The first meeting between Wisconsin and Idaho State put the Badgers on upset watch. Three days after suffering a three-point loss at Marquette in 2008, Wisconsin was able to escape a two-point nail biter against the Bengals. Considering Idaho State enters Madison with a 1-7 record, this one isn’t expected to be as close as the first meeting.
Since Wisconsin lost to North Carolina in the Maui Invitational championship game, the Badgers’ offense has been efficient, averaging 87.3 points and shooting 52.4 percent from the field. That’s a bad recipe for the Bengals considering they have allowed teams to shoot 47.1 percent from the field while giving up 80 points through their first eight games.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin as the Badgers prepare to play Idaho State.
LAY UP: THE PLAY OF D’MITRIK TRICE
A pleasant surprise for Wisconsin through nine games, the true freshman has quickly earned the trust of head coach Greg Gard, evident by the fact that he played at least 20 minutes four times. Trice’s strong play has started to take minutes away from redshirt junior Jordan Hill, considering D'Mitrik Trice runs the point guard position whenever he’s in the game and moves Bronson Koenig to the shooting guard position.
Trice leads the bench in minutes (16.4 per game) and has done well of playing within the offense, not trying to do too much when he’s on the court and help keep Wisconsin in a consistent flow. Trice is averaging 6.8 points a game and is coming off a season high 16 points (4-for-4 from 3-point range) against Oklahoma.
While there’s a lot to choose from, Trice’s perimeter game has been one of the biggest surprises, as he’s shooting 65 percent on 20 attempts. That efficiency from three has helped open up opportunities for him to attack the basket and create scoring chances. More often than not Trice has made the right play, as he’s dished out 14 assists to eight turnovers and didn’t turn the ball over against Syracuse or Oklahoma.
There have been instances where Trice has made an ill-advised pass, resulting in a turnover or scrambles by one of his teammates. Trice needs to be able to clean up in this area considering the Bengals average 7.9 steals a game and have forced an average of 14.4 turnovers.
MID-RANGE JUMPER: CREATING SECOND CHANCES
Wisconsin has done well of finding ways to attack the offensive glass, as there have been only two games where the Badgers have failed to register double-digit offensive rebounds. Overall Wisconsin is averaging 13 offensive rebounds a game and are facing an Idaho State team which allows 11.7 offensive rebounds a contest.
In order to create second chances, Ethan Happ and the rest of Wisconsin’s frontcourt will need to be able to get the better positioning against 7-footer Novak Topalovic. Happ will need to use his length in order to get around him and box him out in order for himself to get the rebound or for a teammate to attack the glass. That’s no easy task considering Topalovic leads Idaho State with 57 rebounds (40 on the defensive glass).
For the most part this season Happ has consistently shown to be able to get his hands on the ball off a miss. Some of his best offensive rebounding games – Georgetown (8), Syracuse (6) and Prairie View A&M (5) – have come in the last five outings.
With Wisconsin finding ways of giving itself second chances, they have done well of taking advantage with an average of 12.6 points per game in those opportunities. There have been five games this year where the Bengals have allowed teams to register at least 10 offensive rebounds, resulting in 15.2 points on their second chances in those games. Wisconsin needs to continue its aggression on the glass and attack the paint against a defense that allows 33.5 points in the lane.
3-POINTER: CONTAINING ETHAN TELFAIR
The younger brother of former N.B.A. guard Sebastian Telfair, Ethan Telfair has shown that he can score with a team-best 19.8 points per game. He also shoots the ball…a lot. Having played in five games this season, Telfair has attempted at least 20 shots three times and is averaging 16.6 attempts per game. He’s also shooting the ball at only 38.6 percent, so being disciplined and consistently getting a hand in his face is critical to defending someone who scored at least 30 points seven times last year.
Idaho State relies on Telfair to either attempt to score or to deliver a pass after creating something on offense. Despite Telfair only playing in five games, he still leads the team in assists by a wide margin (Telfair has 31, Topalovic is second with 12). Koenig and Zak Showalter will need to find a way to make sure Telfair doesn’t dominate when the ball is in his hands and force somebody else to try and beat Wisconsin.
Telfair wants to be able to drive in order to draw a foul as he attacks the basket, something he does successfully with his eight free throw attempts per game. It’s important that Wisconsin’s backcourt doesn’t get beat off the dribble and force Telfair to consistently settle for jump shots, particularly from 3-point range where he shoots 36.4 percent on 22 attempts.
Another weakness in his game is ball security, as Telfair averages four of the Bengals’ 16 turnovers a game. Getting Telfair to give up the basketball and force Geno Luzcando to handle it will allow Wisconsin to disrupt the Bengals rhythm. Like Telfair, Luzcando has shown to struggle with turnovers, as he’s responsible for 3.8 turnovers a contest.
Being able to create extra offensive possessions will allow Wisconsin to dictate the tempo and help build a lead. If Wisconsin can do that, along with supplying the defensive pressure, it could force Telfair from playing his game.