By TOM LEA
Here are five quick things to pay attention to during Sunday’s Wisconsin-Penn State basketball game.
1.) Transitional defense
No, Penn State doesn’t have anybody as versatile and willing as Draymond Green to handle all the duties he does. The Nittany Lions don't have anybody that can hang in the same gym with Green as far as the way he handles the glass. The Nittany Lions, though, have plenty of scrappy players that can spark opportunities in transition if the Badgers are as sloppy with the ball as they were last time out. And though it was probably more of an anomaly in the grand scheme of things, Wisconsin’s transitional defense cannot be that bad again.
“We put ourselves in situations that we normally don’t put ourselves in,” UW senior guard Jordan Taylor said. “That was part of it. We just didn’t pay attention to detail and we didn’t get back as quickly as we should have. They have guys that can make you pay.
“And they did.”
2.) 3-point shooting woes at home
In what’s become somewhat of an interesting development throughout the course of the season, Wisconsin has only been able to shoot 33 percent from beyond the arc at home. When the Badgers take to the road, conversely, they shoot 36 percent from distance. The difference isn’t monumental, but it is large enough to wonder what could have been in close home losses to Michigan State and Ohio State had the Badgers shot a bit better from downtown during those specific games.
Jordan Taylor, UW’s bona fide star, is hitting just over 28 percent of his attempts from the perimeter. For him, the ups and downs his offense has had throughout the course of the season has been a bit disconcerting.
“We’ve definitely had some lapses and some slumps,” Taylor said. “That’s frustrating. All you can do is try to be better. There’s still basketball to be played. The only thing you can do is keep trying to come out every day and keep trying to improve.”
3.) A hangover?
The lack of tenor or excitement in both Gasser and Taylor’s voice just about 24 hours after the loss to Michigan State was significant. It seemed as though both players were upset with the way they let an opportunity slip away. The thing that stood out the most was how disappointed they were in their lack of typical Wisconsin play. They were flat and that was tough to grapple with. Will that loss, one that clearly stung several key UW players, create a hangover against Penn State?
4.) Evans staying hot?
Junior forward Ryan Evans has scored in double-digits each of UW’s past five games. He also logged his first career double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) in a winning effort at Minnesota. It seems as though he’s emerging as the player UW can rely on for double-digit scoring each and every time out.
Evans has produced double-digit scoring in eight of UW’s 13 conference games, starting with a 22-point effort at Nebraska in the conference opener. He’s averaging more 11.1 points per game in league play and has upped his overall points per game average to 10.5 for the season.
Evans scored 11 points and logged six rebounds the first time UW played, and beat, Penn State.
5.) Reunion 10 years in the making
When Bo Ryan took over as the head coach 10 years ago he started his legacy with a 1-4 record. At that juncture it would have been hard to believe that just a few quick months later he would lead UW to its first conference title (although it was shared) in 55 years.
That 2001-02 team will be recognized at the Kohl Center Sunday afternoon. Ryan has won three Big Ten championships during his time in Madison, starting with that team.
“I just didn’t realize how hungry the Wisconsin fans were for a championship,” Ryan said. “What we heard every place we went was that there is something about a Big Ten championship that wasn’t on the lips of the people in the neighborhood and it sounded good. So that was fun.
“And then to come back and get it the next year without the tie, that was fun.”
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