Green Bay (4-5, 0-0 Horizon) vs. No.14 Wisconsin (9-2, 0-0 Big Ten)
Date/Time – Wednesday, December 14, 8 p.m. central
Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)
Television – Big Ten Network (Brandon Gaudin and Shon Morris)
Radio –Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Wisconsin leads 21-1 (Wisconsin leads 18-0 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 84-79, on December 23, 2015, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 6.8 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.3 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 13.3 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 16.0 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 8.3 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 D’Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 6.1 ppg)
15 Charles Thomas (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 3.0 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 5.5 ppg)
25 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 1.7 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Koenig is 18-for-32 (.563) from 3-point range over the last four games. He ranks third in the Big Ten with 2.9 3FGs per game.
GREEN BAY PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Khalil Small (6-2 Junior Guard, 11.0 ppg)
12 Trevor Anderson (6-2 Freshman Guard, 12.1 ppg)
23 Jamar Hurdle (6-7 Senior Forward, 7.6 ppg)
34 Charles Cooper (6-4 Senior Guard, 13.6 ppg)
45 Kenneth Lowe (6-8 Senior Forward, 5.2 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
1 Kerem Kanter (6-10 Junior Forward, 7.9 ppg)
2 Turner Botz (6-7 Senior Forward, 8.1 ppg)
32 Tevin Findlay (6-4 Senior Guard, 3.6 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Kanter has now posted new career-highs in points in back-to-back games, scoring 17 points at Toledo before scoring 23 points at Central Michigan. Kanter is averaging 20.0 PPG over the last two games, despite only averaging 18.5 MPG. In the last two games alone, Kanter ranks seventh on the team in minutes per game but has recorded the most points, free throws made and free throws attempted.
LAST TIME OUT
MILWAUKEE – No.17 Wisconsin exerted its experience and strength to open the second half on a 27-7 run to roll past Marquette, 93-84, at the Bradley Center.
Wisconsin (9-2) put six players in double figures – including all five starters - and had five players score at least eight points in a 58-point second half that saw the offense shoot 64.3 percent from the field. But while the Badgers scored the most points they ever have against Marquette (7-3), it was the Badgers’ defense early in the second half that set the tone.
After Marquette shot 48.3 percent in the first half, the Badgers limited the Golden Eagles to 3 of 14 and forced four turnovers through the first 10+ minutes, allowing them to turn a five-point deficit into a 15-point edge.
Wisconsin scored 42 points in the paint (28 in the second half), won the rebounding battle, 33-27, and went 21 of 29 from the free throw line. UW limited the gap in fast-break points (19-14 in favor of Marquette), held a team averaging 18 assists per game to only eight and turned 12 Marquette turnovers into 22 points.
Koenig finished with a team-high 18 points (four 3-pointers) and Hayes had 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Wisconsin only had Happ for 1:41 of the first half after the sophomore picked up two quick fouls, but he delivered in the second half with 11 points and five rebounds.
Down 40-35 at halftime, Happ’s presence back in the lineup helped sparked the dominant run, scoring six points, grabbing five defensive rebounds and being a thorn in the side of senior center Luke Fischer. Fischer had nine points in the first half but managed only two the rest of the way on an offensive rebound put back, unable to get clean looks against Happ’s length.
Wisconsin and Green Bay have played every year since 1999.
Wisconsin has won each of the last six meetings with Green Bay by an average of 14.2 points per game.
Since the regular meetings began in 1999, Green Bay is averaging 56.7 ppg against UW and has scored more than 62 points just three times (2009, 2013 and 2015).
Wisconsin is 64-4 against teams currently in the Horizon League, losing to Green Bay (1999) Illinois-Chicago (1981) and Milwaukee (1992 and 2015)
MADISON – Leading by 30 points in the second half and on cruise control, the Badgers suddenly found themselves in a one possession game in the final minutes against a mid-major opponent, an all-too-common occurrence through the first two months of the season.
But after already faltering in three late game situations at home, Wisconsin scraped together enough plays to notch an 84-79 victory over Green Bay, making Greg Gard the eighth coach in program history to win his debut and just the third since 1934.
Four players scored in double figures for Wisconsin (8-5), which salvaged a win in the in-state round-robin despite coming 26 turnovers and many questionable decisions late that almost put a damper on the party.
Hayes provided the biggest lift with his scoring, including five points on consecutive possessions with less than two minutes to go that kept Green Bay at bay, and his 4-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio. After shooting below 40 percent in six of UW’s last seven games, Hayes started 6-for-6 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line and didn’t miss until the 4:58 mark in the second half.
But while Wisconsin fans started heading for the exits after Hayes’ free throws put UW up 68-38 with 13:01 to play, Gard knew better.
Green Bay (6-5) has made a living on pressuring opponents full court and using a variety of traps. Anybody who didn’t know better knew after the Phoenix went on a 33-6 run that made the Badgers look like keystone cops
Two of the ugliest stretches came when Wisconsin committed back-to-back turnovers within 15 feet of Green Bay’s basket early in the second half and another stretch where it committed turnovers on eight straight possessions.
Three of those came off the hands of Koenig, who committed a career-high eight turnovers.
“We did not play well,” said forward Ethan Happ, referring to the last 10 minutes. “It was embarrassing to our program. It was embarrassing to us. I know it made me sick. I’m sure it made the other guys sick as well. We cannot play like that in the Big Ten season and expect to win at any point in the game.”
Green Bay scored 93 and 108 points its previous two games but was all out of sorts against Wisconsin. After Carrington Love made a free throw at 13:50 to give the Phoenix a 16-15 lead, Green Bay spent the next 9:27 missing shots, committing seven turnovers and registering nine fouls.
The scoreless drought for the Phoenix equaled a 17-0 run for Wisconsin and a commanding lead that stayed at double digits for the next 23+ minutes.
Wisconsin has been closing out defensive possessions with the best in the country. UW leads the N.C.A.A. in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 80.3 percent of opponent missed shots. The Badgers are allowing an average of just 6.5 second-chance points per game.
UW has had a commanding advantage on the offensive glass, grabbing 138 offensive boards compared to just 74 for its opponents. UW's 12.5 offensive rebounds per game ranks fourth in the Big Ten.
The Badgers have trailed at the half in two of their last three games (vs. Oklahoma and at Marquette), but came back to win both comfortably thanks to strong second halves. Wisconsin scored 53 points on 63.6 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes vs. the Sooners and then tallied 58 points on 64.3 percent shooting in the second half against Marquette.
Happ and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue) are the only players in the NCAA averaging at least 13.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg and 2.5 apg.
GREEN BAY NOTES
The defending Horizon League tournament champions, Green Bay was picked third in the league’s preseason poll. Valparaiso and Oakland came in at first and second, respectively.
Green Bay is one of just two Horizon League teams (Milwaukee) to have only played two or fewer home games so far this season.
Kerem Kanter (15.7 ppg). Charles Cooper (13.7 ppg), Trevor Anderson (10.7 ppg) and Jamar Hurdle (10.3 ppg) are all averaging double figures on Green Bay’s current four game road trip (1-2).
Cooper was named Preseason First Team All-League by league voters, as the guard returns as the leading scorer (13.6 ppg in 26.7 minutes).
A year ago Thursday, Greg Gard’s life changed.
Prior to the start of Wisconsin’s nonconference game against Texas A&M Corpus Christi last December, head coach Bo Ryan told his longtime associate head coach that he was retiring later that night and giving the reigns to him, which would begin against the Phoenix eight days later.
Things have settled now, because everyone knows the drill and what the future holds, but the week certainly was a whirlwind almost one year ago.
“Here we go, two feet, jump in,” Gard said. “Hope you can swim. You can’t learn while you are floating along. I didn’t have time to overthink it.”
Saying he relied heavily on the people around him, Gard and Wisconsin didn't missed a step. The 2016 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year, Gard is 24-10 (.706) as a head coach and has the Badgers peaking at the right time heading into its final nonconference game before finals break.
It was ironic that Green Bay was the first opponent for Gard as a head coach, since he twice before had an opportunity to become the head coach for the Phoenix.
Watching the film prepping for Marquette, Gard felt he would have to go with a smaller lineup to counteract the Golden Eagles’ strong guard play. He had to go to it sooner than he wanted to with Happ getting two quick fouls, but the Badgers achieved success with its starting lineup and bench contributions from Khalil Iverson.
Looking at Green Bay in depth for the first time on Sunday, Gard said the Phoenix like to play at an even quicker tempo than Marquette. A prime example was the Phoenix’s previous game, scoring 97 points and losing by 10 at Central Michigan.
“You don’t want to watch that one right before going to bed,” Gard said.
In his first year after coming from Florida Southern, where he won the N.C.A.A. division 2 national championship with a 36-1 record, Linc Darner led Green Bay to a 23-13 record and a berth in the N.C.A.A. tournament. Not only did they do it with a fast tempo, the Phoenix did it with pressure defense full of traps and presses.
Wisconsin saw that first hand last season with Green Bay forcing 26 turnovers.
Gard’s first week on the job started with overhauling the offense and re-installing the swing. With a group already frazzled with finals, Ryan unexpectedly leaving and a new offense, Wisconsin committed 15 turnovers into 25 possessions in the second half, including turnovers on eight consecutive possessions that brought some boo birds out as UW saw a 30-point lead cut down to three.
It’s something that Gard said UW would revisit Tuesday to emphasize that the Phoenix are going to try to get the Badgers out of system.
“They are more accustomed to him now and what we wants, even though some of the pieces have changed,” Gard said of Green Bay. “We’ll have to play well, take care of the ball, handle pressure and transition defense, nothing we haven’t done before but at a much higher rate.”
Unlike last year, Wisconsin has its system in place and continuity with the coaching staff. After a year where UW was trying to figure it out, the most important thing the Badgers are working on are reminders to stay within its system.
These games before finals can be funky, especially considering players have other things on their minds. With UW having a veteran roster, the impact of that should be minimal.
With the Badgers more apt to handling the pressure, Wisconsin wins by 18.
Worgull's Record: 9-2
Points off Prediction: 107 (9.7 per game)