January 13, 2009

UW rebounding falters during losses

MADISON, Wis. - It does not happen very often to the Wisconsin men's basketball team, but when it does, it usually means the Badgers are on their way to a disappointing finish in that particular game.

Through 16 games, UW has been out-rebounded five times (Purdue, UCONN, Marquette, Texas and Virginia Tech) and four of those were losses. The fifth, at Virginia Tech in early December, needed a late Trevon Hughes runner with seconds remaining to grant the Badgers a win.

Still, over the five games UW has been beaten on the boards, opponents have been more aggressive and out-rebound Wisconsin by nearly six rebounds per game. In UW's 12 wins, the Badgers out hustled their opponents on the glass and grabbed six more boards per game on average. That swing of 12 rebounds usually determines a Badger win or loss.

"That hurts," UW senior and leading rebounder Joe Krabbenhoft said following UW's recent loss at Purdue. "We've talked about that (rebounding) a lot over the last couple of years and what it means to Wisconsin basketball to rebound and they beat us on the boards.

"It's pretty plain and simple, they outworked us on the boards."

In that game, the Boilermakers recorded five more boards than Wisconsin did which lead to nine second chance points. The fact that Purdue, one of the worst rebounding teams in the Big Ten, out-rebounded UW, one of the Big Ten's better rebounding teams, showcased the Boilers wanted the ball more.

"We felt embarrassed after playing Penn State," Purdue sophomore JaJuan Johnson following his teams win over Wisconsin. "Our rebounding was bad in that game so we have been practicing a lot and pressing the boards."

It showed when Johnson started the game by scoring Purdue's first six points of the contest, four of which came on put backs off the glass.

"We've been on the other end of that where somebody does something on the positive side and you play off it," UW head coach Bo Ryan said in regards to Purdue's rebounding success. "That definitely contributes."

The common theme among teams that have out rebounded the Badgers so far this season is that they are very athletic and physical. They crash the boards and sell out for the board. Purdue was no different on Sunday than Marquette or Texas, who out rebounded the Badgers by 15 in their meeting at the Kohl Center, were earlier in the season.

"They were just very physical," Marcus Landry said. "They took us out of a lot of stuff that we like to do and they really got out and pressured us. They were just the more physical team today."

A staple of Matt Painter's coaching philosophy is to play great pressure defense. It was obvious throughout the contest that UW was flustered by the intense defense Purdue was employing as Landry, Hughes and Jon Leuer, three of UW's top scorers, finished the game a combined 10-for-38 from the floor.

Because those shots were not going through the net, and because they were usually very difficult and contested, long rebounds were to be expected. And when playing against the athletes of the Big Ten, it is tough to get rebounds when they bounce hard off the rim.

"(We'll) get back into practice," Landry said. "Watch some film and really learn from our mistakes and the things you could have done better this game. It's the most important thing that we have to do."

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