Idaho State (1-7, 0-0 Big Sky) vs. No.17 Wisconsin (7-2, 0-0 Big Ten)
Date/Time – Wednesday, December 7, 7 p.m. central
Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)
Television – ESPN3 (Jordan Bernfield and Mac McCausland)
Radio –Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Wisconsin leads 1-0 (Wisconsin leads 1-0 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 65-48, on December 9, 2008, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 6.7 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.1 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 13.7 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 15.2 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 7.4 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 D’Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 6.8 ppg)
15 Charles Thomas (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 2.7 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 4.6 ppg)
25 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 2.2 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ethan Happ has scored in double figures in six straight and is near the top of several B1G categories: second in rpg (9.8), second in offensive rpg (3.4), third in FG% (.697) and second in spg (1.9)
IDAHO STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
1 Geno Luzcando (6-3 Junior Guard, 11.9 ppg)
3 Ethan Telfair (6-3 Senior Guard, 19.8 ppg)
5 Robert Jones III (6-8 Junior Forward, 6.6 ppg)
13 Novak Topalovic (7-0 Sophomore Center, 9.8 ppg)
15 Brandon Boyd (5-11 Freshman Guard, 14.3 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 Hayes Garrity (6-2 Junior Guard, 4.0 ppg)
11 Erik Nakken (6-3 Junior Guard, 2.6 ppg)
24 Stephen Lennox (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 2.3 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Having a streak of 26 straight games scoring in double figures snapped Nov.29, Telfair has 18 games of 20 points or more in his career, as well as at least five assists in four games and at least five rebounds twice this season.
LAST TIME OUT
MADISON – Nigel Hayes scored a game-high 28 points as No.17 Wisconsin used a blistering second half to outlast Oklahoma, 90-70, at the Kohl Center Saturday afternoon.
Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig and D'Mitrik Trice all added 16 points for the Badgers (7-2), which shot 63.3 percent in the second half to overcome a three-point halftime deficit.
The Sooners (5-2) took a 58-57 lead with 11:45 left, but the Badgers executed a 20-2 run over the next 5:08 to ice the victory. Twenty-one of the points were scored by Hayes, Happ, Koenig and Trice, who shot a combined 27 of 45 from the floor.
"I thought we were getting better looks and being a lot more patient inside," Koenig said. "Our bigs just read the defense really well and kicked it back out if they were getting double teamed or made good moves to make it to the free-throw line, or finished.
After hitting just 4 of 13 3-point attempts in the first half, the Badgers connected on 8 of 14 in the second. That included three in their decisive run.
Four days after nearly registering a triple-double, Hayes shoot 61 percent from the floor, had six assists and zero turnovers. Trice, whose point production was a career high, went 4-for-4 from 3-poiint range and had zero turnovers in 20 minutes. Happ went 7-for-9 from the field, upping his season shooting percentage to 69.7 percent.
In scoring 53 points in the second half, Wisconsin averaged 1.6 points per possession.
“Our offensive efficiency was pretty good,” head coach Greg Gard said. “The numbers jump out as far as Nigel having six assists and no turnovers. The plays that he made in there and the attention that he drew (were important).”
Sophomore Rashard Odomes scored 17 points to lead the Sooners, who shot 49 percent from the floor. Leading scorer Jordan Woodard had nine points in the first half but was held scoreless in the second, going 0-for-2 in nine minutes.
"The last 10 (minutes), I thought Wisconsin was great," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "They started making shots like that in the second half, really knocked us on our heels and we didn't respond very well to that."
Wisconsin committed five turnovers, the first time this season the Badgers committed single-digit turnovers, and turned 16 Oklahoma turnovers into 24 points.
Wisconsin is 9-1 all-time against members of the Big Sky Conference. The only loss was a 73-69 setback to Weber State in Hilo, Hawaii in 2001, Bo Ryan's first season at Wisconsin.
The Badgers' last contest with a member of the Big Sky was a 78-64 win over North Dakota last season (Nov. 17, 2015).
Idaho State’s last win over a team from a Power-5 conference was a 62-57 win at Oregon on Dec. 3, 1986.
MADISON – Jason Bohannon knew that his role was going to change.
As the Big Ten’s reining Sixth Man of the Year, Bohannon averaged 26.3 minutes coming off the bench in 36 games for Wisconsin in 07-08, scoring 8.2 points per game and led UW with 51 3-pointers.
With UW losing senior Michael Flowers, Bohannon knew that his role this season, now as a full-time starter, would be to assist in picking up the slack for the departed.
Although he’s still trying to figure out the pieces, Bohannon helped UW avoid the upset by doing what he usually does best – hit the 3-point jumper and nail free throws
Tying his career-high with a game-high 18 points, Bohannon nailed his first two 3-pointers early in the first half and never stopped shooting from the outside, scoring 12 of his 18 points from the perimeter to help Wisconsin overcome a sluggish shooting night and outlast Idaho State, 60-58.
