Three-Point Shot: Northwestern

Before No.4 Wisconsin takes on Northwestern at the Welsh-Ryan Arena Thursday evening, Badger Nation looks at the three burning questions we're looking to have answered.

EVANSTON, Ill. - Wisconsin was able to handle Prairie View A&M, winning 80-43 Saturday, to close out its nonconference play undefeated. It was a good win for Wisconsin coming off a two-week layoff, as it allowed the Badgers to shake off some rust entering Big Ten play tonight.

Opening on the road against Northwestern, first-year head coach Chris Collins – a former Duke assistant – has the Wildcats sitting at 7-6 after a heartbreaking one-point loss to DePaul.

In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin to have success against Northwestern.

Lay up: Can Wisconsin win the rebounding battle?

The Badgers should find success on the glass against the Wildcats, which are allowing their opponents to grab 36.3 rebounds a game. Wisconsin has done a good job of boxing out this year to allow Sam Dekker, who leads the team in rebounds with 6.2, and Ben Brust to attack the glass.

Wisconsin should win the rebounding battle because they have a little more length, size and experience over the Wildcats. If the Badgers can continue to box out successfully, they'll be able to limit any second-chance opportunities the Wildcats may get. Northwestern is only averaging nine offensive rebounds a game.

The Badgers, who are averaging 10 offensive rebounds a game, will need to try and give themselves second-chance opportunities throughout the game. If they can, it will allow the Badgers' offense to continue to go deep into the shot clock to try and stretch the Wildcats' defense and patience.

Mid-range jumper: Can Nigel Hayes continue to get to the free throw line frequently?

Over the last two games, Hayes has gone 19-for-26 (73 percent) from the free throw line. It's not surprising that Hayes has found himself at the line but it is surprising how frequent it has been. Wisconsin has had the height advantage over the last two games, which has forced Eastern Kentucky and Prairie View A&M into trying to strip the basketball away.

Hayes most likely won't get to the free throw line as frequently with Big Ten play starting but one thing he has done a good job of doing is forcing teams to foul him at times. Hayes has been aggressive around the hoop and if he gets his hands on a rebound he'll go up right away with it to try and draw a foul.

Northwestern is averaging 19.6 fouls a game and teams are getting to the free throw line 24 times. If Hayes continues to be active around the hoop he should be able to find himself at the charity stripe. He'll have to make his free throws to help create separation.

3-pointer: Can Wisconsin slow down Drew Crawford?

Crawford is leading the Wildcats in scoring averaging (16.4 points a game) and is also leading the team in rebounds (7.8). Wisconsin is going to want to try and force Crawford into coughing up the basketball to try and get some easy points in transition. But Crawford has done a good job of taking care of the basketball - only coughing it up 1.5 times a game.

Wisconsin has to stay disciplined on the defensive side when guarding him. Wisconsin will most likely rotate players to defend Crawford; Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson could take turns but Dekker with his length could help slow him down. Wisconsin can't let Crawford drive and get to the free throw line, where he's shooting 80 percent. If the Badgers can slow down Crawford, Wisconsin should have a chance to pull away.

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