January 7, 2010

Good, bad and ugly from MSU loss

It was just another typical Big Ten slugfest Wednesday night at the Breslin Center. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the game halted a six-game winning streak and handed the Badgers their first loss of the conference season.

Now, as the team returns from a bruising trip against a physical Michigan State squad, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look back at the good, bad and ugly portions of the game that was.

The Good

-Jon Leuer:

In a game where the Badgers struggled to find any sort of offensive flow and shot a season low 33 percent from the floor, Leuer was one of the few saving graces for Wisconsin.

His 21 points (18 in the second half) on 9-of-19 shooting was about the only thing going for UW on the offensive side of the ball. In all actuality, the final score probably could have been a bit wider had it not been for the streaky shooting of Leuer.

Following a two-game stretch where Leuer found himself in foul trouble, the Badger junior bounced back in a big way against a formidable foe in a hostile road environment. That can only be looked at as an effective development as the team moves forward following its first loss in league play.

-The Badger defense:

Considering Michigan State entered the game averaging more than 82 points per game, the Badgers defense that held the Spartans to only 54 points on 38 percent shooting from the floor was fairly impressive.

Much like Wisconsin, Michigan State never really seemed to look comfortable in their offense and committed their average of 14 turnovers. MSU, a team that likes to push the tempo and run quick offensive sets, was never able to get out in transition with any sort of consistency.

The Bad

-The entire first half:

It seems every time the Badgers and Spartans meet on the hardwood that the game will turn into a physical affair. The game showcases two proud schools that have each had their respective success over the past decade and two schools that stick to their individual principles and play the game in the way they see fit.

But on Wednesday night, there was not much, if anything, that was fun to watch. Yes the defense on both sides was great, nearly spectacular, but as good as the defense was, the offense from each team was about as bad.

I understand defense is one of the main principles and teaching points in the game of basketball and I don't undermine that aspect of Wednesday's game whatsoever, but when there is no offensive flow, it makes a game somewhat difficult to watch.

Here's to both teams playing exceptional defense. But as a viewer watching the game it was a sight for sore eyes.

-Free throw disparity:

One of the main driving forces of Badger success under Bo Ryan has been the team's ability to make more free throws than its opponent attempts. Against Michigan State, that was neither here nor there.

Not only did the Spartans make more free throws than the Badgers attempted, they had nearly three times as many opportunities to do so. By the end, MSU had attempted 30 shots from the charity stripe while the Badgers only had 10.

Now granted the Badgers missed their opportunity at a couple of extra throws by missing the front end of a one-and-one bonus, but that discrepancy is usually not the way UW wins games. Against Purdue this weekend, UW will have to be smarter defensively and avoid fouling the opposition.

The Ugly

-UW's offense:

When Leuer scores two-thirds of the team's second half points, chances are the team is not necessarily in a great spot. While it was nice to see Leuer bounce back from a tough stretch of games where he was consistently in foul trouble, it was not nearly as nice to see him have to shoot 19 times because the rest of the Badger offense was defunct.

Trevon Hughes, UW's leading scorer entering the game, finished with only seven points on a tough 3-of-13 shooting performance from the floor. Jason Bohannon, averaging 10 points per game, finished with double-digits but couldn't find any sort of offensive groove and only hit 1-of-4 from downtown.

In a game where each possession was magnified due to stellar defense and low scoring, it was not a welcome sight to see one player nearly score half of the team's points. And even he fell victim to an air ball that seemed to be haunting UW throughout the entire game.


Entering the game, all one needed to do was take a look at the team rebounding averages to gain an understanding that boards were going to be at a premium for UW against MSU. The Spartans averaged nearly 14 more rebounds per game than the Badgers entering the contest, and that held true Wednesday night.

It seemed every time the Badgers had an opportunity to make a move on the scoreboard, MSU thwarted it with a big, strong rebound that kept UW from gaining that momentum. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Wisconsin was outworked on the glass by a 41-27 margin. As UW heads deeper into Big Ten play, that rebounding margin has to shrink for the Badgers to continue to win games.

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