Bohannon made his first 3-pointers to help UW build a 12-2 in the game’s first five minutes. After missing his next three perimeter shots and seeing Idaho State take a one-point lead, Bohannon made his last two 3-pointers, including his one at the buzzer to give UW a two-point lead at halftime.
While missing the only two shots he took in the second half, Bohannon was the x-factor down the stretch, going 6-for-6 from the free throw line (all in the final five minutes) to help UW stay one step ahead of Idaho State the entire way.
“Everyone’s role has changed,” Bohannon said. “We lost some players from last year and the roles are different for everyone. There is a little bit of a role change for me out there and I have to fill Mike (Flowers)’ shoes a little bit offensively and defensively and do all the little things. Each person has to do something more than last year."
Although UW didn’t look ready for the Bengals with the late arrival from Milwaukee and finals on the horizon, the Badgers had better numbers against Idaho State in most categories than they did against Marquette; eliminating nine turnovers (finishing with only seven), grabbed nine more offensive rebounds and shot a better percentage from the free throw line.
Most importantly, the Badgers, despite blowing a double digit lead for the third straight game, managed to grab a victory in a competitive game.
Matt Stucki hit a 3-pointer for the Bengals with 2.9 seconds left, and Idaho State had a chance for an upset after Trevon Hughes of the Badgers was whistled for a lane violation on the second of two free throws. But Marcus Landry broke up the Bengals' full-court inbounds pass at the top of the key, preserving the victory.
Landry scored 14 points and had eight rebounds for Wisconsin. Jon Leuer added 11 points for the Badgers.
Since the Dec. 15, 2015 retirement of Bo Ryan, Greg Gard and Wisconsin haven't missed a step. The 2016 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year, Gard is 13-2 (.867) as head coach at Kohl Center.
Wisconsin already owns wins over two of the 2016 Final Four participants (Syracuse and Oklahoma) and has beaten teams from the ACC, Big 12, Big East and SEC this season.
With 10 3-pointers in his last two games, UW's leading scorer Bronson Koenig is now seventh on UW's all-time list for made triples (191 3FGs). He is averaging 2.7 3FGs per game.
UW is 7-0 this season when leading or tied with 5:00 remaining. Dating back to February of 2011, UW is 144-5 (.966) when leading or tied with 5:00 left, including a mark of 21-1 last season.
IDAHO STATE NOTES
This year’s Bengal basketball team returns 75.6 percent of its scoring from the 2015-16 season. The team scored 2,297 points and 1,738 of those points return.
Four starters return to the Bengal lineup. All four combined to average 48.2 points.
This year 10 of the 11 eligible players to see the floor are averaging 10.3 minutes or more. Telfair leads the team in minutes played at 33.
Since the fourth week of November, Boyd is averaging 18.2 points a game and shooting .481 percent from the three-point line. He is also 22-28 from the free throw line during this stretch.
A little more than a week ago, I asked assistant coach Howard Moore about how close Wisconsin was to developing the chemistry needed to compete for Big Ten and national titles. He said that no matter the end result, the common denominator was that the Badgers were competing hard each time out.
“To the man, we’re always competitive,” Moore said at the time. “We may not make all our shots. We may not value the ball every possession like we should, but our competitive nature is consistent. We’ve got guys trying to do the right things. There’s going to be hit and miss at times, successes and failures, but the thing is staying the course and continuing to learn.”
While Wisconsin’s defense has been on point for most of the season, the offense was the issue in losses at Creighton and North Carolina. Over the last three games, that issue appears to have been corrected. The Badgers are averaging 87.3 points and shooting 52.5 percent over the last three outings, coming in No.10 in the KenPom rankings for most efficient offense with 115.3 points per 100 possessions (for reference, Creighton is ninth at 116.4 and North Carolina is fourth at 118.3).
Not by surprise, that has coincided with Wisconsin not settling for jump shots, touching the post on nearly every possession and facilitating its offense through those post touches.
“We’ve got bodies and got some depth, and their starting to figure out the chemistry of playing with each other in terms of the passing and the spacing,” Gard said.
If the Badgers can 1.19 points per possession against Syracuse and 1.29 points per possession against Oklahoma, Wisconsin should be able to do just fine tonight against Idaho State.
To be fair, the Bengals have been on the short end of the stick in recent years. In the last four seasons, Idaho State has had 45 losses by nine points or less, including 23 by four points or less. They are 0-2 this season after losing on a buzzer beater to Cal State Northridge. They are likely due but it likely won’t happen tonight.
The Bengals are giving up 80 points per game (tied for 305th in the country) and only grab 29.5 rebounds per game (346th in the country). That’s not a recipe for success against the Badgers’ length inside.
Wisconsin by 31.
Worgull's Record: 7-2
Points off Prediction: 103 (11.4 per game)