After losing to Illinois at home 66-51 Tuesday night, the Badgers have now lost four of their last five games, two of them in the Kohl Center where coach Bo Ryan is not used to losing.
"The questions I get asked when I win, I say, ‘Well, we'll enjoy this tonight and tomorrow we'll go back to getting ready for the next game,'" Ryan said. "So when you take a bump, you can't say, ‘We'll enjoy this tonight.' So we won't enjoy being on the right-hand side but the next day you get back to doing what you have to do. Players do that. Competitors do it."
The team's recent streak of bad games started with a loss on the road to Ohio State, which was also the first game UW reserves Greg Stiemsma and Marcus Landry were out of the lineup due to what was later announced to be academic ineligibility. Without the luxury of a deep bench, Ryan has had to tweak his rotations. The coach does not believe, however, that change is the reason for his team's latest hardship.
"We could have lost to Eastern Kentucky, we could have lost to Old Dominion, we could have lost to Wilmington," Ryan said. "We've been up and then down and fought back at the end. [Stiemsma] wasn't on the floor for a lot of that so when it comes to talking about what isn't, if you've got five years you can talk about what isn't for five years. You talk about what is."
Badger forward Alando Tucker continues to lead the team in scoring, and came through again in its loss to Illinois with 19 points. Just like his coach, Tucker doesn't consider the shortened bench to be a reason for his team to lose.
"Everyone is making excuses about the losses we've had with losing two guys with Greg and Marcus," Tucker said. "But my teammates, I have a lot of confidence in them and I think they have confidence in themselves, too. We just have to start showing it."
"We have 15 guys," Tucker continued. "If I was a guy that wasn't getting as many minutes I'd look at it as an opportunity for me to showcase who I am. So Kevin Gullikson, Joe Krabbenhoft, we're expecting production from those guys just like we were with Marcus and Greg. It's tough when you lose two guys."
In Tuesday's loss, freshmen Krabbenhoft and Gullikson played 17 and 12 minutes, respectively, and combined for six rebounds and two points. Although they might be contributing more than typical freshmen in the Big Ten, the Badgers clearly need everyone to step up in order to get some wins.
That means shooting the ball better. After hitting their first two 3s of the game against the Illini, the Badgers went on to shoot a dismal 1-of-18 from beyond the arch for the remainder of the game.
"If their not shooting the 3 well it hurts and it will hurt anybody," Ryan said. "You still need to get some inside action going, too. Balance is good."
Ryan might be referring to the fact this his team was out rebounded 43-28 by Illinois. Sophomore center Brian Butch led UW with nine rebounds but would certainly have had an easier time under the basket with Stiemsma, a 6-foot-11 center, or Landry, a high-jumping 6-7 forward helping out inside. Stiemsma and Landry averaged a combined six rebounds before they stopped playing this season.
The Badgers' only other big man, 6-10 center Jason Chappell, was a non-factor against Illinois. He has started every game this season but on Tuesday shot 0-for-6 and had just one rebound.
"If you're Jason Chappell, it's ‘What do I have to do?'" Ryan said. "That had to be very frustrating for him because everybody wants to contribute."
UW point guard Kammron Taylor is bothered by the Badgers' performances as of late. He contributed 14 points against Illinois but committed four turnovers.
"Anybody who plays a sport and loses four out of five games has to be frustrated," Taylor said. "But that's why we play the sport, to compete, so we're going to go back at it Thursday and get ready for Purdue (on Saturday). After tonight, I don't want to dwell on this game."