Date/Time -Friday, November 28, 3:30 p.m. Central
Arena –Imperial Arena, Atlantis Resort
Television -ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Andy Katz)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Phil Dawson and Andy North)
Series – Series tied 3-3 (Wisconsin leads 1-0 on neutral courts)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 75-64, on November 29, 1997 in Hilo, Hawaii
Wisconsin Probable Starters
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 14.2 ppg)
12 Traevon Jackson (6-3 Senior Guard, 7.7 ppg)
15 Sam Dekker (6-9 Junior Forward, 13.0 ppg)
21 Josh Gasser (6-4 Senior Guard, 6.5 ppg)
44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Senior Forward, 16.5 ppg)
Off the Bench
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 3.2 ppg)
13 Duje Dukan (6-10 Senior Forward, 7.3 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 4.7 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Sophomore Guard, 3.7 ppg)
Oklahoma Probable Starters
0 Ryan Spangler (6-8 Junior Forward, 9.6 ppg)
10 Jordan Woodard (6-0 Sophomore Guard, 8.6 ppg)
11 Isaiah Cousins (6-4 Junior Guard, 12.2 ppg)
24 Buddy Hield (6-4 Junior Guard, 18.2 ppg)
35 TaShawn Thomas (6-8 Senior Forward, 8.4 ppg)
Off the Bench
1 Frank Booker (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 5.6 ppg)
2 Dinjiyl Walker (6-1 Junior Guard, 7.4 ppg)
31 D.J. Bennett (6-8 Senior Forward, 1.6 ppg)
Last Time Out
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - In their first nail biter of the season, No.2 Wisconsin played sloppy and was even out toughed for stretches but found its stride down the stretch to scratch out a 68-65 victory over Georgetown Thursday afternoon at the Imperial Arena on the Atlantis Resort.
Sam Dekker scored 17 points, Nigel Hayes’ tip-in with 20 seconds left and many more things all benefited Wisconsin (6-0), which will play Oklahoma (4-1) for the tournament championship Friday afternoon. The Sooners took down No.21 UCLA Wednesday and Butler, who upset No.5 North Carolina in the quarterfinals, Thursday to match up.
For the longest time, it looked like the Sooners would be preparing for the physical style of the Hoyas, who had every reason to win in the program’s first meeting with Wisconsin since 1982. The Hoyas (5-1) shot 53.2 percent (25-for-47) from the field, limited senior Frank Kaminsky to six points on 1-for-8 shooting and forced a season-high 13 turnovers.
It caused the Badgers to trail by as many as nine points in the second half, seven more than they had trailed by at any point in their first four games, when Wisconsin unleashed a 22-6 run without much help from its two senior guards.
With Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson on the bench with four fouls a piece down the second-half stretch, sophomore Bronson Koenig made sure UW’s offense didn’t skip a beat. Playing a season-high 27 minutes, Koenig scored a season-high 14 points and finished with a game-high four assists, as the Badgers surrounded the sophomore with four players all 6-9 or higher (Dekker, Duje Dukan, Nigel Hayes and Kaminsky).
The lineup was so successful that both senior guards told Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan to keep rolling with the lineup because of how well it was clicking on both ends of the floor. The Hoyas scored only 10 points in the final 9:35.
After Koenig erred in fouling Paul White on a 3-point attempt, and then seeing the former Wisconsin recruiting target hit all the free throws to cut the score to 66-65 with 50 seconds left, Hayes tipped in a Jackson miss at the rim with his left hand as he was falling to the floor.
It was Hayes’ only bucket of the second half, but the biggest of his 15 points.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera – the Big East preseason player of the year – lived up to the hype after a game-high 29 points. He was 5 for 5 from 3-point range until the game’s final shot with Jackson and Kaminsky aggressively defending, making up for their combined 1-for-10 shooting day on the floor.
Wisconsin and Oklahoma have meet six previous times with five of the meetings coming between 1942-54.
Oklahoma is 27-37 against schools currently in the Big Ten, excluding Nebraska. The Sooners went 104-83 when the Huskers were in the Big 12.
Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan coached together during the 1995 World University Games in Fukuoka, Japan. Kruger served as the USA head coach and Ryan as an assistant for a squad that won the gold medal with a 7-0 record (scored 109.3 points per game and won by an average of 38.6 points). The squad featured Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson, as well as current UAB head coach Jerod Haase, whose Blazers are competing in this week’s Battle 4 Atlantis.
Over the last two seasons, Wisconsin is 18-5 (.823) away from home, the top winning percentage in road/neutral games in the Big Ten. The Badgers are 2-0 away from the Kohl Center this season after going 8-3 in true road games and 8-2 in neutral settings a year ago. Only Michigan State (19-6, .760) has more wins away from home than Wisconsin over the two years.
The Badgers are living up to their reputation for smothering defense, leading the Big Ten in scoring defense (49.7 ppg), while limiting foes to just 37.1 percent shooting overall and 29.7 percent from 3-point range.
