Preview: No.13 Wisconsin at Northwestern

Ascending to number 13 in the country (the highest since February 2008), Wisconsin will enter its final two-game road trip of the season that starts off with a challenging trip to Northwestern. Not only are the Badgers 3-4 in Evanston under UW coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin will have to find a way to win without junior forward Jon Leuer.

No.13 Wisconsin (13-3, 3-1 Big Ten) vs. Northwestern (12-3, 1-2 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Wednesday, January 13, at 7:30 p.m. Central

Arena – Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)

Television - Big Ten Network (Wayne Larrivee and Shon Morris)

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

Series – Wisconsin Leads 105-61 (NU Leads 38-36 in Evanston)

Last Meeting – NW won, 66-63, on Jan. 31, 2009 in Evanston.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

3 Trevon Hughes (Senior Guard, 15.8 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (Sophomore Guard, 9.3 ppg)

12 Jason Bohannon (Senior Guard, 10.6 ppg)

24 Tim Jarmusz (Junior Forward, 3.0 ppg)

52 Keaton Nankivil (Junior Forward, 7.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Ryan Evans (Freshman Forward, 5.0 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Freshman Forward, 1.3 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Sophomore Forward, 2.6 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Freshman Forward, 1.5 ppg)

Northwestern Probable Starters

1 Drew Crawford (Freshman Forward, 9.6 ppg)

12 Luka Mirkovic (Sophomore Center, 6.7 ppg)

22 Michael Thompson (Junior Guard, 14.6 ppg)

23 Jeremy Nash (Senior Guard, 8.6 ppg)

24 John Shurna (Sophomore Forward, 18.0 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Mike Capocci (Junior Forward, 1.6 ppg)

4 Alex Marcotullio (Freshman Guard, 6.9 ppg)

30 Davide Curletti (Sophomore Forward, 1.3 ppg)

54 Kyle Rowley (Sophomore Center, 2.3 ppg)

Last Meeting:

Craig Moore scored 26 points, including six key free throws in the final 15 seconds of the game, as Northwestern handed Wisconsin its sixth consecutive loss, a 66-63 setback. Hughes led four UW scorers in double figures with 15.

The Badgers loss followed in a pattern that has become all too familiar for those who follow the team. Opposing players make the plays they need to to win, the Badgers don't. It's that simple.

Wisconsin played solid offensively, but Northwestern had its way with the Wisconsin defense, scoring 66 points on just 52 possessions. For the second-straight game, UW allowed an opponent to shoot better than 60 percent from the field in a half. Northwestern made 10 of 15 shots it attempted in the first half.

Playing that poor of a defense leaves little room for error, but the Badgers committed 13 turnovers, including a costly pass with two-and-a-half minutes left from Tim Jarmusz to Northwestern's Kevin Coble, who was wide open under the UW basket.

"We could have settled in a little bit better early, just in too much of a hurry," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "But then after that, just five (turnovers) in the second half. … Eight in the first half, that's three or four too many. So that's three or four shots we don't get."

Wisconsin had to deal with foul trouble for nearly the entire game, too. Sophomore forward Keaton Nankivil picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half and didn't play again.

By the end of the game, every one of Wisconsin's starters had four fouls. As Trevon Hughes tried to push the ball up the court for one last desperation look, a pair of Northwestern defenders squeezed in on him, seemingly ready to foul Hughes and give UW no chance at a three-pointer to tie the game.

Hughes, expecting the foul, tried to get into the act of shooting to try and earn three free throws. But Craig Moore knocked the ball free, leaving Hughes looking for a call that never came.

Last Time Out:

When one asks what a ‘total-team effort' looks like, simply pop in the tape of No.17 Wisconsin's effort against No.4 Purdue as the prime example.

Leading scorer Jon Leuer didn't score his first bucket until the 11 minute, 35 second mark in the second half and senior Trevon Hughes and junior Keaton Nankivil sat a combined 29 first-half minutes because of foul trouble.

None of it matter with the way the Badgers picked up their fallen, making the Boilermakers perfect no longer. Sophomore Jordan Taylor established a new career-high with 23 points and senior Jason Bohannon tied his career high with 20 points and three blocks to help No.17 Wisconsin earn a valiant 73-66 victory Saturday, ending No.4 Purdue's four-game winning streak in the series.

Purdue had never opened the season with 15 straight victories. Wisconsin had never lost three straight home games to one opponent. Both those marks still remain firmly intact.

"(This) was very big for us," Bohannon said. "We had a tremendous team coming in here to our home court and we're coming off a tough loss up in East Lansing. It was a big statement for us to come out strong and play well in that first half and finish strong in the second half, too."

Even with Hughes and Nankivil on the bench because of foul trouble, Wisconsin (13-3, 3-1 Big Ten) still led 30-29 at halftime due to the standout guard play Taylor. Playing 16 first-half minutes in reserve for Hughes, Taylor's line speaks for itself – 4-of-6 from the floor, 4-of-5 from the line and 13 points.

Bohannon was right there with Taylor, chipping in nine points during the full 20 minutes to help UW overcome 33.3 percent shooting from the floor.

The big assist could also trickle down to Mike Bruesewitz (five rebounds in six minutes), and Rob Wilson (three boards) in the first half, as those two helped Wisconsin erase its rebounding woes.

