Wisconsin-Northwestern Preview

Arvind Gopalratnam breaks down tonight's game between the 13-4 Badgers and Northwestern, which is still looking for its first Big Ten victory.

The Wisconsin men's basketball team is back in the saddle again tonight as the Badgers seek their fourth consecutive conference victory. The second game of a current three-game home stand, the Badgers host the Northwestern Wildcats.

Wisconsin (13-4, 4-2 Big Ten) is coming off a solid victory against Iowa in which they committed only five turnovers and forced 17 from the Hawkeyes. After struggling to get into a rhythm early in the contest, the Badgers came out on fire in the second half, torching the young Hawkeyes en route to a 13-point victory.

Leading the way for Coach Bo Ryan's team was sophomore guard Devin Harris with 17 points, but more important than his scoring was his operation of the offense. But Harris' playing time has been limited in the first half recently, as he has been finding himself in early foul trouble. The Badgers have stuttered offensively in the absence of Harris, demonstrating the importance of his presence at the point guard position.

Up next for Harris and the Badgers is a hungry Northwestern team in search of its first conference victory of the year. Coach Bill Carmody's Wildcats (8-8, 0-5) are on the second leg of their own three-game road trip that culminates next week at Ohio State. Northwestern has started conference play with five of seven on the road.

Freshman guard T.J Parker paces the Wildcats with 12.6 points and 2.9 assists a game, but more importantly shoots above 50 percent, something unheard of for a guard. His ability to create easy scoring opportunities while playing under control has allowed Northwestern to be a solid offensive team, third in the Big Ten for turnover ratio (+1.00). But its defense has plagued NU, as it continues to find itself down in the cellar of the Big Ten again in 2003.

This marks the 155th meeting of the two teams, with Wisconsin holding the all-time edge, 96-58. The Badgers are 56-20 against the NU in Madison, and the Wildcats have ever won at the Kohl Center.

Here are the keys to game for each team:

THREE KEYS FOR WISCONSIN

1) Running Wild – In their past three victories, the Badgers have gone on incredible runs to begin each second half. The Badgers hope they can go on a similar run in the first half tonight, putting the game out of reach before the break.

2) Rebounds – The Badgers are 11-1 this season when they out rebound their opponent, and it will most likely be 12-1 if they out board the Wildcats.

3) Four Score – This season, UW has had eight games in which four or more players have scored double digits and under Bo Ryan, UW is 20-1 when they do this. Team scoring is climbing up to the top of the Big Ten as well.

THREE KEYS FOR NORTHWESTERN

1) Dishes – As stated earlier, the problem for the Wildcats is not their offense, but more importantly, their defense. Northwestern is second in the Big Ten in assists-per game with 15.6, and second in assist/turnover ratio at 1.28.

2) 3-Balls - NU is not shy to throw up the long ball. The Wildcats are second in the Big Ten with an average of 6.8 three-point field goals made per game.

3) D-fence- Although the weakest part of NU's game is its defense, it's elemental to its chances of pulling the upset. Defensively, the Wildcats need to dictate the tempo, making the Badgers take bad shots and rebound. They can't expect the Badgers to turn the ball over, especially if they aren't pressured to do so. The Wildcats are last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (74.4 per game).

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