Another chilly forecast for UW

Badgers shooting fails them on the road yet again

INDIANAPOLIS—According to the current bestseller's list, the world is flat. So is the Badgers' shooting.

But in the latter case it does not take an economist, a sociologist or anyone with anything beyond a basic comprehension of the game of basketball to understand Wisconsin's woes of late. The shots simply are not falling.

"We just got some looks and we weren't able to knock them down," junior forward Alando Tucker said, following the Badgers' 61-56 loss to Indiana in a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal here Friday afternoon. "That's what it comes down to."

Another cold performance away from the Kohl Center ended in 33 percent shooting from the floor and a season-low 12 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Kammron Taylor (0-for-6) was missing shots everywhere. Michael Flowers (3-for-13) was missing shots in his most extensive play (37 minutes) of the season. Ray Nixon (1-for-8 overall, 0-for-6 from 3) was missing shots mostly from deep. Brian Butch and Kevin Gullikson managed to get it in the hoop, but that did little to keep the Hoosier defense honest on the perimeter in the game's closing minutes.

In fact, many of those points in the paint simply came on put backs of Badger misses. That would be evident just by glancing at the Wisconsin assist total, which happened to match the number of three-pointers made by the Badgers — two.

Tucker attempted to carry the entire team on his shoulders, but ultimately ran into a clogged lane and physical play from a number of defenders. Indiana coach Mike Davis said the Hoosiers went at Tucker with the mentality of having two guys spy on him in addition to the man guarding him. Not being able to hit outside shots kept the Badgers from drawing that extra help away from Tucker.

"When you've got a guy like Tuck who can score and is just such a dominant player, sometimes when people are double- and triple-teaming him it kind of opens some guys up," Gullikson said. "But when the shots don't fall it kind of puts us at a disadvantage."

There was no questioning the team's effort by anyone in the locker room following the game. Coach Bo Ryan praised the Badgers for playing hard throughout. Instead, everyone had roughly the same response.

"We just didn't knock down shots," freshman Joe Krabbenhoft said.

"We've just got to hit some shots," Butch said.

"When you get these kinds of looks, you've got to knock them down," Ryan summarized.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, and the Badgers have certainly done that. After closing out 48-for-138 (35 percent) from the field over their final five road halves in the regular season, Wisconsin continues to have difficulty shooting away from home — a stretch that roughly extends to halftime of its game at Northwestern on Feb. 23.

"We struggled again on the road," Taylor said. "And I'm pretty sure coach is tired of preaching the same message that we have to start knocking shots down on the road."

On Friday, the first half was an even larger problem, but it started mattering more late in the game, once Indiana caught fire. The Badgers could do little to keep up, short of one 3-pointer by Butch before the Hoosiers opened up a lead. While IU drained long-range shots in the face of defenders, Wisconsin could not finish its wide-open looks.

"We were definitely getting the shots that we usually get," Taylor said.

When the Badgers missed those shots or IU made its attempts, a very pro-Hoosier Indianapolis crowd made sure UW heard about it. It may not have been a neutral court setting, but it also was not the most hostile environment Wisconsin has faced.

In an NCAA Tournament setting, the Badgers will in all likelihood have to overcome a high-seeded team probably situated near its home. They should expect the road to get no easier if they want to make it past the first weekend. The shooting will need to come around, as the team thinks it should. They see the past two weeks as beneficial in the long run — a learning experience.

"We have to just keep shooting," Flowers said. "We can't just change everything up that has worked for us — our inside-outside game. Sometimes the ball doesn't fall in the hoop."

But as the Badgers await Sunday to learn their NCAA fate, they now face a final week in which the learning experience ends and they are put to the final exam. They are hopeful things will eventually go their way.

After all, the world does not actually just go on flat, forever and ever. It goes around and around, as everyone knows. The question is whether Wisconsin's luck can follow.

Matt Lewis, a frequent contributor to Badger Nation, is also keeping nightly blogs and features at creative sports writing site

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