Pushing the Right Button

After struggling to guard the quicker guards in the early season, junior guard Jason Bohannon has gone through a defensive transformation in a matter of weeks, bringing a new weapon to his dangerous arsenal, thanks to a little prodding by his coach.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Monday after suffering a three-point loss at Marquette, Bo Ryan wasn't afraid to give junior Jason Bohannon a some good-natured ribbing … or so Bohannon thought.

Two days earlier, Ryan gave Bohannon the task of guarding Marquette senior Dominic James, after which the Wisconsin head coach compared the performance at points to a cement mixer trying to herd a sheepdog.

"Anytime a coach says that, they're trying to find ways to motivate your game," Bohannon said of Ryan's quip. "I just had to learn how to play quicker defense against some of those quicker guards."

Although James only scored 10 points on 4-for-10 from the floor, Bohannon had been frozen by the quickness of the season and knew that he had to improve.

Eleven weeks later, the differences, and the comparisons, are like night and day.

Drawing the assignment of Ohio State sophomore Jon Diebler on Saturday night, the Buckeyes' third leading scorer at 12.5 point per game, Bohannon limited Diebler to only four shots and a season low two points in 40 minutes, helping the Badgers survive with a five-point victory.

The comparison his coach gave this time was much more complimentary.

"Jason Bohannon never took a possession off defensively," Ryan said after. "He looked like Michael Flowers chasing out there. He was chasing hard."

From cement mixer to Michael Flowers in less than three months is a profound statement for Bohannon, a guard known more for his perimeter shot than his stifling defense.

"Mike was a tremendous defender and a tremendous teammate," Bohannon said. "Anytime you have a guy a couple years older than you, you try to take a couple of things from him because he is that caliber player.

"It's important to me to become a good player that does everything right," he added. "Whether it is defense, rebounding, getting an assist, it doesn't matter. I just want to be a good fundamental basketball player."

Bohannon and the Badgers hope both are on display Thursday against Indiana (6-18, 1-11 Big Ten), a team who has played much better than its record indicates. Despite the Hoosiers, who are being coached in their first year by Tom Crean after he spent nine seasons at Marquette, tying its record for most conference losses in a season, Indiana has lost only six conference games by double digits and three by 20 points or more.

Not all bad considering the Hoosiers were pummeled with NCAA sanctions, transfers and have a roster consisting of eight freshmen and four transfers.

"You can tell they are a good team," Bohannon said. "Coach Crean does a good job of teaching those guys to play hard on every possession. The games they have lost, at Assembly Hall especially, have been close games down to the wire. They have a lot of capability and potential, but they just aren't finishing out. They've had ups and downs and we don't want them to start up against us."

If anyone knows about peaks and valleys, it's Bohannon. In addition to being labeled as a piece of machinery, Bohannon's shot evaded him during Wisconsin's torturous stretch, shooting 33 percent (14-for-45) from the floor, numbers that mirrored an early season funk where Bohannon shot 18.9 percent (7-for-37) in the Virgin Islands and against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"All the shots have been there in those so-called slumps," Bohannon said. "You just have to keep shooting (and) if it's there, take advantage of it. I never really counted, but the rim has been kind to me the last couple of games. As long as I am taking advantage of good shots, the percentages will play my way."

The percentages have turned favorable in the last six games,as Bohannon has shot 55.2 percent from three-point range and has scored in double figures three times, including tying a career high with 20 points against Illinois, breaking UW's six game losing streak.

Now he's being compared to the like of Flowers and Clayton Hanson, another sharp shooter that Ryan molded into a solid defender over the course of his Badger tenure.

"If we were to try and tell people when Clayton Hanson was a freshman or sophomore that he was going to be a chaser on some really quick shooters, we would have been laughed out of coaching," Ryan said. "By the time Clayton was done, it was kind of like J-Bo. J-Bo commits to the task, chases hard and he's there when I guy catches."

With Wisconsin hoping to gain ground in the conference race on an important two-game road stretch, finishing up Sunday at No.6 Michigan State, Bohannon could care less if he's labeled as a defensive standout or deadly marksman. All he just wants is for his team to keep focused on taking care of business, which started the moment UW walked off the court Saturday.

"It's all one game at a time," he said. "We had some big wins last week, but Indiana is the next game on the schedule. Coach Ryan's mentality caries over to us. As long as we stay even keel, things will play out our way."


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