The Badgers simply hit their open shots tonight. Wisconsin was able to get consistent dribble penetration and consequently got open looks from both the perimeter and in the paint. When the Badgers have struggled this year, they have passively rotated the ball around the perimeter with limited attempts at getting into the paint. As a result, the players tend to settle for contested three pointers and fail to get into a rhythm.
Tonight, the Badgers were able to avoid falling into poor habits and relentlessly attacked the paint off the dribble. This remains crucial to the Badgers potency on the offensive end as Wisconsin is still rarely getting true post touches within the offense. To boot, Wisconsin attempted only four free throws tonight and have been struggling to get to the line since Jon Leuer went out.
Lastly, the Badgers did manage to get a few more post touches tonight than they have been getting over the past couple games and both Trevon Hughes and Rob Wilson were looked to in the post. However, the offense is still being played almost exclusively from the perimeter and will continue to be effective if the Badgers get into the paint off the dribble with regularity. One way or another an offense must get into the lane to be effective, be that dumping the ball into the post or attacking the paint off the dribble, to the Badgers credit, they have simply adjusted their route to the lane.
Defense – A+
The Badgers did a tremendous job preventing the Spartans from attacking the basket off the dribble from both the top of the key and the wing. Wisconsin played great collective team defense and as usual was superb in its help and recover on attempted dribble drives.
Additionally, the Badgers seemed to get to every loose ball and maintained a superior energy level to the Spartans throughout the game. This energy level allowed the Badgers to make up for a size disadvantage at nearly every position on the floor. Curiously, Michigan State did not look to go down low as much as I expected them to and also were not as physical as the first time the Badgers played them this season in East Lansing.
The ability of Jordan Taylor, Jason Bohannon, Trevon Hughes and Rob Wilson to stay in front of the Michigan State ball handlers was one of the biggest improvements from the last time the Badgers played the Spartans and really took the Spartans out of their rhythm on offense. This superb on ball defense also resulted in 13 turnovers for Michigan State and often times looked like it forced the Spartans to rush things on the offensive end. Lastly, Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil and Ryan Evans did an excellent job boxing out the aggressive big men on Michigan State.
Coaching – A
Bo owns Izzo. Need I say more?
Bo Ryan, with help from associate head coach Greg Gard, once again had his team prepared for a highly-ranked opponent and proved that the Kohl Center is one of the best home court advantages in the country. Ryan had the Badgers prepared for their dribble drives and utilized the high pick-n-roll on offense, something the Spartans did not defend well. While Ryan undoubtedly did a tremendous job in preparation for this game, as he would admit himself, the credit should be placed on his players.
MVP: Jordan Taylor. Taylor took over early and maintained control of the game on both the offensive and defensive end when Trevon Hughes went out with two fouls early in the first half. With Taylor at the helm, the Badgers looked aggressive and poised on offense and he was able to limit the dribble penetration of Kalin Lucas throughout the first half. Taylor also took many of the shots towards the end of the shot clock and his dribble penetration opened up shots for teammates on both the inside and the outside. While Trevon Hughes is the Badgers best player and Jon Leuer has the most versatile offensive skill set, the emergence of Taylor has been paramount to the success the Badgers have had this year.
Last year, the Badgers lacked a second ball handler and someone capable of relieving Trevon of some responsibility on the offensive end. However, Taylor has blossomed in his role as lead guard alongside Hughes and has been able to provide the Badgers with two options towards the end of the shot clock as well as another player who is able to get into the paint off the dribble.