The UW men's basketball team (12-4 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) returns to its home floor tonight to play host to the surprising Iowa Hawkeyes (10-3, 3-0). After a thrilling victory on the road at Ohio State, the Badgers are rewarded with a three-game home stand in which they will test one of the Big Ten's best home winning streaks.
Kirk Penney, the Badgers' scoring leader with 16.1 points per game, is coming off a game in which he hit the game-winning shot to beat Ohio State Saturday night. The senior heads an overall, team effort exemplified by four starters averaging double figures in points every game – Penney, Devin Harris, Alando Tucker, and Freddie Owens.
Coach Bo Ryan's club is seemingly back on track in the Big Ten after recording its second conference victory of the year. Needing all 40 minutes to get by the Buckeyes, the Badgers continue to build on the team concept. Even while keeping a small rotation, Ryan continues to be impressed with his squad's unity.
Ryan explained what he's been pleased with the most.
"How they help one another and play team defense," Ryan said. "From our first day here they needed to get better defensively. You've got to say that about every team that anybody ever coaches. A coach is always going to say that. As we have gotten better defensively as a team, we've got to get better."
Another team that continues to get better as the weeks progress in the Big Ten is the Iowa Hawkeyes. Coach Steve Alford brings in a very young squad that was expected to be undergoing an unsuccessful and developing season, in preparation for the years to come. Their season, catching the rest of the Big Ten off-guard, has reminded people of Wisconsin's season one year ago.
Undefeated in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes are paced by senior guard Chauncey Leslie's 16.4 points per game. Iowa has also received a nice spark from the play of freshman guard Jeff Horner. Alford's team is playing with a lot more purpose and poise than many expected prior to the beginning of the season. But playing on the road will surely tell if the Hawkeyes are for real.
THREE KEYS FOR WISCONSIN
1) Scoring D – There is no ‘O' in defense, but don't that to the Badgers. They lead the Big Ten in scoring defense (59.8 ppg), and will need to keep it up to maintain their winning ways.
2) A Foul Trend – The Badgers are giving up the fewest number of free throws per game in the nation (11.4) and are 4-0 this season when they attempt at least 25 free throws. As long as they stay out of foul trouble, while drawing fouls of their own, they will be in good position.
3) Team Ball – It doesn't matter who scores for the Badgers, but whoever it is, they are making it. UW is third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage with .465 and needs to continue to get easy baskets that comes with passing the ball around.
THREE KEYS FOR IOWA
1) Badger Turnovers –The biggest key for the Hawkeyes is to force turnovers. Sloppy play has been plaguing the Badgers and if Iowa can continue that trend and capitalize, it will be in good position for its fourth conference victory.
2) On the Ground– The more times you see Hawkeye players on the ground, the better according to Alford. If they are on the ground, more often than not they are out-hustling and frustrating opponents with extra energy.
3) Underdogs – As good as the Badgers are on defense, the Hawkeyes are not half-bad themselves. Their ability to block shots and deflect passes into turnovers is what allowed them to beat Michigan State and Illinois. On top of that, they are the underdogs and no one expects them to win. With no pressure, it's easier to expect to the unexpected.
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