Men's basketball notebook

Badgers suffer free throw woes; Flowers earns minutes

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — All season long the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team has been inconsistent from the free throw line and Saturday's shooting performance only further highlighted one of the Badgers' most glaring problems this season.

After hitting 27 of 35 free throw attempts in a win earlier in the week over Iowa, the Badgers could only connect on 7 of 16 in their 70-59 loss to top-ranked Illinois.

"Obviously you could use all of the points," head coach Bo Ryan said. "You don't yell someone into making a free throw… A free throw is an individual muscle memory reflex operation and let her go. We shot pretty well the other night, but that's the other night, that's basketball."

More than just the luck of the night, this Wisconsin team throughout the season has struggled to get to the line—much less make its attempts—on the road. In UW's last three road games, the Badgers are averaging only 12.3 attempts from the free throw line and following Saturday, have lost two of those three games.

Asked after the game whether the free throw shooting woes was discouraging to his team, Ryan responded, "We measure people by what it takes to discourage them… I don't think we have guys that are easily discouraged."

No one could blame the Badgers if their free throw shooting was discouraging. UW made just 2 of 8 from the stripe in a close first half in which UW trailed by only one going into halftime.

In the second half, the Badgers could only get to the line eight times while Illinois got there 17 times. Overall, Illinois shot 18-of-19 from the charity stripe for the game.

Flowers gets called early

As Ryan said after the game, UW's inexperience is not an excuse, but a fact and the fact is, Wisconsin has a lot of young players with little conference experience.

One of those players who received some quality minutes Saturday was freshman guard Michael Flowers. The rookie got the nod off the bench early for the Badgers when Ryan sent him in at the 11:45 mark in the first half.

He played six minutes in the first half and 12 overall in the game. In that time, he scored one point. More importantly, the Badgers went on an 11-6 run in the first half with Flowers running the point.

"Coming out here and playing Dee Brown, [Deron] Williams and [Luther] Head and getting to guard them, I think I've gained some experience," Flowers said. "Also while I was out there, they exposed my inexperience. But Coach put trust in me and I think that gives me confidence to work hard and keep playing."

To Ryan, the increase in playing time for one of his young players is the result of hard work during practice.

"He just plays hard. He's going to get minutes… He earned them," Ryan said. "He's earned them in practice. He's done some really good things in practice. I think you have to reward people that do that."

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