The story less than 72 hours ago was how Wisconsin was unable to match the physicality in the paint and getting out rebounded by 14 in its loss at No.10 Michigan State. The Badgers responded to that wake-up call by out rebounding the Boilermakers 39-32, including 10 rebounds from Leuer, who overcame of 2-of-15 shooting night.

Additionally, Wisconsin grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, turning those into 10 points, only allowed Purdue (14-1, 2-1) to nab five offensive rebounds and got 33 points from its bench, out scoring Purdue by 24 in bench production.

Wisconsin's guards also did a better job finishing their shots. Against Michigan State, Bohannon, Hughes and Taylor had 24 shots that resulted in 24 points. Against Purdue, the trio had the same 24 shots, only to score 57 points.

Purdue entered the day forcing 18.4 turnovers per game and a plus-6.79 turnover margin, tops in the conference, but the Badgers only had one team turnover in the second half and eight for the game.

Purdue was led by junior E'Twaun Moore's 24 points while Robbie Hummel scored 13 points to become the 19th Purdue player to score 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for his career, but the Badgers' defense didn't give him much else.

The junior, who entered the game shooting 46 percent from three-point range, made only 1-of-4 from the perimeter, with his only make a banked-in bucket in the final minute, while shooting 3-of-13 overall. As a team, Purdue shot 3-of-10 from the perimeter and made only 13 of its 24 free throws.

Series Notes:

This will be the 167th meeting between Wisconsin and Northwestern in a series that dates back to 1910. UW leads the all-time series between the schools 105-61, but NU holds a narrow 38-36 advantage in Evanston.

The Badgers have won five of the last six match-ups, but NU won the most recent meeting. Bo Ryan owns a 3-4 record at Welsh-Ryan Arena and his Badgers have won in two of the last three trips to Evanston. Last season's 66-63 Northwestern win marked the first time in 23 meetings that the losing team scored 60 points or more.

Under Ryan, UW is 7-0 at home vs. Northwestern, winning those games by an average of 19.7 points per game. In UW's seven games at NU in that span, none have been decided by 19 or more points.

Wisconsin Notes:

The Badgers are 4-1 vs. ranked teams this season, toppling Purdue (4), Duke (6), Ohio St. (15) and Maryland (21). Those four wins against AP top-25 teams are the most of any team in the nation. Four schools have three top-25 wins: Cincinnati, Duke, Georgetown and Syracuse. UW is one of four teams (Purdue, Syracuse and Texas) to beat two top-10 teams this season.

Since Bo Ryan took over in 2001, Wisconsin has posted a 97-39 (.713) Big Ten record, tops in the conference. Over the last four seasons, UW also owns the best Big Ten mark at 42-14 (.750). Michigan State (38-17, .691) has the second-best record over that span.

UW's 73.9 percent free throw shooting is number one in the Big Ten. That is the team's highest mark since shooting 74 percent at the charity stripe in 1998-99.

Through four Big Ten games, the Badgers lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing opponents a meager 52.2 points per game. MSU is second, surrendering 56.7 points per game.

Northwestern Notes:

To say that John Shurna has elevated his game this season would be an understatement. After posting norms of 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game as a freshman, Shurna has raised those averages to 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 2009-10. Both averages rank third in the Big Ten. The 10.2 point-per-game boost is the largest increase of any Big Ten player from last season to this season.

The Wildcats have assisted on 73.7 percent of their field goals this season, posting 261 assists on their 354 made baskets. The percentage ranks first in the nation. In fact, NU has ranked in the top five nationally in assist percentage each of Bill Carmody's 10 seasons as head coach.

Northwestern's 12-3 record marks the best 15- game start to a season during the Carmody era and is the best since the 1945-46 campaign. The Wildcats have started 7-1 in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Worgull's Prediction

Consider the Beatles' track 'The Long and Winding Road' to be playing inside the heads of some Wisconsin basketball players. Wisconsin is 0-5 on its last five bus trips, not haven't won a bus game since defeating Northwestern 65-52 in the 2007-2008 Big Ten Conference regular-season finale on March 8, 2008 to clinch the outright Big Ten Championship. UW was 0-4 last year, has lost at Green Bay this year and will have another shot tonight.

The good news is that junior Jon Leuer's surgery on his left non-shooting hand went well and without complication Tuesday. The bad news is that Leuer is on the sideline indefinitely and can't play against a Northwestern team that has made a habit of messing with younger players.

The Wildcats lead the Big Ten in scoring in conference games (73.7), which will be a good test for a Wisconsin defense that has made a habit this year of holding opposing offenses to well below its season averages.

The Badgers will have to overcome the bus and the fact that they are only 1-2 in road games this season, having won at Penn State but dropped games at Green Bay and Michigan State. "We start off slow on the road," said Hughes Monday. "We can't have those slow starts. I have to get these guys together and come out the same way we come out of home games."

Hughes went on to say that the, "smarter team will win. The one that sticks to his rules better and the one that is more solid on the defensive end and make plays. The hardest-working team will come out with a victory."

The Badgers have held their four conference opponents to a Big Ten-low 52.3 points per game. Northwestern has allowed a league-high 80.7 points in Big Ten play. UW has become use to playing without Leuer because of foul trouble so against my better judgment, I'll pick UW by five.

Worgull's Record: 11-5

Points off Prediction: 190 (11.9 per game)

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