Another accurate word that would describe UW's rebound effort would simply be 'out performed.'
"Not just how physical they were, but how solid they were in their rotations," junior Jon Leuer said about the difference in UW's 54-47 loss to Michigan State Wednesday at the Breslin Center. "They are a well-coached team and they were just able to force us in to some tough shots, which is ultimately what it came down to. They had better intensity on defense."
The big issue Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan and assistant coach Howard Moore addressed in the days leading up to its match-up with No.10 Michigan State was the fact that the Badgers simply had to do a better job rebounding the basketball. That concern was valid, as No.17 Wisconsin couldn't keep the Spartans off the glass, getting out rebounded 41-27.
The 41 rebounds allowed by Wisconsin (12-3, 2-1 Big Ten) were the most the Badgers allowed all season. In retrospect, UW's 27 boards was their lowest single-game total of the year.
"Athletically, you just look at the bodies and know it's a challenge," UW coach Bo Ryan said, who falls to 11-5 all-time against Michigan State. "We were close so many times, but that doesn't' get you a statistic better. We just need to get better."
Michigan State entered the game ranking fourth nationally with a plus-10.3 rebounding margin. Wisconsin wasn't that far behind – ranking second in the conference with a 5.6 margin – but the way Michigan State uses its boards – turning its 14.2 offensive rebounds per game into 16.7 second chance points – makes the Spartans average 82.4 points per game.
Entering the game leading the Big Ten and ranking fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 56.4 points per game, Wisconsin had out rebounded 11 of 14 opponents this season, but was out scraped by a small, struggling Penn State squad on Sunday.
When faced with a bigger, tougher, more physical squad, the Badgers still could not summoned an answer, allowing 22 points in the paint and 11 offensive rebounds that led to eight second-chance points.
"That really hurt us," senior Jason Bohannon said of the offensive boards. "Every time you give them an offensive rebound, they get another shot at the basket and that's one we don't get at the other end.
"Throughout the game, they got those offensive rebounds and did the things necessary to win. They were the aggressors."
In 14 seasons under Izzo, Michigan State has finished either first or second in the conference in rebounding 13 times. Against UW, Michigan State made its push to make it 14, as five different Spartans grabbed at least five boards, led by Durrell Summers eight.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, only managed two players with over five.
"We definitely wanted to make our presence felt on the boards and they definitely got the better of us tonight," said Leuer, who led the Badgers with seven rebounds. "We are just going to have to take that, learn from that and hopefully next time we play them, turn that around."
Ball control was also an area UW thought it could exploit. Only turning the ball over 13.5 times in each win, the Spartans' three losses saw MSU turn the ball over 18.7 times. A steady Wisconsin team was third in the nation in turnovers, averaging under 10.1 per game.
Wisconsin forced 14 turnovers, but could only turn the miscues into two points. Michigan State created four UW turnovers in the first three minutes, but the Badgers limited the damage to only six the rest of the game.
"We had four turnovers boom-boom-boom-boom and then six the rest of the game, I thought that was a good sign because at least it gave us a chance," Ryan said.
In order for UW to have a chance Saturday to end its four-game losing streak against No.4 Purdue (14-0, 2-0), the Badgers will need to control the boards, especially with juniors Robbie Hummel (15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) and JuJuan Johnson (14.7 points, 7 boards) having the Boilermakers tied for their best start in school history.
"We need to keep our butts into the guys, stay wide a stay strong," Bohannon said. "Even if you have a small guy on a big guy, you should still be able to get that rebound. We necessarily didn't do that."
"When you are on the defensive end, you can't let rebounds happen (because) you are giving them a whole other 35 seconds to get a shot off and a good shot. Michigan State capitalized on that tonight."