Preview: UIC vs Wisconsin

In its final non-conference tune-up before Big Ten Conference play begins on December 31, Wisconsin basketball takes on its third Horizon League opponent of the season, battling struggling UIC Sunday.

UIC (Illinois-Chicago) (3-7, 0-2 Horizon) vs. Wisconsin (9-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Sunday, December 27, at 2:30 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,220)

Television - Big Ten Network

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas)

Series – UIC Leads 1-0

Last Meeting – Illinois-Chicago won, 74-66, Dec. 4, 1981 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

3 Trevon Hughes (Senior Guard, 16.8 ppg)

12 Jason Bohannon (Senior Guard, 9.6 ppg)

24 Tim Jarmusz (Junior Forward, 4.1 ppg)

30 Jon Leuer (Junior Forward, 17.0 ppg)

52 Keaton Nankivil (Junior Forward, 7.9 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Ryan Evans (Freshman Forward, 4.5 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (Sophomore Guard, 8.0 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Freshman Forward, 1.2 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Sophomore Forward, 3.0 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Freshman Center, 2.4 ppg)

Illinois-Chicago Probable Starters

3 Robo Kreps (Junior Guard, 15.1 ppg)

23 Zavion Neely (Sophomore Guard, 14.2 ppg)

25 Spencer Stewart (Senior Guard, 3.8 ppg)

33 Jeremy Buttell (Senior Forward, 9.8 ppg)

42 Brad Birton (Junior Forward, 5.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

2 Austin Hood (Junior Guard, 2.5 ppg)

14 Corey Gray (Freshman Guard, 1.8 ppg)

22 Kris Harris (Senior Guard, 3.5 ppg)

31 Chris Buchanan (Senior Guard, 3.6 ppg)

44 K.C. Robbins (Junior Center, 4.1 ppg)

Last Time Out:

In UW's final in-state rivalry of the season, the duo could be counted on once again, as Leuer and Taylor helped UW shake off a week of competitive rust to grit its way to a 68-58 victory Wednesday over Milwaukee.

Leuer poured in 25 points with multiple baseline jumpers, a shot that carried Wisconsin (9-2) through a tight first half (scoring 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting) and helped the Badgers weather the storm thereafter, registering four of UW's eight second-half field goals.

"Jon Leuer did a great job of positioning," said UW coach Bo Ryan, as Leuer helped the Badgers shot 53.6 percent in the opening 20 minutes, the 11th half this season where UW shot 50 percent or better. "His teammates found him and Jon was the guy that made us go offensively … He takes what the defense gives him."

Entering this season, Leuer had surpassed the 20-point barrier once in his career. Over the past four games, the junior is averaging 22.5 points and nine rebounds.

"I am just trying to be aggressive and make plays when they are there," Leuer said. "When they aren't, you can't force it because we have guys on this team that can hurt'em. We are unselfish, we move the ball and right now I am trying to be assertive."

After showcasing his talents in relief last season, playing 14-plus minutes in 10 of UW's final 16 games, Taylor has been the first man off the bench for Ryan and the sophomore hasn't digressed.

Entering the game leading the Big Ten and third in the nation with a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, Taylor scored 14 points - scoring half of his points from the free throw line - while grabbing six rebounds and 3-to-1 in assists. Taylor, combined with Hughes, helped UW go on a 9-1 run late in the first half to push the lead to 12, and the Badgers never trailed by less than 10 the rest of the way.

Series Notes:

Bo Ryan is 19-1 lifetime against the Horizon League at UW, including a 1-1 record this season. The UW program is 77-23 lifetime against the conference, having beaten every conference team but UIC. UW has a 26-1 record against UWM, 17-13 against Butler. 15-1 against Green Bay, 10-7 against Loyola-Chicago, 3-0 against Detroit and Valparaiso, 2-0 against Wright State, 1-0 against Cleveland State and 0-1 against Illinois-Chicago.

The Flames and the Badgers have two shared opponents from early in the season: Milwaukee and Green Bay. UIC lost to both teams, while Wisconsin sits 1-1. Illinois-Chicago is also 0-6 in away games on the season.

The Flames will seek to snap a six-game losing skid against teams from the state of Wisconsin

The last time UIC played a Big Ten opponent on the road was Dec. 14, 2005, a 71-62 win over Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

Wisconsin Notes:

Junior Jon Leuer leads the Badgers and ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 17.0 points per game—the highest scoring average for a UW players since Alando Tucker averaged 19.9 points per game in 2006-07. >[? Leuer has scored 90 points over the last four games, the highest four-game streak since Tucker registered 96 points over four games from Feb. 7-17 in 2007.

Dating back to last season, Wisconsin has won 12 straight home games overall. The Badgers are 7-0 at home this season with an average margin of victory of 21.2 points per game. UW is shooting exactly 50.0 percent at the Kohl Center, while limiting opponents to 36.9 percent shooting.

Wisconsin has won 50 straight home games vs. unranked foes. The last time the Badgers dropped a contest at the Kohl Center to a team outside the AP top 25 was a 62-55 loss to North Dakota State on Jan. 21, 2006.

UIC Notes:

UIC has won two of its last three games and are averaging 65.7 ppg and shooting 44.3 percent from the field in the last three games. Junior guard Robo Kreps is averaging 18.8 ppg over the last four games

The Flames have out-rebounded just two of their 10 opponents this season

UIC will look to shore up 35.3 percent (121-for-343) shooting from the field on the road

UIC is one of the Horizon League's top defensive teams in the early portion of the 2009-10 campaign. The Flames sit atop the league in field goal percentage defense (41.0%) and rank third in three-point field goal percentage defense (31.6%). The Flames are also ranked fifth in scoring defense (opponents average just 67.5 ppg) and third in defensive rebounds (23.9 drpg).

Worgull's Prediction

It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Badgers earn a gritty victory over an up-and-coming Panthers team. It's a good sign for UW in the rapidly approaching Big Ten season that the Badgers can battle through a contest in which they don't have their A-game and can still pull out a victory.

UIC poses the same threat Cal Poly and Grambling State did, minimal. UIC is fresh off a six-game losing streak, including back-to-back losses at Green Bay and Milwaukee. UW shouldn't have a problem igniting the competitive fire after Wednesday's game. The Badgers will head into New Year's Eve's conference opener with some momentum after a 19-point victory.

Worgull's Record: 7-4

Points off Prediction: 140 (12.7 per game)

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