Cornell Better than the Brightest

If Wisconsin fans thought the Badgers had it tough in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, you haven't seen anything yet. With a potent three-point attack, talented big man and multiple defense looks, No.12 Cornell will give No.4 Wisconsin a run for its money Sunday afternoon.

MADISON - When it comes to the new social mediums, Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan is behind the times. He claims to not know the proper names of such new revelations such as ‘Twitter' or ‘Facebook,' claims to have someone text for him and jokes that he only checks his voicemail once a week.

After the messages Ryan got yesterday, he should have waited until Sunday night to listen to his phone.

"I got some messages from some coaching friends who said, a coach's worst nightmare is to prepare for this Cornell team (in) one day," Ryan said Saturday. "They've played together so long and in such competitive environments with pretty much the same players, not just this year but over the past few years, their timing and how synchronized their offense is on their reads, it's as good as any team I've seen. And I've been around a couple years."

Fresh off its opening round victory Friday fourth-seed Wisconsin will get an up-close look at one of the few pre-predicted Cinderella teams left in the field when it takes on No.12 Cornell at 1:50 Friday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Big Red (28-4) have eight seniors with three years of NCAA tournament experience, lead the nation in 3-point shooting with five players who shoot better than 42 percent from behind the arc. As a team, Cornell is shooting 43.2 percent from three-point range and 48.2 percent overall.

Allowing 12.1 three-point attempts per game, the Badgers will be tested by a unit that averages 22.7 attempts per game.

"They have a lot of smart, talented guys, and they can shoot (the three) really well," junior Jon Leuer said. "We're going to have to try to limit that and just prepare as best we can."

Cornell has three players that average double figures, including their point guard Louis Dale (12.2 ppg) and 7-foot center Jeff Foote (12.4 ppg). Led by leading scorer Ryan Wittman (17.6 ppg) and his 21 points, Cornell's big three all scored at least 16 points to send No.5 seed Temple home early.

What's the key with Wittman? Senior Trevon Hughes has the simple answer.

"Stay in his grille," Hughes said. "Don't give him anything easy. He can use his size against us, but if we have our hands up in his face every time he tries to shoot and make everything difficult, it's going to be difficult to come away with something good on the offensive end."

As good as Cornell is offensively, it's the defense that is going to challenge Wisconsin (24-8). In scoring 78 points on Temple's nationally third-ranked scoring defense, the Big Red's offense relied on screens, perimeter shooting and quick cuts to the lane.

Before heading to the locker room to prepare for their game, Hughes made sure he got a good look.

"We seen a couple of mistakes Temple made, and that's going underneath a ball screen," Hughes said. "When you do that and you have a good guard, they're going to sit behind that screen and pull up, and we can't give them easy looks. We want to chase them off the three point line, and make them make plays inside the perimeter."

More important than being sound defensively is Wisconsin getting back in a rhythm offensively. In the Badgers' 53-49 win over No.13 Wofford, Wisconsin shot only 37 percent overall, 11.1 percent from three-point range and only could manage a 10-point lead after holding the Terriers without a field goal for over nine minutes in the first half.

The Badgers also need senior Jason Bohannon to return to form. After being held scoreless for the first time (missing all four shots), Bohannon has dipped his production to only nine points on 2-of-20 shooting the past three games.

With Cornell switching between man-to-man and a 1-3-1 zone defense (a figuration UW has struggled against playing Northwestern) and having Foote, the two-time Ivy League defensive player of the year, roaming the paint, the Badgers will need all hands on deck.

"They have a lot of different looks that they can give you," Ryan said. "That's the dilemma on that end. Defensively they do some things where they try to take you out of your comfort zone, too, which is why they're in the NCAA tournament."

Cornell proved it was a tournament team back in early January, when it took No.1 Kansas into the final minutes before falling 71-66 on the Jayhawks home court. Since then, Cornell is 16-1, winning by an average of 16.1 points per game.

The Badgers in the last 17 games, on the other hand, are use to play close affairs, as 10 games have been decided by 10 points or less (6-4). That close-game experience is something Wisconsin hopes will advance them to the round of 16 instead of the sidelines, a place No.1 overall seed Kansas is already sitting in dismay.

"Any time you're in a battle like that, it shows what you have in your locker room," Leuer said of the Wofford win. "You know, we were obviously tested that game, and we had to handle some adversity, and we stepped up to that challenge."

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