Offensively Better This Time Around

Six days after seeing its offense pick apart in Durham, Wisconsin rebounds in all offensive categories against Wofford, showing promise heading into the Battle for Wisconsin.

MADISON - On a night where Wisconsin honored its 1941 championship team and team members Ted Downs and Fred Rehm were on hand to take part in the festivities, this year's edition of the Badgers decided to pay homage to them with their play – a low scoring affair with very little offensive rhythm and no three-point buckets.

After Wisconsin found itself down 5-0 and looked to be headed toward another dreary start, the Badgers dusted off their Chuck Taylors and put the nose to the grindstone.

Wisconsin (6-1) didn't let another slow start spoil the commemorative evening, engineering a 31-8 first-half run to put any doubt of an upset to rest, cruising to a confidence-boosting 70-43 victory Monday night.

So many of the things that went wrong against Duke last Tuesday were easily corrected against a smaller, slower Wofford (3-2) team that has only played one school from a BCS conference (Arkansas) so far this season.

But from how disappointed the Badgers looked on Tuesday night, Wisconsin would have gladly played anybody from anywhere to get the sour taste out of its mouth before the big in-state game on Saturday.

The Badgers held the rebounding edge, shot 22 percentage points higher in the opening 20 minutes, had 11 fewer turnovers and dominated the paint, out scoring the visitors 40-16 underneath the basket.

"We got some looks inside, some touches in the paint, and the closer you are to the basket, the higher the percentage," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "I give that lecture every week in my basketball camp. You try to get it there but dog gone it, the defense is trying to keep us from getting there. That's always a constant battle."

Wisconsin also regained its aggressiveness by driving to the hoop and getting to the free throw line. After shooting only 13 free throws in Durham and watched Duke go 19-for-23 from the charity stripe, the Badgers went 17-for-27 (63 percent) while allowing the Terriers to shoot only six foul shots in the first half.

"In the Duke game, we had some people standing around and coach saw that," sophomore Jason Bohannon said. "He wanted us to move more off the ball and when you do that, there's going to be more off-the-ball fouls and that's how it was tonight."

Don't think for a second that Wisconsin got off scot free in terms of not having things to work on, especially senior Brian Butch.

The fifth-year senior's struggles continue to ground him offensively. Butch went 1-for-4 from the floor in the first half and finished the game 4-for-10, the sixth time this season he has shot under 50 percent from the floor.

More surprising, Butch is now 0-for-16 on the year when it comes to making baskets from three-point range, something that hasn't given him trouble in past seasons.

"Brian is going to hit one before the year is out," Ryan said. "Maybe Saturday (against Marquette)."

Wisconsin also continues to struggle to find its range from the arc, going 3-for-13 from distance, and guard the perimeter, as Wofford connected on six shots from distance, a majority of them coming uncontested.

In Durham, the three-point shot was one of the Badgers many pitfalls. Duke made nine first-half threes en route to making 16-of-24 perimeter shots in its 24-point victory.

Combine Wisconsin's last two games and the Badgers are 6-for-27 from three-point range.

While the 1941 team didn't have to worry about defending the perimeter (the shot was not adopted until the 80s for you non-historians), the Badgers are going to have to find a way to silence a Marquette starting lineup that boasts four starters capable of making perimeter shots, even though Ryan isn't concerned.

"We were getting touches inside, so it really wasn't a feel for our three-point shooting like in some guys where you at least get some type of rhythm," Ryan said. "On J-Bo's, those were right within the offense so it's fine."

But the Badgers took advantage of a Wofford team struggling with injuries, particularly to senior guard Shane Nichols. Nichols, who hasn't play in the last two games due to an injury, is just one of three key injured players on the Terriers.

"We may have taken a Wofford all-star team from the past 20 years and had a tough time in here," Wofford head coach Mike Young. "They were ready to go. But playing without (Shane) Nichols makes it tough for us.

"Playing a Big Ten team, big, strong, physical guys, we just don't have the ability," Young added. "We don't have a whole lot of bullets in the gun right now (and) I thought they wore us down."

With a depleted bench and Wisconsin emptying out its bench tonight, the Badger bench outscored their visitors 28-4 and converted 14 Wofford turnovers into 21 Wisconsin points.

"This is the type of team where everyone can contribute," junior Marcus Landry said. "Our team is structured that way. Those guys are able to come off the bench and we don't lose anything. They are the same as the starters and they are capable of starting. Those guys are great players and they generate a spark coming off the bench."

But if the Badgers want to beat rival Marquette for the third-straight year and for the fourth time in the last five years, Wisconsin will need to be the team that scored 38 points in 26 trips to the basket to end the half, rather than the team that scored no points in its first five opening possessions.

"We had some pretty good practices coming in to correct and get better at what we try to do," Ryan said. "We're going to go into the Marquette game no matter what happened tonight. Duke's a different team than Wofford and we had them here. Now we get ready for the next game."


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