Racking Up the Miles

It's a marathon conference schedule, so consider the next two weeks the steep mountain stage of the race. Playing four of the next five conference games away from the Kohl Center, this stretch will be tremendously important if Wisconsin basketball wants to reach its goals.

MADISON - He won't trade them in, especially after a dominant 65-43 conference opening victory against No.15 Ohio State in their hip pocket, but UW head coach Bo Ryan wishes his twenty-third ranked men's basketball team was something different.

Not more talented, better disciplined or more attentive; Ryan wishes that his pupils had a little bit of a golfer's mentality.

With four of UW's next six Big Ten Conference games on the road, there's no skirting the fact that the Badgers have a tough stretch that will reveal the potential this team has.

"You've got to play the ball as it lies," Ryan said. "You can't kick it, can't move it, so you just play them as they sit on the schedule. It's conference time. You throw everything else out."

That tough stretch starts Sunday when Wisconsin (11-2, 1-0) travels to Penn State (8-5, 0-1) for an afternoon tipoff at the Bryce Jordan Center for only UW's second true road game of the season, a somewhat unfortunate fact that was due to a scheduling flaw since the Badgers were planning on having a road game for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

But since the Big Ten and ESPN put the Badgers at Duke and Virginia Tech in back-to-back years, the conference and the television network made up for it by giving Ryan and his squad back-to-back home games for the next two seasons, starting with the Blue Devils.

Arguably, the schedule worked out better for the Badgers. Wisconsin earned a third-place finish in Maui, sandwiching wins over Pac-10 foe Arizona and No.21 Maryland around a loss to a ranked Gonzaga team, only to come home and knock off sixth-ranked Duke.

"You never know how those teams are going to finish out … (and are) all challenges to a certain extent," Ryan said. "When you come into a game, you don't know how it's going to play out, but you got to make sure you're playing hard and smart and respecting the game. I think our guys respect the game more than anybody in the country with the way they play."

One of the ways Wisconsin is playing smart is on the defensive end. As impressive as the Badgers allowing an average of only 57.2 points per game, UW has allowed only one opposing guard to score over 20 points - Green Bay's Bryquis Perine had 22 in the Phoenix victory (ironically, the only true road game UW has played).

UW's guard will have its hands full with Penn State junior guard Talor Battle, who is second in the Big Ten in scoring (19.1 ppg), leads the team in rebounding, assists and minutes played and has scored 32 points twice this season.

Ryan also got a first hand look at Battle, who led his USA World University Games team in scoring (10.0 ppg). After Battle, however, no Nittany Lion averages over 8.2 points per contest.

"The game doesn't change at all no matter where you are playing or who you are playing," junior Jon Leuer said. "Obviously when you go into any Big Ten environment, it's going to be hostile and loud, and it's not the normal routine that you do at a home game. You have to prepare a little bit differently, but there's no difference once you step between the lines.

"You just have to focus on what's going on, and I think we have the guys that are capable of doing that."

After State College, the Badgers will get a two-day breather before heading to nationally- ranked Michigan State. After a home match-up with fourth-ranked Purdue, the Badgers will head to No.25 Northwestern and have a rematch with Ohio State, all before school at Madison is back in session.

It doesn't matter whether you start on the first hole or the ninth hole, you've still got to play tee to green every hole for the score to count.

"That's why you see some teams do what we did last year," Ryan said. "Maybe not six in a row, but you see teams where they can go through stretches where games are tough because of the way the schedule in and not necessarily the way you are playing. You are catching teams when they are hot, when they are healthy, when they aren't healthy or when you are healthy. There are so many factors that go into the season that it really doesn't matter … you've got to play them all."

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