"(Devin Harris) thinks like the head coach now when it comes to turnovers. He had one deflected and you talk about a street fight going after that loose ball, because he knew if they got that loose ball that's a turnover. Devin was a big key controlling the offensive tempo, pushing it when it was there, when it wasn't letting the guys set."
On the play Ryan initially alluded to above, junior point guard Devin Harris scrambled toward a loose ball, the result of a pass that was deflected in the backcourt. He lunged after it, inadvertently trampling a Titan player on his way to regaining possession. For Harris, the hustle preserved a turnover free game that was combined with nine assists.
"Once that ball is on the floor you don't want that turnover," Harris said. "So you are going to fight and claw to get that ball back as fast as you can."
Harris' competitive flame burns bright on the court no matter the opponent or the game situation, often for 40 consecutive minutes. Harris personifies the down-to-business, workmanlike attitude that coach Bo Ryan preaches and the Badgers readily implement on the hardwood.
"We want to go out there and give it our all at all times for the whole 40 minutes," senior guard Freddie Owens said. "We practice like that and we want to play like that. That's the only way you can get better."
Later in the Detroit game, Harris led a fast break with Owens on his right. Harris, who had hit Owens for a layup in a similar situation just a few possessions before, wanted Owens to break for the rim. Owens, though, feathered to the corner, where Harris found him with a bounce pass through traffic. Owens did not have a good look at the basket and reset the offense, passing back to Harris along the wing. Once he received the ball, Harris shouted to Owens that he should have cut to the basket, his face showing the same fire as when the game began. Owens nodded and proceeded to run the offense, joining the rest of the Badgers in sprinting, cutting and setting screens as if the game were on the line. When the play occurred, with about five-and-a-half minutes left in the contest, Wisconsin led 65-32.
"It doesn't matter how many points we are up by," Harris said. "We are just trying to get it to the point to where we are running the break and he knows where he is supposed to go, we get on the same page and I thought he had the angle where he could take it to the basket."
"We want to play every possession hard because we know when it comes time to close a game that is what we are going to be doing," Owens said. "So no matter if we are up 30 or if we are up two or if we are down two, we just need to bring intensity and play hard."
Harris, who leads the Badgers in scoring (17.3 points per game) and assists (5.5), is simply one example of Wisconsin's competitive fire and strength with the basketball. The Badgers are averaging just nine turnovers per game and have fumbled double-digit possessions just twice in six games—with a season-high 14 in the team's only defeat, a 73-67 overtime loss to Maryland. Harris runs the offense with a gaudy 4.13 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"We have to take care of the ball. If I can go a whole game without turning the ball over that is great—that is something that I'm striving for every game," Harris said.