Surviving its road challenge at California, Wisconsin gets to return to the Kohl Center to close out the nonconference schedule against Buffalo (7-2) Sunday. Playing its first game in Madison in over two weeks, Wisconsin will have to be ready for a Buffalo team that is averaging 72 points a game.
Playing on the road is nothing new for the Bulls, having played six road games and all consecutively. The Bulls are 4-2 away from home, have won by an average of 13 points a game and dropped one game by 19 at No.1 Kentucky.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin as they strive for a fifth straight win in preparing to play Buffalo for the first time in program history.
Lay up: Avoiding scoring droughts
Wisconsin was in control against California for most of the game but had three scoring droughts that allowed California to stay in the game longer then they should have. The good thing for Wisconsin is the Badgers haven’t suffered many scoring droughts this year and have usually found a way to get themselves quickly out of it.
In order to avoid the scoring droughts and any holiday layover effect, both Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky will be relied on to help make sure the Badgers can continue building on their lead. Hayes and Kaminsky should be able to find different ways to score the basketball but being able to pass the ball out to the perimeter will be just as important. Both have shown to be effective passers through Wisconsin’s nonconference schedule, as Kaminsky ranks third on the team with 26 assists and Hayes is averaging 1.4 a game.
With the pair being such effective scorers, the Bulls will need to collapse players on them if they get the ball around the hoop, which will result in UW having an open teammate. But if Hayes or Kaminsky can get in a one-on-one battle, they should be able to consistently win with their length and size advantage over a Bulls team with no starter taller than 6-8.
Mid-range jumper: Winning the rebounding battle
Not surprisingly with the Badgers length this year, Wisconsin has been able to consistently win the rebounding battle and are outrebounding their opponents by 8.4 per game. The Bulls have been an effective rebounding team with an average of 39.7 boards a game.
Even if Buffalo is outrebounding their opponents by a 2.2 margin, the Bulls were outrebounded by 20 when they played Kentucky. Wisconsin should have the same success and, once again, Hayes and Kaminsky will likely be the one’s helping prevent second-chance opportunities or giving the Badgers a second chance on offense of their own.
Hayes and Kaminsky have recorded eight games this year where one of them has registered double digits in rebounds this year. Hayes leads the team in rebounds, averaging 8.1 a game, and is averaging 2.2 offensive rebounds a game. If Wisconsin does suffer through a short scoring drought, getting extra opportunities should help them get themselves back on track. Kentucky was able to grab 19 offensive rebounds against Buffalo. The Badgers are only averaging 9.6 offensive rebounds a game but are shooting 48.8 percent from the field and scoring 8.6 points off offensive rebounds.
Hayes or Sam Dekker will have to be aware of where Justin Moss is on the court, as the 6-7 junior leads the team with 10.2 rebounds per game. When Moss faced Kentucky, he was held to six rebounds, meaning the Badgers can effectively box him out and prevent him from doing damage on the glass.
If Wisconsin can consistently grab an offensive rebound it will force Buffalo to play another potential full shot clock, which should help wear the Bulls down over the game.
3-pointer: Can Wisconsin come out strong on defense?
In addition to being an effective rebounder, Moss also averages a team-high 17.3 points a game, as only Kentucky and St. Bonaventure are the only two teams to hold him to single digits in scoring this year. More impressively, he puts up those numbers without the benefit of the 3-point shot, as he has to attempt one from distance this season.
Moss is a high volume shooter, averaging 12.4 attempts a game and is shooting 49.1 percent from the field. Dekker and Hayes will have to team up to try and slow down Moss down low. Both possess good length on defense and have both improved on defensive side of the floor, which should help considering Moss averages 2.7 turnovers and only 0.4 assists per game. As long as the Badgers forwards can limit his space in the paint, they will be able to take away his comfort zone on offense.
It isn’t just Moss for Buffalo who has trouble keeping control of the ball. Shannon Evans averages 2.9 turnovers a game, and Lamonte Bearden leads the team with three, as Buffalo averages 14.2 turnovers a game. Wisconsin is forcing 12.8 turnovers a game and averaging 17.1 points off of team turnovers.
Next to Moss, Evans is second on the team in points, averaging 14.8 a game. Traevon Jackson will likely draw the assignment of defending Evans, who is also a dangerous passer with 5.2 assists a game. If Jackson can cut off any passing lanes, it will limit any possible opportunities that Buffalo may have on offense.
If Wisconsin can play pressure defense without fouling, it should frustrate Moss and Evans and prevent any easy opportunities Buffalo may get on offense.