In a battle for state bragging rights, Wisconsin heads about 70 miles east on I-94 to take on undefeated Marquette at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Marquette is currently riding an 11-game home winning streak and has opened the season 8-0 for the ninth time in school history and the second time during head coach Tom Crean's tenure. The Badgers present the toughest opponent yet this season for Marquette, though, and considering the history between not only the two programs but also many of the players, Saturday's contest expects to be a good test for both teams.
"It'll be a battle," senior Sharif Chambliss said. "They're a physical team that will be ready to go, so we have to be too. Not that every game isn't a big game, but this is a big game."
Marquette enters the game, similar to the Badgers, riding their 3-point shooting. The Golden Eagles win Tuesday over South Dakota State was the fourth time this season they have shot a better percentage from beyond the 3-point arc than from the field generally. In the 16-point win, Marquette was 10 of 25 (40.0 percent) from 3-point land and 23 of 58 (39.7 percent) from the field. Overall this season, Marquette has made 64 triples, accounting for 33.9 percent of the team's field goals and 32.5 percent of the team's points this season.
The Golden Eagles are unquestionably led by senior point guard Travis Diener, who is the team leader in points per game (20.1) and assists (5.9). On the season, Diener is shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from 3-point territory.
"He's good," senior forward Zach Morley said. "He'll be one of the better players we'll face all year. He can create his own shot but at the same time create shots for others. So we have to be ready for his ability to shoot from anywhere, penetrate and set up his teammates."
In addition to Diener, Marquette boasts two other players averaging double-digit scoring—junior forward Steve Novak (15.9 points per game) and sophomore guard Dameon Mason (14.6). Novak is the team's leading 3-point shooter, connecting on 60 percent of his attempts from downtown (27 of 45). Mason is arguably the Golden Eagles' most athletic player and also ranks second on the team in rebounding at 7.6 per game.
As a group, the Golden Eagles average nearly 74 points per game, and combined with a physical, stifling defense that is limiting opponents to 38.8 percent shooting and 62.5 points per game, the team has created a strong formula for success.
On the other side, nine Badgers are averaging double figures in minutes this season, so if need be, Wisconsin will have the luxury of digging deep into its bench for guys who have quality playing experience this season.
"On any given night, there's different guys are stepping up. We're not relying on one person," Morley said. "[Saturday] everybody's going to have to step up and knock down the open shot when it's there."
Who: Wisconsin (5-1) at Marquette (8-0)
When: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004, 7:35 p.m.
Where: Bradley Center (19,150), Milwaukee
Broadcast: The game will be televised live in Madison on UPN 14. It can also be heard live on the 46-city Wisconsin Radio Network.
Series Notes: This will be the 111th meeting between the two teams. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 60-50 but Marquette holds a 35-25 advantage in Milwaukee.