Against Minnesota Tuesday, with the Gophers providing Ralph Sampson III, Rodney Williams, Trevor Mbakwe and Colton Iverson, the Badgers received a perfect litmus test for the strength of their front court.
While Jordan Taylor was the star of Tuesday night's 68-60 victory over Minnesota, the frontcourt help should be nominated for best supporting role.
Leuer did his Leuer thing, scoring 16 points to go along with nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Keaton Nankivil stepped up in just 16 foul-related minutes and poured in 11 points on five shots. Wisconsin's record is now 13-1 when Nankivil scores in double digits.
The surprise of the night, of course, goes to Jared Berggren as the six-foot-ten sophomore chipped in eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and blocked three shots in 21 minutes of play. He showed off his feathery touch from the outside, knocking down two jumpers while banging in the post for two jump hooks.
Now if only he could be a force like that off the bench every game.
"Guy had a little fire, passion and will," Ryan said of Berggren tonight. "All the players that have ever played for us, they know what we like and we like you to give it. He definitely gave it here tonight. I hope he can do that every game. … Jared is getting there, we have always felt he is going to be a pretty good player."
Home Court Helping
As any fan can attest to with North Dakota, South Dakota and Coppin State in the Kohl Center, the experience occasionally was more reminiscent of a social club then a basketball game Sure there was cheering, but with no marquee home opponents (See: Duke 2009), the Grateful Red seemed more laid back than enthusiastic.
That changed Tuesday night.
The home court advantage that has always served the Badgers so well came back with a vengeance against Minnesota, with all 17,230 yelling themselves hoarse for much of the game.
The crowd was such a factor, Ryan went out of his way to mention the fans in the post-game press conference.
"Over [Christmas] break, we have played in places that weren't half full," Ryan said. "For that kind of a crowd to be out during the 20-something of Decemeber with that kind of energy…whoever got those tickets, that was loud. The people that got the tickets for those who are away, that was a good exchange because those people appreciated being in here for this."
The Badgers have now won eight straight conference-opening games. … Wisconsin's two turnovers gave it four games this season with five or fewer. … Leuer became the 36th player in Wisconsin history to score 1,000 career points