Refreshed Badgers prepped for Greensboro

Wisconsin will face an athletic team Thursday night at the Kohl Center

After a week away from game competition, the Wisconsin men's basketball team returns to the hardwood tonight rejuvenated, reenergized and ready to get back to competition.

Seven days removed from their last game, the Badgers host UNC Greensboro at the Kohl Center and in the process look to continue their winning ways at home.

"The break was huge," sophomore Alando Tucker said. "I feel so much better now and it looks like everyone has a little more hop in their step out on the floor."

"We were a pretty tired team at the end of last week, so the time off was good for us," UW assistant coach Gary Close said. "We'll have to wait and see how the team will respond Thursday, but overall, the team looks ready to roll."

The Badgers face a Spartans team that enters Madison riding a three-game winning streak following a loss versus Iowa Dec. 4. With four starters averaging double-digit points per game, head coach Fran McCaffery's squad posts a potent scoring attack averaging 78.2 points a contest. Sophomore Ricky Hickman leads the Spartans with 18.1 points per game and also averages 3.4 steals per contest. As a group, Greensboro averages 12.4 steals per game and adds 7.1 blocks per contest to supplement a dangerous offense with an equally intimidating, productive defense.

"Greensboro is very athletic at all five positions," Close said. "They do a terrific job getting the ball to the rim, penetrating and that's why they shoot a lot of free throws. They are a solid defensive team, one of the top shot-blocking teams in the country and yet they don't foul very much. They are scoring a lot more points from the free throw line than their opponents are and turning people over with their quickness."

On the year, UNC Greensboro has hit more free throws (149) than their opponents have attempted (102)—a trend very similar to the way the Badgers play. This season, UW has made 115 of 171 free throws while its opponents have made just 67 of 104 from the line.

"Both teams rely on it [free throw shooting] heavily," Close said. "Both teams not only do a good job getting to the free throw line, but also not fouling. That will be a key area to look at and see which team can get the advantage in that facet of the game."

Both teams will also look to establish the post. UNCG has scored 382 of its points this season in the paint, accounting for 54.3 percent of the team's scoring. Similarly, Wisconsin's front court players have accounted for 350 of the Badgers' 534 points (65.5 percent) this season.

The Badgers will have the Kohl Center crowd on their side. A win Thursday would establish a new school record with 34 consecutive wins at home.

"They're a real good rebounding team, aggressive and shoot the ball well," senior Mike Wilkinson said. "They play hard and know how to play on the road so we have to come out right away, set the tempo and play our own aggressive style."

Who: UNC Greensboro (7-2) at University of Wisconsin (6-2)
When: Thursday, Dec. 23 at 7:05 p.m.
Where: Kohl Center (17,142), Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: The game will not be televised. It can be heard live on the 46-city Wisconsin Radio Network.
Series notes: This is the first ever meeting between the two schools.

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