After escaping with a win against Marquette, Wisconsin will wrap up the in-state opponents on its nonconference schedule when they play Milwaukee (4-5) at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Despite the losing record, the Panthers are 3-1 at home this year, but Bo Ryan has recorded a 20-5 schedule away from the Kohl Center over the last two seasons.
Wisconsin leads the all-time series against the Panthers, 30-1, including a perfect 10-0 in road games. The last time Wisconsin traveled to play Milwaukee, however, Wisconsin managed to escape with a six-point victory in 2011.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for No.5 Wisconsin as they strive for their second win over a 2014 NCAA Tournament when they play Milwaukee Wednesday night.
Lay Up: Can Wisconsin shoot a better field goal percentage?
Wisconsin isn’t going to be able to win a lot of ball games if they shoot 32 percent from the field like they did against Marquette, its lowest percent from the field this season and first time UW shot below 40 percent from the field. The Badgers have shown that they can be an efficient team on offense, with all five starters for the Badgers shoot better than 45 percent from the field.
One of the reasons why Wisconsin struggled against Marquette was because the Golden Eagles’ zone was able to take the post away at times from Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes, forcing Wisconsin to beat them by making jump shots. Wisconsin has shown it can beat teams out of the zone with Josh Gasser and Kaminsky having shown it can hit shots, both shooting over 43 percent from 3-point range.
If the shots aren’t falling and the Panthers are playing zone, Wisconsin will have to find ways to generate points to avoid long scoring droughts. Wisconsin suffered one drought against Marquette that lasted over five minutes in the first half. A slow start could hurt Wisconsin, as they may not be able to take control of the game early and dictate the tempo.
One way to avoid that is if Nigel Hayes can come out aggressive against Milwaukee. Hayes was able to find open spaces by scoring five of Wisconsin’s first seven points. After his strong start, however, Hayes didn’t score again. Hayes needs to remain aggressive even if the post is taken away from him, needing to try and find space where he can play to his strengths. Hayes is usually one of the first to break open the scoring and if he can remain aggressive trying to find his shot near the free throw line, the offense should have success.
Mid-range jumper: Slowing down Steve McWhorter
The Badgers have faced some talented guards during the nonconference schedule and will face another one in Milwaukee’s senior guard. McWhorter leads the team in points (16.2 points per game) and assists (3.4) and is also second on the team in rebounds (5.8).
With McWhorter showing that he can do a little bit of everything, Josh Gasser will need to be efficient on the defensive side of the floor to try and slow him down. The last thing Gasser can allow McWhorter to do is beat him off the dribble consistently or allow him to set one of his teammates up for success.
Gasser has been able to do his job of slowing down UW opponent’s top guards, as he averages 0.7 steals a game, and has recorded multiple steals twice this season. Succeeding in his job to force opponents into taking shots that they don’t like, Gasser will have to continue to do so against McWhorter, who has scored in double digits in every game this season except for in the Panthers season-opening loss to Auburn.
McWhorter is shooting 52 percent from the field, which leads the Panthers, but is only making 36 percent from 3-point range. If Gasser can make sure he doesn’t have any driving lanes and force McWhorter into shots from the free throw line and beyond, it will limit the Panthers quality shots and offensive rebounding opportunities.
Even if Gasser can slow down McWhorter, Wisconsin has allowed the second guard to be able to do damage. Wisconsin was able to find a way to slow down Marquette’s Deonte Burton Saturday but it was Matt Carlino who had the success. If that trend continues Wednesday, Traevon Jackson will need to do his job to defend JeVon Lyle. Lyle is second on the team in scoring averaging nine points a game and is fourth on the team in field goal percentage (43 percent).
3-pointer: What kind of success can Frank Kaminsky have?
Coming off his fourth double-double of the season, Kaminsky leads Wisconsin in rebounds (8.9) and is second in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Branden Dawson (9.0). Kaminsky is one of the key reasons why Wisconsin has been winning the rebounding battle by an average margin of 7.8 rebounds a game, which is the second largest rebounding margin in the Big Ten. The Badgers also lead the conference in defensive rebounding averaging 28.2 rebounds a game, and Kaminsky averages 7.2 of those rebounds.
Like Marquette, the Panthers don’t have the size or experience to matchup with Kaminsky. J.J. Panoske will draw the matchup of Kaminsky, who stands at 6-10 and has struggled boxing out. He only averages 2.6 defensive rebounds a game and the last two games he hasn’t registered a defensive rebound. If Kaminsky can get into right position against Panoske or Matt Tibby, he should be able to get offensive-rebound opportunity and create second chances for points either for himself or a teammate.Per usual, Kaminsky will also play a big role on defense. One area is continuing to block shots, or alter them, as he has been able to register a block in eight of nine games this season. Kaminsky registered three blocks against Marquette, the third time this season Kaminsky has recorded at least three blocks. Kaminsky now has 116 career blocks at Wisconsin, one behind Mike Wilkinson for fourth on the all-time list.
If Gasser can force McWhorter (1.9 turnovers a game) into an ill-advised pass, Kaminsky could be there to help finish off the turnover. Kaminsky has also been able to do a good job on the year of stripping the basketball away out of his opponent’s hands, as he leads Wisconsin with 1.7 steals a game. If Kaminsky can do either one to help create a turnover, it could help Wisconsin shoot a better percentage from the field then they did against Marquette.