Making the Little Things Count

Spending most of the 2009 conference season watching from the bench, Rob Wilson knew he needed to find his role in UW's scheme. Coming off the bench to chip in a variety of areas, Wilson is starting to find his niche for Wisconsin, who face No.4 Purdue Saturday.

MADISON – It terms of what would be considered the worst kind of wake-up call, Rob Wilson and his Wisconsin teammates would have much preferred the nagging, annoying store-bought alarm clock then the one they received Wednesday.

The physically-demanding Spartans not only awoken the Badgers with the shake, No.10 Michigan State's seven-point win and 14-point advantage on the glass left Wilson sore and bewildered climbing out of bed the next morning.

"It was a big let down because this year, we felt we could go in and beat them this year," Wilson said. "We watched teaching clips and we hurt ourselves. There were so many opportunities that we couldn't get. We just didn't have that extra step that we had in games before. We were always a step behind."

It's something the Badgers didn't like lightly, especially Wilson, who has spent this season focusing on the little things.

Highly recruiting by Wisconsin out of Garfield Heights High in Ohio, Wilson, who averaged 18 points per game as a senior, was a step behind when it came to being patient, understanding the game and learning what he needed to do to be successful a season ago.

He hasn't been the biggest scoring threat off the bench, but the things Wilson is doing lately for No.17 Wisconsin (12-3, 2-1 Big Ten) – who take on No.4 Purdue (14-0, 2-0) Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center - puts him in right up there at the top of the rotation.

"Coach Ryan has never made it a secret with what you need to do to get on the court," assistant head coach Howard Moore said. "It's simple things - taking the charge when it's there, taking the open shot and being at the right place at the right time. You've got to get Coach's attention in practice and if you don't do that, you're going to have a hard time getting on the court. Rob's been figuring that out, he's been very patient and it's going to pay off."

The patience and work ethic has helped Wilson in all facets of his game. He led UW with a career-high eight rebounds against UIC without scoring a point and hit an important three-pointer in the first half against No.15 Ohio State that helped UW spring out to a 16-2 run with junior Jon Leuer on the bench.

Against Penn State, Wilson stood firm with junior Talor Battle coming into his face and drew the offensive foul, less than a minute after the Nittany Lions cut the Badgers lead to single digits and started to show some life.

"Those little things that Rob does, like the charges, can turn around the game," senior Jason Bohannon said. "If Talor Battle doesn't get that charge, he gets an easy layup and closes the gab. Rob gets that charge and maybe Battle thinks twice about coming into the lane. Anytime a player comes off the bench and contributes it's very valuable."

After playing sparingly at times during the first half of the season, including playing only 20 minutes combined in Maui and not seeing the floor against Duke, Wilson has played 12 minutes or more in the last five games.

"All the guys work hard, then it's a matter of what you have and what you can bring our of your ability level as to whether or not you get on the floor," Ryan said. "You only get so many minutes and Rob is getting some minutes."

More importantly than studying the film or practicing in the off season, the learning lesson for Wilson has come from having open ears, allowing him to hear the nuisances of the swing offense, spoken poignantly by Ryan, and learning to become better at chasing shooters.

"Coach just tells me to go out there and play my hardest and things will come," Wilson said. "I am here for a reason, and Coach told me that it's defense. We're known for our defense and Pop (Trevon Hughes) and JBo (Bohannon) make me better by having to chase them around in practice."

Having only played double-digit minutes against a ranked team twice in his career, Wilson, who averaged only 2.8 minutes per game in Big Ten play last season, is still learning the physicality of the conference. After playing double-digit minutes in the first two conference games, Wilson played only four minutes Wednesday after being out muscled in the paint.

"Coach always says we have got to win the skirmishes and we didn't win them all," Wilson admitted. "The one good thing about is that we have Purdue coming in Saturday and Michigan State coming here. We have to come out and match them because they are a physical team too. They might be the most physical team in the Big Ten."

Wilson's next assignment is chasing around Purdue junior E'Twuan Moore, the Boilermakers leading scorer at 16.4 points per game and has 13-straight double-digit scoring performances. He is expecting to have a bounce back performance Saturday.

"Coach always said that he gives people opportunities to show what they can do," Wilson said. "If I get the opportunity, I am going to show him."

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