Baskets drop, so do Spartans

first_imgUW\’s Keaton Nankivil gets a hand on a jump ball, while guard Trevon Hughes watches to the right. Hughes played only 24 minutes after picking up two early fouls in the first half of Wisconsin\’s win.[/media-credit]When the Wisconsin offense struggled recently, it seemed as if it were only a matter of time until the Badgers would find their rhythm and go on a hot shooting streak.That time came Tuesday night.On a night when No. 5 Michigan State shot just 37 percent overall and 22.2 percent from beyond the arc, the 16th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers made better than 50 percent of their shots and 34.6 from 3-point land.After shooting as low as 34 percent from the field and 16.7 percent beyond the arc against Michigan on Jan. 20, the Badgers have shot better of late, hitting more than 40 percent of their shots in the four games.Never one to overreact to something positive or negative, UW head coach Bo Ryan noted that shooting streaks are simply a part of the game of basketball.“Some games we can’t buy a bucket early, some games you get on a little run,” Ryan said. “You just have to stay even-keeled with your players. And the players have to stay that way and have to believe that if we get an open look, we’re going to shoot it.”Wisconsin had plenty of open looks in both halves, but the Badgers were especially effective before halftime.On 15 first-half attempts, UW shot 40 percent, hitting six threes. Michigan State, on the other hand, missed its only 3-point attempt in the first half.Coupled with 15-of-27 shooting overall before the break, the Badgers’ hot hand gave them a 38-23 lead over the Tom Izzo-led Spartans, which entered the game a perfect 9-0 in Big Ten play.As they have in the past against highly ranked opponents, Wisconsin jumped out to an impressive lead early, pushing the score to 10-1 in the first four minutes before MSU made a field goal in the game.“It got the crowd into the game and threes are better than dunks because dunks only count two and threes count three,” Izzo said. “Early, we have to look to ourselves, give them credit, they made open shots… [but] for whatever reason, we didn’t play with the energy we normally play with defensively.”Making the Badgers’ hot shooting even more surprising is the fact senior guard and captain Trevon Hughes sat out the final 16:57 of the half after picking up his second foul.In that way, the Wisconsin-Michigan State matchup took on a similar feel to the Badgers’ win over then-No. 4 Purdue on Jan. 9. Against the Boilermakers, Hughes went out within the first five minutes as well, forcing fellow guards Jordan Taylor and Jason Bohannon to step up and carry the load.They did just that, scoring 12 points apiece in the first half.According to Taylor, the team never doubted itself when Hughes went out just over three minutes into the game.“We just try to stay aggressive and try to make something happen.”One play in particular that demonstrated just how well the night was going for the Badgers offensively came late in the second half when Taylor hit a contested three as the shot clock wound down.Bohannon dribbled around for much of the possession trying to find a shot or an open teammate. Finally, with under five to shoot, he found Taylor on a pass that was nearly intercepted by an MSU defender before the 6-foot-1 guard from Bloomington, Minn., hit the 3-point attempt to make it 58-42 and all but seal the UW victory.According to Bohannon, his pass was one that assistant coach Howard Moore criticized as he let it go, but ended up working out for the Badgers.“I was trying to make a play and see what happened. … I saw Jordan out of the corner of my eye and I threw it as quick as I could,” Bohannon said. “I usually don’t hear things on the floor, but I heard Coach Moore yelling at me in the background, ‘What kind of pass was that?’“Luckily [Taylor] got it, and it wasn’t picked and went the other way and Jordan hit a three.”Wisconsin’s aggressiveness, along with excellent shooting all night, allowed the Badgers to overcome two things that usually lead to losses: a lack of both rebounds and free throws.As in two of their three Big Ten losses, the Badgers were outrebounded by the Spartans — by a margin of 33-26 — and shot fewer free throws (four) than Michigan State made (13) in the game, a stat that is typically reversed when UW plays at the Kohl Center.Wisconsin made up for its poor performance on the boards and lack of trips to the line with its usual excellent ball security. Heading into the game, UW led the nation with only 9.4 turnovers per game, while Taylor’s +3.89 assist-to-turnover ratio also is the nation’s best.The Badgers turned the ball over just five times in the game Tuesday night, compared to 13 for Michigan State. As a result, UW finished with a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers.“When you get 17-5 assist-to-turnover ratios and they’re 11-13, that’s 13 times they’re not getting a shot at the basket and only five for us,” Taylor said. “You just try to make the right decision and… it’s pretty easy when (Ryan) pretty much tells us what to do.”last_img

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