The Badgers head to Assembly Hall to face Indiana on Wednesday night, a place where Wisconsin has not won since Feb. 24, 1977. One would imagine that with that kind of a losing streak, no one in the program would know what it is like to win there. However, that’s not the case.
The last time that Wisconsin won at Indiana, Bo Ryan was in his first year as an assistant coach with Wisconsin.
“Guys played well, we played a little better than them, but it was nip and tuck,” said coach Bo Ryan. “That was my first year as an assistant, it was good to get a victory on the road, especially in the first year of the program, but that is what I remember about that.”
Bo Ryan will be hoping that he and the Badgers can recreate some of the magic that was present when Ryan got his first win there. Despite his one victory there, coach Ryan acknowledges that Indiana is a difficult environment to play in.
“They have a good program, a good history and a good tradition,” said Ryan. “It’s tough winning in there.”
The Badgers broke one long losing streak earlier this year with a victory at Michigan State but intend to prepare to face first place Indiana just like any other game. Ending their losing streak at Assembly Hall would be a bonus.
They won’t hear anything about (the streak) from me, because they didn’t hear anything about Michigan State from me,” said Ryan. “I never took any credit for saying anything in the locker room about breaking a streak, so I can’t take any credit or any blame. We’re not treating it any different than any other away game, other than what we have to prepare for in terms of what they bring on the floor, and they bring a lot.”
After coming onto the scene with an explosion and leading the Badgers in scoring early this season, Devin Harris found himself the target of opposing defenses and did a disappearing act.
Lately, however, Harris has been re-emerging as an offensive threat, scoring 11 points against Northwestern and securing the win over Ohio State last Wednesday with a driving basket in the late stages of the game.
While early in the season Harris found himself open for three-point looks, he has been denied those looks in the second half of the season. Lately Harris has been effective penetrating into the defense and taking the ball all the way to the rim.
“What he is finding is that they are closing hard on him on the threes and he’s not as comfortable on those shots,” said Ryan. “He has put it on the floor with a shot fake and a dribble and hit a jumper, he’s gotten to the rim a few times and made a three-point play. He’s quick enough to do that for us. Some teams have five or six of those guys, but we have about two and he’s one of them.”
For a while Harris was unable to get to the rim because physical defenses were able to push him off his path to the basket, but the freshmen has been eager to prove that he is strong enough to get down the lane.
“Physically they pressure him because they don’t think he is strong enough to get around them on the attack dribble,” said Ryan. “So they said you’re not strong enough Devin. You’ll be able to beat people when you are more mature physically. So what has Devin done? He’s put it on the floor a little more to prove he can handle that and I’ve thought he’s handled it well.”
UW to face impressive youngsters
As Wisconsin visits both Indiana and Minnesota this week, two teams that are ahead of them in the conference standings, they will also be forced to match up with two of the conference’s best young players. Minnesota’s Rick Rickert and Indiana’s Jared Jeffries have quickly developed into two of the league’s most versatile players. Coach Ryan has been impressed with both players thus far this season.
“Every time I see the [Rickert], I keep looking for a flaw in his game, but I’d say between the [Jeffries and Rickert] with their size, rebounding, defense, offense, and decision making I’d say those two are the best right now,” said Ryan. “I know you are thinking I’m saying that because were playing them next, but I really think they are.”