Hayes is second on the team in both scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg). He leads the team in field goal percentage (.600), is second in blocks (5) and steals (6) and fourth on the team with 12 assists.
After playing limited minutes Wednesday vs. UAB, Dekker played 32 minutes Thursday vs. Georgetown, leading Wisconsin with 17 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Overall, he is third on the team averaging 13.0 ppg and is shooting .538 from the field.
OU returned 68 percent of its scoring, 70 percent of its rebounding and 73 percent of its assists from last season’s 23-10 squad that finished in sole possession of second place in the Big 12 (12-6). The Sooners welcomed back four starters (each started all 33 games).
After outrebounding No. 5 North Carolina by 17 and grabbing 29 offensive rebounds on Wednesday, Butler was outboarded 41-32 by Oklahoma and only grabbed 13 offensive caroms.
Oklahoma shot 65.0 percent from the field in the opening half against Butler, its best mark in a half this season, before settling for a 45.5 mark for the game. OU made its first 11 2-point field goal attempts of the game.
Isaiah Cousins led OU in scoring for the second time this year, finishing with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He added eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Cousins is averaging 7.6 boards per game on the year.
Ryan Spangler grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds against Butler. It was the fourth time in five games Spangler grabbed at least 10 boards (had nine in the other). He has led OU in rebounding in all five outings.
How physical was Wisconsin’s semifinal contest against Georgetown? Just ask Frank Kaminsky, who not only struggled from the field (0-for-5 from 3-point range, 1-for-8 overall), but took an inadvertent shot to the nose that resulted in a flagrant-1 foul.
After winning its first five games by an average of 30.4 points, Wisconsin was able to show it can win a grinder without playing its best. The Badgers won despite a season-high 14 turnovers, shot a season-low 48.8 percent from the field and saw both Gasser and Jackson rendered nonfactors because of foul trouble.
But in coming back from a nine-point deficit in the second half (UW hadn’t trailed by more than two the first five games), Wisconsin stuck to its M.O. of getting to the free throw line. Wisconsin went 20-for-27 (74.1 percent) from the field throw line, while limiting the Hoyas to just 9-for-13 at the stripe.
UW is 107-14 (.884) all-time under Bo Ryan when attempting at least 25 free throws in a game.
The Badgers will need that gritty attitude again this afternoon against a Sooners team that rivals Wisconsin for suffocating defense. Holding opponents to 59.4 points per game on 33.6 percent field goal and 22.2 3-point shooting, the Sooners have been even better in the Bahamas, as UCLA and Butler combined to shoot 31.3 overall and 20.0 (8 for 40) from behind the arc.
Oklahoma held UCLA to 65 points (30 below its season average) and Butler to 46 points (35 below its season average). Butler entered the game shooting 48.3 percent from the field, but its 23.7 field goal percentage was the lowest mark by an Oklahoma opponent in more than a decade. The Bulldogs also saw its 35.4 3-point percentage drop to 17.4 percent after the Sooners held them to two separate scoring droughts of at least eight minutes.
The Sooners have held each of their five opponents to sub-38-percent field goal and sub-31-percent 3-point shooting.
The Sooners are more than just a one-trick pony with six players averaging over seven points per game and are led by Hield, who ranks third in the conference with an 18.2 points per game average.
A player who hoists a lot of shots (his 79 attempts are 31 more than anyone else on the team), Hield – a native of Freeport, Bahamas - is 6 for 27 from 3-point range over the last three games (22.2 percent) but is still shooting 39.0 percent from behind the arc on the year.
If anyone knows how good Hield is it’s Dekker and vice versa. The two participated in the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skills Academies this past summer, and Hield said he, Dekker and fellow camp participants Georges Niang (Iowa State), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga) and Ron Baker (Wichita State) regularly group text message each other.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the country,” said Hield of Dekker. “He’s a real competitor and doesn’t shy away from the big moment. Off the court he’s just a really good guy and fun to hang around, just like my OU teammates.”
Wisconsin showed how dangerous it can be Thursday in winning a game against a top-notch opponent with its own best players struggling. I’d be surprised if that happened two games in a row. The Badgers are going to get everyone’s best shot this season, which was why Dekker said Thursday’s win was good for the team’s confidence to survive a battle.
“It was two good teams going at it and we're not going to win every game by 15-20 points,” said Dekker. We have to show that we have the guys and the characters who are going to step up and make plays.”
Oklahoma is arguably a more physical test than Georgetown for UW, but the Badgers will be a much tougher test for the Sooners than Butler. I see this game going either way, especially since the Sooners only loss this season was a three-point setback at perennial mid-major powerhouse Creighton.
In coin flips, however, I always side with the more experienced, talented team. Wisconsin by four.
Worgull's Record: 6-0
Points off Prediction: 38 (6.3 per game)