Sharpening Sloppiness

Although charging out to big leads in the last two games, Wisconsin's offensive struggles have caused opponents to find their way back into ball games.

IOWA CITY - Without a legitimate, glamorous leading scorer and beginning the year off the national radar, the Badgers – now ranked eighth in both major polls – are beginning to make a statement about how the Bo Ryan system of basketball usually leads to success.

"It was all about execution and guys being ready to play," UW senior Brian Butch said. "We play together as a team, we play off each other and our unselfishness usually leads to good things."

If Wisconsin wants to continue to rise in the polls, however, the Badgers have to fix their scoring lulls before they become a real problem.

Against Indiana, Wisconsin comfortably held a 20-point lead before watching it be reduced down to five over a five-minute span. Against Minnesota Sunday, Wisconsin started off with guns blazing, making 11 of its first 14 shots.

But the Gophers went on 11-2 run to awake the Gopher crowd and put the home team back into the game.

"We can't get away with that," Butch admitted. "The same thing with the Indiana game. We had a big lead and we let it slip a little bit too much. We need to keep playing hard and try to do the right things."

The Badgers will strive for better consistency when they travel to Iowa City to take on the resurgent Hawkeyes (11-12, 4-6), who just upset the Buckeyes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Wednesday.

Wisconsin needed just 16 possessions to score their first 29 points, an average of 1.8 points per possession. But in Wisconsin last 13 possessions of the half, the Badgers only registered 12 points.

"We get good satisfaction out of (building a lead) but at the same time, we can't let up.," said sophomore Trevon Hughes, who led the Badgers with 20 points on Sunday. "Having that lead doesn't mean we don't have to play hard. We got away from our rules and the team start making runs."

The Badgers also struggled with ball control in Sunday's second-half. Whether it was the short three-day turnaround coming off a physical battle against Indiana or not, Wisconsin was uncharacteristically sloppy in the final 20 minutes, creating 12 turnovers in the oddest of fashions - dribbling balls off of feet, slipping through fingers and off player's chests.

"Thank goodness you take the overall 40 minutes and not just one part," head coach Bo Ryan said. "Sometimes those things happen and you have to play through them. We had good presence to find the open guy and the times that it got away from us (and) got us in trouble with some of the turnovers. We don't want to get to the point where we are taking bad shots."

Although the worst scoring offense with the worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference, the Hawkeyes boast the second-best defense in the league (57.3 points per game) behind Wisconsin's 54.1 ppg.

But what separated the Badgers and the Hawkeyes in their first matchup, a 64-51 UW victory in Madison, was Wisconsin's offense, shooting 55 percent in the second half and pulling away after Iowa tied the game in the second half.

Although number eight in the country and sitting on top of the Big Ten conference, Wisconsin, according to Hughes, still has not made believers out of the nation's critics, despite all the accomplishments the Badgers have already received.

A seventh win in Iowa in the last night years would be another step in the right direction.

"I feel like we have something to prove still. We are a good team, but people don't believe in that. We have to show the nation what we are made of."

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