Starting Strong

The last time IPFW came to Madison, the Mastodons threw a scare into the Badgers. Opening the game on a 20-8 run and a 21-point halftime lead, Wisconsin basketball takes advantage of its strength, leading to a 75-46 victory Sunday.

MADISON - With the suspension of senior forward Deilvez Yearby for a violation of team rules, the Wisconsin Badgers, opening their 112th season of men's basketball, knew that the their main focus was going to be on junior shooting guard Ben Botts, who averaged 11.3 points per game last year and shot 43.2 percent from three point range.

Consider the Badgers 1-for-1 in their team goals.

The Badgers jumped on the Mastodons early by capitalizing on open shots from the perimeter and preventing IPFW from getting into the lane. The accuracy from the offensive end and stifling man- to-man defense on the defensive end allowed Wisconsin to coast to a season-opening victory over IPFW 75-46.

UW (1-0) has won all nine home openers under head coach Bo Ryan and the Badgers have won 12 consecutive home openers overall, having never lost a home opener in the Kohl Center.

If there was any doubt of UW letting IPFW (0-1) hang out, much like the Mastodons did when they opened against the Badgers two years ago, junior Tim Jarmusz (9 points) knocked down two open threes and Jon Leuer had his way in the post, scoring on turn-around jumpers over the smaller Mastodon defenders, leading to a game-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

The Badgers ended the first half with an exclamation point when guard Jordan Taylor hit Jason Bohannon (12 points) in the corner for a three at the buzzer, concluding a half that saw the Badgers build a 21-point lead by playing inside out on offense and excellent help defense on the defensive end.

Despite some carelessness on offense in the second half, the Badgers were able to remain in control the entire game and ended up shooting 57.1 percent from the field.

"Sometimes a team is just cold and they go through rough spots, like we all do," Ryan said. "I thought we handled the screens fairly well – good hedge, good help, good use of what we call the fly trap. And we chased well. Other than the two 3s they hit at the very end, I thought we did a pretty good job on the outside shooting.'

During the exhibition season, it was evident that Leuer was comfortable with his role as the Badgers starting forward and has dedicated himself to tailoring his game to the post. He continued to be a strong post presence throughout the IPFW contest and rarely looked to score from the perimeter, an area he struggled in last season. With Leuer down in the post, the Badgers were able to establish a dominant post presence against the lesser Mastodon defenders.

"We knew we had the size advantage against these guys," said Leuer. "The bigs took it upon ourselves to make a statement and post up hard. We have guards that can get us the ball so if we post up hard they're going to get it to us and we're going to finish inside. One of the main things we focused on in the off-season was putting on weight, putting on strength and be able to finish inside like that."

Another trend from the exhibition games that continued into Sunday's match-up was the aggressiveness displayed by the Badgers early in the shot clock. There were only a few occasions in which the Badgers were faced with a low shot clock and the offense was stalled out on the perimeter. Rather, the Badgers fed the post and looked confident when shooting from the perimeter. This aggressiveness will be crucial once the Badgers begin facing opponents with better athletes than IPFW.

On the other hand, there were a couple troublesome notes, including the Badgers getting sloppy in the second half and ending up finishing with a one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio and 13 turnovers for the game.

"We were trying to make plans and things weren't going our way at the time," said Trevon Hughes (eight points). "They were silly mistakes that can be corrected. I guess you could label it a ‘lack of focus.'"

Still, it's hard to argue with the numbers. IPFW's 46 points were the fewest by an opponent since the Badgers held Penn State to 44 last February. Throw in the fact that the Badgers held the Mastodons to 34 percent shooting, the lowest for a UW opponent since Illinois shot 32.8 percent last February.

"The way they were going there, they could have scored 150 points on us," IPFW coach Danny Fife said. "Wisconsin is just a formidable force and they just continue to do great things."


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