The Key to Success

The players interchange, but the philosophy of crashing the boards is still as important to Wisconsin's success. With No.16 Wisconsin facing one of the best rebounders in the Big Ten (Michigan's DeShawn Sims) Saturday, the Badgers continue to press the issue of winning the rebounding battle.

MADISON - The term ‘rebounding' can mean a variety of different things to a basketball team, but the word is essential to its success. After a tough loss, a team wants to rebound against the next opponent or after a bad shooting night, a player wants to rebound with a great performance.

Ask any member of the Wisconsin men's basketball team and rebounding means something totally different – desire.

From beating each other up and diving on the floor in practice to bumping and bashing with the best post players the Big Ten Conference has to offer, Wisconsin's passion for rebounding the basketball is what is making a difference in the 2010 conference season.

"It comes from Coach Ryan and it carries over into the game," sophomore Rob Wilson said. "We just have a bunch of guys that are going to go after each other and get after the ball."

A year after the Badgers lost their top two rebounders (Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry) from a team that set a new modern-era record in rebounding defense, allowing a mere 28.5 total boards per game, Wisconsin leads the nation in grabbing 74.5 percent of defensive rebounds.

It's a stat that has helped Wisconsin ‘rebound' after every loss. After the Badgers were out rebounded by 14, allowing junior Robbie Hummel to grab 13 rebounds and Purdue to score 12 points on second-chance points in a three-point loss on Jan.28, Wisconsin responded against No.5 Michigan State by scoring 24 points in the paint and limiting the Spartans to eight fewer rebounds than they grabbed in the team's first meeting.

The Badgers are 12-1 this season when out-rebounding their opponent, allowing them to ‘rebounded' and not lose consecutive games all season.

"It's about us going out there, wanting to get the ball and winning the battle out there," Wilson said. "We want to go out and get the ball like it's the only time we can."

The thought process of ‘team rebounding' is the same concept UW coach Bo Ryan instills when his senior class leaves the program, expecting the whole team to step up and replace the vacated scoring, rebounding, etc. statistics instead of placing the burden on one single player.

It worked well when Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker left, it's been working without Krabbenhoft and Landry and for the meantime, it's being put to use while Jon Leuer is on the sidelines.

"You can't put it on one guy to come in and do it," UW coach Howard Moore said. "We've got guards that can rebound, and it's got to come from different areas. You've just got to get it from different people and it's got to be a group effort, like on the defensive end."

With Leuer out, junior Keaton Nankivil has seen his rebounding numbers rise from 4.4 to 4.9 per game but as Ryan states it, playing good post defense is a never-ending battle.

"You can't take a second off," Ryan said. "You've got to try to keep the ball out of the post. It's the same thing as guarding three-point shooters. Don't let them get comfortable."

The goal for No.16 Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) is to not let senior DeShawn Sims get too comfortable when the Badgers travel to Ann Arbor for an afternoon contest against Michigan (11-11, 4-6). Third in the conference with 7.7 rebounds per game, Sims registered game highs in points (23) and rebounds (13) in UW's 54-48 victory Jan.20, a game the Wolverines led by 11 in early. Nankivil will draw the assignment of Sims Saturday.

The emotional high experienced Tuesday can be a detractor against a Michigan team Wisconsin has beaten seven consecutive times, including the last two times in Ann Arbor. But with Leuer set to miss his seventh straight game and the fact that the Badgers have been out rebounded on the offensive boards the last three games, there's still plenty of things to prepare for with eight games left in the conference season.

"You've got to go and get it," Moore said. "If you aren't pursuing them, you aren't going to get them. When the shooting percentages are down, there are more opportunities. You've got to get the mindset of you wanting to go in there and get that basketball instead of the nine other guys."

Ryan addressed the media Thursday -

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