Men's hoops: Bulldogs could pose challenge

Badgers host Louisiana Tech Wednesday night after nearly two weeks without a game

After taking three days off for the holiday weekend, and having not played a game since Dec. 15, the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team hit the ground running Monday afternoon. The Badgers had to knock off any rust in a hurry in preparation for tonight's game with Louisiana Tech.

The Bulldogs visit the Kohl Center with a mere 7-5 record, but this is yet another challenging non-conference opponent for Wisconsin (9-1), which entered the Associated Press poll at No. 24 this week.

"We got right back into it," UW forward Alando Tucker said. "Coach knows that we have to be ready."

The Bulldogs will not be intimidated by the sold-out Kohl Center, despite the fact Wisconsin has won 26 consecutive non-conference home games. Texas Tech had won 34 of its last 35 non-conference home games before the Bulldogs dominating 68-53 victory Dec. 7.

Louisiana Tech has also traveled to face No. 4 Memphis, losing 76-58, Alabama (a 73-63 loss) and Nebraska (59-56). The Bulldogs trailed the Huskers by two late, but two turnovers and a missed jumper in the final 1:13 ensured Nebraska's win. The Bulldogs were tied with then-No. 18 Alabama midway through the second half, but missed six consecutive shots to allow the Tide to pull away.

"We're playing a pretty good team Wednesday," UW coach Bo Ryan said, "as I'm watching them rope-a-dope Texas Tech by 15 at Texas Tech. Alabama they've got them, they've got them on the ropes at Alabama. Then they just went cold."

The Bulldogs best player is 6-foot-8 junior forward Paul Millsap, who led the nation in rebounding each of the past two seasons. This year Millsap is averaging 21.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. Despite being the center of opponents' defensive attention he has been very effective, shooting 62 percent from the floor and earning about eight free-throw attempts a game (he is 64 of 95 at the charity stripe). Millsap scored 27 points with 12 rebounds against Memphis and went 21 and 11 with no turnovers against Alabama.

"Pro. He's a pro," Ryan said. "He's a player. He can score inside, outside."

Said UW assistant Greg Gard: "He's always going to get his touches and try to get his hands on the ball as much as possible. But he also finds other ways to get involved with the offensive rebounding, loose balls It just seems like he's always around the ball. He has a very good feel for how the game should be played and finishes extremely well."

Millsap has drawn comparisons to Karl Malone, a Louisiana Tech product.

"I didn't see Karl in college, but I would assume he'd have to be very comparable," Gard said. "(Millsap) just produces. He doesn't wow you with any one particular move. He's just always in the right spot, has a nose for the ball, is extremely strong. Can take people up with him. A very, very good player."

Louisiana Tech has been trying to forge an identity around Millsap with an influx of junior-college talent. First-year Bulldog guard Jerome Richardson has started 11 games, while fellow junior-college transfers guards Marcus Elliott and Trey McDowell have each started six games.

"They've got some newcomers in there, some junior-college transfers (and) they're trying to figure out a rotation," Gard said. "… Just try to piece things together and find the right pieces to go around Millsap."

"They're older but this is the first time, coming out of junior colleges, that they've been on the floor with this group," Gard added. "At times they'll look very good, other times maybe haven't played as well as I'm sure they would have liked. But have gotten better as the year goes on."

Millsap is the Bulldogs' only player averaging in double figures. Senior guard Corey Dean comes off the bench and is second on the squad with 9.1 points per game, followed by Elliott's 7.8

Senior point guard Daevon Haskins, in his second year at Louisiana Tech, is averaging 6.1 assists per game, but also leads the team with 2.8 turnovers per outing. Ball security has been an issue for the Bulldogs, who average 17.5 turnovers per game. But opponents have turned the ball over 15.8 times per contest, and have shot just 41 percent.

"They've been able to create some chaos with their pressure, their full-court press, as well as some stuff they do in the half court," Gard said. "(They) create a chaotic-type atmosphere on the floor, try to create a lot of gaps to drive and some transition opportunities."

Ultimately, though, Louisiana Tech's success will revolve around Millsap.

"They'd like to go to him, I'm sure, to start things, but if they can't they've got other guys that have been able to step up and have done a very good job of knocking down shots and making plays," Gard said.

What: No. 24 Wisconsin (9-1) v. Louisiana Tech (7-5)
When: Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 7:05 p.m.
Site: Kohl Center (17,146), Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: Live radio broadcast on Wisconsin Radio Network; tape-delayed television broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television at 11 p.m.
Series notes: This is the first meeting between the two teams.

Badger Nation Top Stories