With one in-state opponent in the rear view mirror, Wisconsin will turn its attention to another in-state opponent against Green Bay Wednesday.
A year ago Thursday Gard made his head coaching debut against the Phoenix. Since that first victory against Green Bay, Gard has accumulated 24 wins and can push the Badgers winning streak to five. The game against Wisconsin will mark Green Bay’s fourth straight road game, having gone 1-2 over its current road trip.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin (9-2) as they prepare to play Green Bay (4-5).
LAY UP: WORKING THE BALL AROUND ON OFFENSE
There have been multiple factors as to why Wisconsin has won its past five games but one of the reasons is the fact that Wisconsin has consistently been able to move the ball efficiently on each offensive possession. Consider this, on Wisconsin’s five game winning streak, the Badgers have amassed 82 assists on 157 made shots from the field.
Wisconsin registering an assist on 52.2 percent of its made field goal attempts over the last five games has allowed the Badgers to consistently find the best shot, yielding a high shooting percentage. Over Wisconsin’s five game winning streak, the Badgers have shot below 50 percent from the field just once (49.2 percent against Syracuse).
Due to the fact that Wisconsin is willing to go deep into the 30 second shot clock, teams are playing defense for long stretches at times. The result has been teams starting to get tired over the course of the game, which is when Wisconsin has been able to capitalize and put together a strong second half. Over Wisconsin’s last five games, the Badgers have shot 55.7 percent (82-for-147) from the field in the second half compared to 51.1 percent (75-for-147) in the first half. Additionally, Wisconsin has averaged 47.2 points in the second half compared to the 39.4 points in the first half over the current winning streak.
That could mean bad news for Green Bay considering it allows 41.5 points in the second half and 78.8 points a game. With Wisconsin’s offense averaging 77.4 points this season and starting to click on all cylinders, the Phoenix may struggle to consistently slow Wisconsin’s offense down if they can’t challenge Wisconsin’s passes.
Wisconsin has registered at least 15 assists in four of the last five games and Green Bay is allowing teams to average 13.1 assists per game. Being able to make the correct pass on each play will allow Wisconsin to continue generating the best shot and should lead to them building a lead over Green Bay.
MID-RANGE JUMPER: PLAYING DISCIPLINED DEFENSE
Through 11 games Wisconsin has shown that they won’t allow teams to find ways of getting to the free throw line, as the Badgers’ 15.4 fouls per game ranks 10th in the country. With Wisconsin fouling so little, it has prevented teams from generating points with the clock stopped, as opponents average 14.2 free throw attempts per game.
That will be challenged against a Green Bay team averaging 25.4 free throw attempts a game. However the Phoenix are shooting just 68.1 percent from the free throw line.
Despite Wisconsin fouling as little as they do, there have been instances of mental lapses, particularly fouling a 3-point shooter. Nigel Hayes did it against North Carolina and Wisconsin did it twice against Marquette (Vitto Brown and Bronson Koenig the guilty parties). It hasn’t become a trend this year but the Badgers still need to be able to consistently contest the three without making contact. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Phoenix try some shot fakes to try and draw some contact.
In reality Wisconsin should be willing to allow Green Bay to take as many shots as they want from the perimeter. On 23.4 attempts per game, the Phoenix are shooting 29.4 percent from three. It’ll be important that Wisconsin is disciplined and prevents Green Bay from getting the ball in the post and that Ethan Happ remains active and smart in the low block.
Happ leads Wisconsin with 17 steals but he took himself out of the game Saturday with two fouls in the first 1:41 of the first half. Considering Happ has been able to stay disciplined this year in the paint (1.8 fouls per game), he should learn from Saturday and provide sound defense helping limit Kerem Kanter, who has averaged 20 points over the last two games.
3-POINTER: CAN WISCONSIN WIN THE REBOUNDING BATTLE?
Wisconsin has been able to effectively hit the glass, as the Badgers’ rebounding margin of 13.7 per game ranks third in the country. Thanks to the frontcourt being strong through nonconference play, either by boxing out or coming down with a rebound, the Badgers have limited opponents to 26.2 rebounds a game.
It’s not surprising that Wisconsin has been able to win every single rebounding battle this year, with the exception against North Carolina. Green Bay could test UW’s positioning and toughness in the block, as the Phoenix average 40.7 rebounds a game. Wisconsin hasn’t allowed a team to register 40 rebounds against them this year. However, the Phoenix allow teams to average 41.6 rebounds per game, bad news playing a Badgers team collecting 39.9 boards per game.
If Wisconsin remains active once a shot goes up they should be able to come down with the ball considering Green Bay allows 12.1 offensive rebounds a contest. Wisconsin is averaging 12.5 offensive rebounds a game and certainly have been able to capitalize on second chance opportunities. Since Wisconsin only scored one point off of second chances in the loss against North Carolina, the Badgers have averaged 15.8 points over their five game winning streak and 13.2 points per game this season.
In order to make sure the Phoenix can’t attack the glass, it will be important for Wisconsin’s frontcourt to limit Khalil Small and Kenneth Lowe, as the two are tied for the team lead with 52 rebounds. The Phoenix have two additional players in Charles Cooper and Turner Botz who also have been reliable on the glass, collecting 44 and 43 rebounds, respectively.
In particular Wisconsin has excelled in limiting teams to one shot per possession (6.7 offensive rebounds a contest) and holding teams to an average of 6.5 second chance points.