court than it was a year ago.

Maybe it has to do with the extra practices and games that came from the trip to Canada. Maybe it's the influx of fresh, young blood with six freshmen who have lightened the mood in the locker room, or possibly the return of Josh Gasser to a full-time healthy role on the team.

Whatever it is, it's certainly made Wisconsin look like an old, savvy, experienced group in knocking off three talented programs – St. John's, No.11 Florida and Green Bay – despite not playing its best brand of basketball.

"It's just a whole different chemistry we have this year," said Dekker. "All that time we can spend together is going to make you a better team. We've come together pretty quickly here, and we have a lot of learn."

There's no denying that Wisconsin has put together some pretty impressive stretches to begin the season. The Badgers started off red hot against St. John's to control the game almost from start to finish, used a 26-10 run to close the first half to secure the lead and never relinquish it to Florida and went on a 10-0 late in the second half to take control Saturday at Green Bay.

And as I mentioned in my game story, UW is getting production from different people and having a hero step up every night. In the opener it was Gasser's 19 points; against No.11 Florida it was Dekker's spark and Jackson's late jumper. At Green Bay it was Frank Kaminsky scoring 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half.

Now with three games in five days, the goal for Ryan is to get his bench deeper; a tough task considering sophomore guard George Marshall will likely miss his second straight game with a concussion and is day-to-day. That should give true freshman Bronson Koenig more minutes, as the point guard was Ryan's first guard off the bench Saturday and scored seven points in close to 24 minutes of action, meaning another contributor can step up.

"He's got a lot of basketball skill, a lot of moxie, he just knows how to play and can get things done," said Ryan. "And he's learning how to play defense the way we need them to. I think he handled himself really well."

While this stretch of home games appears to be a way for UW to iron some things out and pad its win total before heading out on another tough four game stretch – playing two games in Cancun against high-level teams, travel to Virginia and hosting Marquette – don't totally overlook a veteran North Dakota team.

Picked to finish second in the Big Sky by the league's coaches and third by the media, North Dakota opened its season with a 110-69 victory over Minnesota-Morris, a Division III program. In that game, senior guard Aaron Andersen knocked down 10 of his 13 shots, senior guard Jamal Webb has a school-record 186 steals, senior Jaron Nash is a Texas Tech transfer with experience and Troy Huff is one of the best players in the conference.

After seeing what another top mid-major player can do Saturday (Keifer Sykes scoring 32), UW will need to be on its toes.

"We have to get a lot better defensively," said Gasser. "That's one thing I really want us to improve on. Offensively I think we're OK. We've got some good playmakers, we're moving the ball pretty well, but defensively we really need to tighten some things up."

The key for Wisconsin will be to be active in the post. When UW went on its run against Green Bay, the Badgers were feeding the ball to Kaminsky and others at the low block and making plays at the rim instead of settling for jump shots. UW has a distinct size advantage in this game, and could pull away if they use it.

I don't think the score will be as lopsided as it was three years ago, but Wisconsin shouldn't lose at home to a mid-major team from North Dakota ever again. Badgers win by 23.

Worgull's Record: 2-1

Points off Prediction: 28 (9.3 per game)


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