Men's hoops: Frigid from the field

The Badgers' shooting percentage has bottomed out during stretch of five losses in six games.

Several themes have developed through the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team's current slide, during which the team has lost five of six games. The most pronounced theme, however, has been incredibly cold shooting.

It is not like the Badgers (15-7 overall, 5-4 Big Ten) have forgotten how to run the swing, or how to work for open shots. For the most part, in the past six games UW has had good looks at the hoop. The team has not forfeited many possessions, either. With 14 turnovers in last night's 70-62 loss at Purdue, the Badgers are averaging just 11.3 per game in the past six games, and only 11.6 in the five losses.

Putting the ball in the hoop has been much more difficult than keeping a handle on it, however.

In the past six games, Wisconsin is shooting 36 percent, while its opponents are connecting at a 47 percent clip. Prior to UW's 77-67 loss at Ohio State Jan. 18—the beginning of the current skid—the numbers were reversed. Through 16 games the Badgers were shooting 47 percent and holding their opponents to 40 percent success. Through UW's 4-0 conference start, opponents were shooting a mere 34 percent, compared to UW's 46.

Now, the tables have turned, much to the benefit of Wisconsin's opponents. When a team struggles to make shots, it is almost impossible to settle on whether it is a case of bad offense or good defense, or some combination thereof. But just as there is little question UW benefited from Iowa's miserable early-season shooting, for instance, there is little question the Badgers' recent opponents have been the beneficiaries of UW's shooting slump.

Discount a couple outliers during this stretch—UW's 50 percent first-half shooting in its rout of Penn State, and its 55 percent shooting in the second half of its 85-76 loss at Michigan—and the Badgers' woes become particularly pronounced, with a shooting percentage of 33.

Through the slump Alando Tucker has continued to score. He was held to 11 points on 2 of 18 shooting against North Dakota State, but in the five Big Ten games, Tucker is averaging 20 points per game and shooting 48 percent. Second-leading scorer Kammron Taylor is averaging 17.8 points per game in the last five league contests, but has been off-and-on with his shot, connecting on 41 percent. The junior duo has received little scoring help from their teammates, as the Badgers continue to search for a consistent third scoring option.

One positive shooting development: after making 56 percent of their free throws in the first four conference games, the Badgers have made 73 percent in their past five.

But good news has not been easy to come by for UW of late.

In the past three games, UW has also struggled immensely in the rebounding department, with a combined -29 margin. In Big Ten play the Badgers are now statistically among the league's worst rebounding teams, averaging a -.9 rebounding margin per game.

UW's woes began prior to the Jan. 18 game at Ohio State, when it was announced that top reserves forward Marcus Landry and center Greg Stiemsma would not play. Both players are out for the rest of season, having been declared academically ineligible for the semester. The Badgers have clearly missed their presence on the glass and on the defensive end, and the team's sudden lack of depth has been a significant issue. And without their primary backups, starters Brian Butch and Jason Chappell have not been as effective.

But the above does not hold water as a reason for Saturday night's defeat. Not against a Purdue team that is without five players it was hoping to call upon when the season began, including four potential starters.

And whatever the concerns of depth or defense, the Badgers' most glaring problem has been shooting. Regularly making less than 40 percent of their field goal attempts will not equate to many wins in the Big Ten.

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