Wisconsin's defense steps up

Badgers contain Jagla and Johnson

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MADISON, Wis.—Coming into Wisconsin's match-up against Penn State on Wednesday night, it was no surprise that the Nittany Lions were going to utilize junior center Jan Jagla as much as they could. The real shocker came thanks to how Wisconsin decided to defend him.


During Penn State's 68-45 loss, Jagla did not find a center or a taller forward guarding him, but the likes of Badgers that were far smaller following his every move. When the Lions' got their first possession, it was sophomore guard Boo Wade who was the first to take on Jagla. Though he stands a mere 6-foot-3 compared to Jagla's 7-foot frame, Wade is known for his long arms that aid in making him one of UW's better defenders.


While Wade was covering Jagla for a majority of the opening half, junior forward Zach Morley and little-used senior guard Ike Ukawuba also got a chance to try and stop the man in the middle.


"I was going to start those five guys no matter who they started and we figured that was who they'd go with," UW head coach Bo Ryan said regarding his defensive decisions. Seniors center Dave Mader and guard Freddie Owens and juniors forward Mike Wilkinson and guard Devin Harris joined Wade in the starting lineup.  "Jagla has been played by perimeter players, big players, he's been played by a lot of different players."


Despite notable defensive efforts from the three Badgers, Jagla was hard to contain in the first half. He not only scored the team's first four points but knocked down 10 of Penn State's final 12 points before halftime, and they all came in different ways. His first deuce came off a jumper on a dish from freshman guard Marlon Smith. Next, Ukawuba failed to box out Jagla, who was there for an easy lay-in. After working the paint, Jagla worked his outside game and stepped beyond the arc to nail a 3-pointer. Finally, he scored Penn State's final points of the half by grabbing the offensive board from Smith's missed 3-point attempt and on his way up tallied the bucket and drew the foul from Wade. His free throw put the Lions within striking distance at 30-22 as they entered the locker room.


The second half was a different story for Jagla. Things started off rocky for him with an air-ball, a missed 3 and a wasted post opportunity because of a bad pass thrown to him from sophomore forward Aaron Johnson. Jagla finally got the ball in the bucket after his hook shot in the paint over Morley, but that would be his final points of the evening.


"Second half we got some good rotation on him where different guys played him and he didn't get real comfortable in the second half," Ryan said. "He was in a lounge chair in the first half, he was that comfortable."


Jagla ended up leading all Penn State scorers with 16 points and picked up seven rebounds in 35 minutes.


Besides Jagla being a potential threat on the inside, the Badgers also had to worry about the 6-9 Johnson. This time Wisconsin opted to make use of one of its bigger players. Senior center Dave Mader stands above Johnson at 6-11 and his one block and two steals showed that he did what was necessary defensively. Johnson, who averages 9.6 points a game, did not connect on a field goal in the first half but was able to tally two free throws. In the second half he tallied two more free throws and connected on two field goals but Mader and the Badgers held him to 2-for-10 total shooting and eight points on the night.


"Dave did a great job on Johnson," Ryan said. "That was the idea to try and get someone to be effective on Johnson in the post. We've could do a post highlight film on him with his post moves, he's using the shot fakes, getting people off the floor…If you let him go and get going there in the post, he's…pretty good inside. But tonight Dave took a lot of that away."


Whether they are big or small the Badgers proved tonight that they can do it all defensively. After going sour in the team's two losses last week against Illinois and Michigan, Wisconsin finally found what it was looking for against Penn State. Controlling the big guys was a major factor in the victory but ultimately the Badgers broke down the Lions with their overall defense. The 45-point finish was Penn State's second-lowest tally of the season.


"I think we were a little bit more intense defensively," junior forward Mike Wilkinson said. "We did a little bit better job of seeing the whole floor and just making every shot they took was pretty tough."

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