February 19, 2010

Good, bad and ugly from Minnesota loss

Leading into the game, Wisconsin players and coaches alike were concerned with the length Minnesota possessed. Following the game, one where the Gophers dominated the glass and forced UW into settling for 30 3-pointers and only six points in the paint, the coaches and players were right.

Before turning attention to Northwestern and UW's next-to-last home game of the season, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look back at the good, bad and ugly from Thursday's humbling loss at Minnesota.

THE GOOD:

Following UW's win over Indiana last Sunday, it was difficult to find anything bad in regards to the way UW played. Now, with the loss to Minnesota in the background, it is hard to find anything good from the game UW put together.

Looking through the box score, really only one thing stood out to me in regards to something that could be classified as good for Wisconsin, and that was the way it forced Minnesota into committing 11 turnovers.

Trevon Hughes had four steals to help UW rack up the Gopher turnovers, but in the end, those miscues weren't nearly enough to get the Badgers over the top. Minnesota may have had 11 turnovers, but it limited UW to only seven points off of them, so they didn't play that large of a role in the outcome.

Halftime entertainment:

This epitomizes how difficult it is to find something good from UW's perspective in the game. When I start spending time talking about a mascot basketball game during the halftime break, you know things probably aren't going that well for the Badgers.

Maybe it's just me, but when you throw 15-20 mascots on a court at the same time and give them a basketball, my attention is all yours. When a few of those mascots don't have arms, it makes for riveting entertainment. I believe the final score was 6-0. Personally, I don't think any mascot knew which way they were going and what team they were on, which made everything even better.

THE BAD:

Rebounding:

Simply put, if you're going to beat a team that has long, rangy and athletic players, you have to rebound the basketball. For Wisconsin, a team that prides itself on rebounding and defensive positioning, that was not the case.

Instead Blake Hoffarber (nine rebounds), Ralph Sampson III (eight rebounds), Colton Iverson (seven rebounds) and Devoe Joseph/db] (five rebounds) out rebounded the Badgers.

In the end, the Gophers collected 41 rebounds as a team in comparison to UW's 28. It's tough to win games when you can't get control of the ball.

Rough officiating:

I know this will never fly as an excuse for the Badgers and I promise you I am not trying to make one up for them, I'm just stating facts.

In the first half of Thursday's game the officiating was downright terrible. The referees were making calls that should have been no-calls and were turning what should have been no calls into fouls. By the end of the half Wisconsin had racked up 14 team fouls to Minnesota's 4.

To their credit, the second half was officiated much better. Don't take this the wrong way because the last thing I am trying to do is make excuses. Minnesota played well from the start and deserved every point they scored. They out played Wisconsin in many facets of the game. But still, a 14-4 first half disparity in fouls in an equally aggressive game should not happen.

Which leads me to my next point.

Free throw shooting:

Over the past six games Wisconsin has not been getting to the free throw line. In those games opponents have attempted over 100 free throw shots. At the same time UW has only mustered 57 attempts from the charity stripe.

For a team that usually prides itself on making more free throws than its opponent attempts, Thursday's game was just another in a current stretch where it didn't happen. As a result UW dropped its third game in a six game stretch.

"We've got to get a lot more free throws," UW senior guard [db]Jason Bohannon said after the game. "The best games we've played is where we make more free throws than the other opponents attempt. We certainly haven't been doing that the last couple of games. That just tells us that we need to get the ball in the paint, pump fake, get the guys in the air and do a better job of that."

THE UGLY:

Points in the paint:

So often it seemed as though UW was content in hanging around the perimeter, passing it around the arc and hoisting a 3-point shot. As a result, UW wound up shooting 30 shots from downtown.

After the game UW head coach Bo Ryan wasn't disappointed in those shots, claiming that 33 points off of 30 shots from the outside isn't terrible. What is terrible, though, is the fact that the Badgers only managed to score six points in the paint.

Obviously it was a tough game for Jon Leuer, UW's true low post scorer, and he probably had too much pressure on him anyway. After sitting out for more than a month, Leuer came back and probably tried to do too much.

When the final buzzer sounded, he hit only 2-of-12 shots for four points. Obviously it will take some time for him to get acclimated to the level he was at prior to the injury, so some patience is required.

"I thought 20-25 minutes max would be what he could get," Ryan said. "Keaton Nankivil got into foul trouble. That one stretch there, I kept him out probably a little longer than he needed to be. He'll find his mark. That wasn't Jon's fault or anything that Jon wasn't trying to do.

"He's still a good player and he still means a lot to us. He'll contribute."

Leuer declined to talk with reporters after the game.

Still, this has been a developing trend even when Leuer was sidelined. UW has become too passive aggressive. They are content with the 3-point shot and neglect to work from the inside out, particularly with the dribble drive against a zone.

Minnesota student section:

First of all, Thursday's game was in a great basketball setting with a great crowd. The Gopher student section was electric and added an extra boost for the home team. However, that doesn't excuse the chant that was heard a couple of times throughout the game.

When Bo Ryan was slapped with a technical, and even on a couple of occasions prior to that, the Minnesota students started chanting "(expletive) Bo Ryan."

It was a classless chant that did nothing but make the student section look foolish. Come up with something creative or come up with something that gets its point across, but in a playful manner.

To come out and flatly express your distaste for a rival coach in such a manner on a nationally televised game had to have been embarrassing for the thousands of Minnesota alumni watching the game on TV or hearing it first hand inside the arena.

Considering I cover UW sports, I get to spend most of my time around the Badger student sections. I am not going to say that I agree with everything they chant, but I know they don't come out and direct an expletive ridden chant directly at an opposing coach.

Just come up with something a bit more creative. Cursing Bo Ryan is taking the easy way out.

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