Breakdown: Eastern Kentucky at No.4 Wisconsin

Playing its final game before taking two weeks off, No.4 Wisconsin looks to make it 12-for-12 when it hosts Eastern Kentucky Saturday afternoon. Badger Nation breaks down the matchup.

Eastern Kentucky (7-3, 0-0 Ohio Valley) at No.4 Wisconsin (11-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Saturday, December 12, 12 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,249)

Television -ESPN3 (Kevin Lehman and Wayne Randazzo)

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

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

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 95-89, in double overtime on November 19, 2005 at the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.0 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 11.3 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 14.2 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.7 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 14.7 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 4.0 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 3.5 ppg)

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

Eastern Kentucky Probable Starters

0 Glenn Cosey (6-0 Senior Guard, 19.3 ppg)

2 Corey Walden (6-2 Junior Guard, 12.0 ppg)

12 Marcus Lewis (6-4 Senior Guard, 12.2 ppg)

34 Tarius Johnson (6-5 Senior Guard, 6.4 ppg)

42 Eric Stutz (6-8 Junior Forward, 6.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Isaac McGlone (6-2 Freshman Guard, 3.1 ppg)

15 Orlando Williams (6-4 Senior Guard, 11.0 ppg)

22 Timmy Knipp (6-7 Junior Guard, 4.7 ppg)

24 Jeff Johnson (6-7 Senior Forward, 2.1 ppg)

Last Time Out

Tying the 1993-94 Wisconsin team for the most consecutive wins to open the season in the modern era and sweeping the three game in-state series for the first time since 2010 wasn't in doubt for very long, especially after Brust started his hot shooting to propel UW to a 78-52 victory over Milwaukee.

Wisconsin started auspiciously with three turnovers in the first 2:22 and was held scoreless in a flat start, but the Badgers turned on the shooting display from that point forward to finish 64 percent from the floor (16 of 25) and 69.2 percent (9 of 13) from 3-point range in the first half.

Brust, who quietly upped his scoring average to 12.0 points per game, scored 13 straight points for the Badgers over a 4:01 span to help build a 25-point first-half lead for the home team.

"Ben is one of those guys that can get hot real quick and change the whole complexion of the whole game because he's such a sharp shooter," said Dekker. "When he gets hot, you better watch out."

Brust finished the first half 6-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes, but finished 7-for-13 for the game.

"It would have been nice to keep that rhythm," said Brust. "Shot the ball well pretty early, and then it kind of died off for us in the second half. Felt good early on." Up 22-13 more than midway through the first half, the rest of the team followed Brust's lead. Wisconsin reeled off a 23-7 run that featured five 3-pointers by five Badgers to blow the game open, never letting the lead dip below 18.

Frank Kaminksy added 16 points, Traevon Jackson scored 12 while Dekker finished two rebounds shy of his third double-double in four games, scoring 12 points (5 of 8) while adding a career-high six assists.

"The closer we can get to 40 minutes of playing good basketball the better we're going to be," said Dekker. "I think tonight we got a little closer."

Milwaukee (9-3) entered the night tied with Harvard with six road/neutral wins, the most in the nation, but the Panthers committed six turnovers in their first 16 possessions and started 2 of 10 from the field. Kyle Kelm scored 17 points to lead Milwaukee, while Matt Tiby added 11, but the Panthers couldn't overcome 19 turnovers, tying a season high.

Last Meeting

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) - Alando Tucker's steal and breakaway dunk in the final seconds of the second overtime helped Wisconsin beat Eastern Kentucky 95-89 at the Paradise Jam on Saturday night.

Tucker finished with a tournament-record 38 points, easily surpassing the previous record of 28 set by Marques Green of St. Bonaventure in 2002 and matched by Craig Smith of Boston College in 2003.

Matt Witt shot 6-for-10 from 3-point range and led Eastern Kentucky with 25 points. Alonzo Hird added 18 points for the Colonels, including a hook shot with 13 seconds left that tied the score at 66 and forced overtime.

Tucker broke the tie with a long jumper but Hird answered immediately with a two-handed jam on a long inbound pass.

Michael Brock made a 3-pointer with 21.6 seconds remaining in the first overtime to give the Colonels a 76-73 lead. But the Badgers' Kammron Taylor made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 78 with 3.3 seconds left, forcing another overtime.

Taylor made another timely 3-pointer with 1:46 left to move the Badgers ahead 87-83. Taylor finished with 15 points, and Marcus Landry added 19 and two blocked shots for the Badgers.

Series Notes

The Badgers are 11-1 all-time against members of the Ohio Valley Conference. The most recent meeting was a 72-58 win over Belmont in the opening game of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

This is the second straight season EKU has faced a top- 10 team (No. 10 Illinois in 2012-13). It is Eastern's first game against a top-5 opponent since facing No. 4 North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament on March 15, 2007.

The Colonels are 0-13 all-time against current Big Ten members.

Wisconsin Notes

UW has proven it can win in any style this season, topping 80 points in three games and grinding out a defensive battle at Virginia. The Badgers' scoring average (73.6 ppg) is up 8.6 ppg from last season, while the 38 points allowed at UVA were UW's fewest given up in a road game since 1957.

The all-time best start in school history belongs to the 1911-12 and 1913-14 Badgers teams that both finished 15-0 on the season and were later named Helms Foundation National Champions.

Dating back to Feb. of 2011, UW has won 67 of its last 68 games when leading or tied with 5:00 left, including a perfect 11-0 mark this season.

According to STATS, Inc., Wisconsin is also enjoying its most efficient team in the last 13 seasons (Ryan era), averaging 1.18 points per possession - good for 4th in the Big Ten (Iowa 1.24, Michigan 1.21 and Penn State 1.19).

UW has cooled from the outside, but still ranks 43rd in the nation and tops in the Big Ten shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range (93-for-238). Among Big Ten teams, Michigan is 2nd from long range, shooting 38.6 percent.

Eastern Kentucky Notes

Last season, Eastern committed 199 fewer turnovers than its opponents and out-scored its foes by 268 points (736- 468) off turnovers. Through 10 games this season, the Colonels have committed 77 fewer turnovers and out-scored their opponents by 149 points off turnovers (239-90).

Three Colonels rank in the top-nine in the OVC in steals. Corey Walden (2.4) is third, Marcus Lewis (2.2) is fourth and Glenn Cosey (1.7) is ninth.

Eastern finished 10-1 (10-0 in non-overtime games) last season when scoring 80 or more points. EKU is 4-0 this season when scoring 80-plus. The Colonels are 40-6 (.870) under Jeff Neubauer when scoring 80 or more.

The Colonels need 22 wins in 2013-14 to record the winningest 3-year stretch in program history. EKU won 62 games from 1944-47.

After finishing first in the OVC with an average of 8.8 3-pointers per game, Eastern Kentucky has now led the conference in 3-pointers four of the last five years.

Prediction

It's not often that an experience guard transferring out the program during the season would barely cause a ripple effect to Wisconsin's depth and chemistry. It's also not every day that a program like Wisconsin gets a true freshman of Bronson Koenig's talent and skill level to step right in and facilitate.

George Marshall was the first guard off the bench for Wisconsin in the first two games of the season after playing in 35 games a year ago, but a concussion sustained in practice put him on the shelf and required Koenig is play some minutes.

Koenig responded by posting seven points and two assists in 23 minutes at Green Bay, and hasn't looked back.

"I am willing to do anything I can for my team," said Koenig. "I am a very unselfish player. I want to play good defense, disrupting the basketball to the open player and hitting the open shot. That's what I think I need to do and what I need to improve on. There's a lot I can improve on."

Koenig has appeared in 10 games as a true freshman, averaging 15.4 minutes per game, the most among UW reserves. Koenig hasn't wasted those minutes, either, averaging 3.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game, while shooting 55.6 percent from the field (15-27) and 38.5 percent (5-13) from 3-point range – the top mark among Big Ten freshman (minimum 10 attempts).

Marshall didn't play in the three games since he was cleared, in part due to Koenig's emergence, and announced he was exploring transfer options last weekend.

"Just like any freshmen, game speed is quite a bit faster in high school, as is the strength and size of the players," said Koenig. "When you are trying to drive in the gaps, especially in college basketball and the Big Ten, those gaps close really quickly. You have to make a decision real fast and know what's going to happen two seconds ahead of time so you are already thinking on your feet."

The 2013 Wisconsin High School Player of the Year, Koenig led La Crosse Aquinas to state championships in both 2011 and 2013, but called the critical part in his development going against veteran guards Brust and Gasser during the summer and during UW's Canada trip in August. That helped accelerate the growing process, as Koenig and the other freshmen were able to pick up in November where they left off in the summer.

"It's definitely different not knowing what you are doing all the time," said Koenig. "They definitely put us in the fire. It's a lot faster pace in college. You may be unsure of something, but you still have to do it."

Koenig will be key again with Wisconsin playing another team projected finish in the top two of its conference. Eastern Kentucky has shown it can compete against top teams on the road. The Colonels had double digit leads at North Carolina State and VCU, but came away empty handed both times. Eastern Kentucky will provide an intriguing test for Wisconsin. The Colonels like to mix defenses, can shoot from the perimeter and are active with steal attempts. Eastern Kentucky has the second best turnover margin in the country (plus-7.7), a number that went up after forcing 22 turnovers in a 9-point win at Longwood on Saturday.

That might bother some teams, but the Badgers have proven to be stingy with their ball security, as Wisconsin ranks second in the nation with only 8.9 turnovers per game. One of Eastern Kentucky's biggest weaknesses is also a big strength of Wisconsin, as the Colonels have allowed its two most recent opponents to hit 22 three-pointers and shoot 47 percent from deep.

Wisconsin has made 39 percent of its three-pointers this season, 41st in the nation.

The big concern with Wisconsin here is the health of Kaminsky. Missing Thursday's practice with a leg injury, Kaminsky is a game-time decision tomorrow afternoon after being limited Friday. If Kaminsky can't go, UW will be extremely short on post players on the bench, as Zach Bohannon suffered a right knee injury and is doubtful.

UW should be fine either way, especially with the game being at home and the Badgers playing some of their best basketball over the past three weeks. With a two week break upcoming, UW should be 12-0 after a 17-point victory.

Worgull's Record: 8-3

Points off Prediction: 96 (8.7 per game)


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