UW ready for road test against surging Wolverines

first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)Before Bo Ryan took the head coaching reins at Wisconsin, the Badgers had won 19 games just four times in 103 seasons.Under Ryan, UW has reached that mark – or higher – in each of his 10 years as head coach. Wisconsin also reached its fifth-consecutive 20-win season after Sunday’s victory over Penn State.With just six games remaining until the Big Ten Tournament, the Wisconsin Badgers (20-6, 10-4) like where they sit. But with a matchup against the Michigan Wolverines (17-11, 7-8) looming Wednesday night in Ann Arbor, Wisconsin is prepping itself for one of the nation’s hottest teams.“They’ve been playing really well lately,” forward Jon Leuer said of the Wolverines. “Obviously, we’re going to have to try to limit some of the stuff they do. They have, obviously, guys that are tough matchups with [Darius] Morris and a lot of other guys, too. [Zack] Novack’s been shooting the ball really well, and they have bigs inside that are physical.”After a January that saw only three Michigan victories, it might seem surprising to mention the Wolverines as one of the nation’s hottest teams, let alone ‘”hot” at all. In between its first and second January wins, Michigan struggled through a six-game losing streak. The first of those losses came Jan. 5 at Wisconsin, where the Badgers triumphed, 66-50.But with February seemingly much more friendly to the Wolverines – they’ve won four of six this month – a rematch with the Badgers surely won’t be as daunting.Consider UW warned.“They do a lot of different things with their offense, so they’re a tough to team to prepare for, definitely,” Leuer said. “We’re looking forward to that challenge.”Wisconsin, meanwhile, has enjoyed a relatively consistent season to date – except on the road. The Badgers are just 5-6 away from the Kohl Center, where they are a perfect 15-0. Most recently, Wisconsin fell on the road at Purdue Feb. 16 – just four days after upending previously undefeated Ohio State at home.“We like [playing on the road], but it’s hard to play on the road, even though you like it,” said point guard Jordan Taylor, placing extra emphasis on “hard.” “We like it, because it is a challenge. A lot of guys like relishing in that challenge.”Wednesday at the Crisler Arena, relishing the challenge should be a good start for the Badgers. Wisconsin rebounded from the Purdue loss against Penn State Sunday, led by 22 points each from Leuer and forward Keaton Nankivil. The latter, however, rolled his right ankle early in the first half and played with a slight limp for the remainder of the game.Nankivil sat out practice Monday with an air cast on the ankle. Nevertheless, he expressed no doubt about playing Wednesday against Michigan.“It’s nothing serious,” Nankivil said. “It’s definitely moving in the right direction, I probably had four or five hours of treatment time on it [Monday], so that’s a lot of time.”While Wisconsin was stellar offensively against Penn State, shooting 54.3 percent from the floor, the Badgers will have to carry that hot-shooting performance to Michigan. On the road, UW averages 11.7 fewer points on offense than it does at home. Wisconsin has essentially lived and died by the three-pointer this year, attempting 21.7 per game (third in the Big Ten) and making 37.9 percent (fourth).Yet, away from the Kohl Center, UW hits just 29.7 percent. Facing a Wolverines squad directly on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Badgers will likely have to convert more than just 30 percent of its three-point attempts.“They’re a confident team, and they’re also a team that is kind of on that verge of the tournament, where they want to be,” Nankivil said. “They definitely have the extra incentive – not that they’re not playing hard every game, but at this point in the season, those little things make a big difference. We’re expecting them to play hard, have a crowd that’s totally behind them and keep doing the stuff they’ve been doing.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *