Coming off a game against Michigan during which the Badgers held the Wolverines to 42.9 percent shooting from the field, Wisconsin looks to continue its strong defensive efforts to close out the season.
Although the Wolverines had scoring streaks during Sunday’s game, they were held scoreless for the first several minutes of the game and only managed to score 21 points in the second half.
Defense has been one of the main reasons the Badgers were able to turn around a six game losing streak into six wins over their last seven games. During the earlier stretch, the Badgers surrendered 68.3 points a contest. Now, however, the Badgers have limited that number to 51.9 points per game since facing Illinois in February.
According to University of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, the team has looked to seniors Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft for the defensive turnaround.
“Just looking and the way Marcus and Joe played some of the ball screen stuff at times was really good,” Ryan said. “Joe did a good job of releasing at the right time.”
On Sunday, Krabbenhoft was assigned to guard Manny Harris, the leading scorer in the Big Ten this season. For Ryan, the work ethic shown on defense by Krabbenhoft has paid dividends on the court.
“Joe just goes hard all the time, so that’s always going to get results.
Furthermore, part of what has enabled Landry and Krabbenhoft to become premier defenders is their experience on the court.
“Everybody that has been back a year has been better defensively,” Ryan said.
According to Ryan, the leadership shown by the two seniors has been visible long before the turnaround or losing streak.
“It doesn’t start during any kind of streak winning or losing; it’s every day. It’s September, it’s August, it’s June when they’re working out,” Ryan said. “It’s not a sometime thing or an all of a sudden thing — it’s always been there.”
Landry and Krabbenhoft are not the only Badgers showing improvement on the defensive end. According to Ryan, junior guard Jason Bohannon has made vast improvement in chasing ball screens.
“First of all you got to be a worker,” Ryan said of Bohannon. “Jason is a lot better this year than he’s ever been.”
Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer, two sophomores who have seen significant playing time this year, have also played stellar defense, according to Ryan.
“The younger guys are learning to move their feet,” Ryan said. “Jon Leuer and Keaton as seniors will be good defenders. They’re getting better now, but it takes time.”
Minnesota brings challenge to defense
The Badgers’ defensive run will be put to the test Wednesday against Minnesota. In their earlier contest this season, the Gophers scored a season-high 78 points against the Badgers to steal a win at the Kohl Center. According to Ryan, although the defense gave up a high total that night, the defensive effort was solid.
“I thought we played pretty well against Minnesota defensively,” Ryan said. “Those were pretty good defensive games considering who we were playing and who they had.”
Ryan also feels that the team has not changed its defensive mentality since that time, but the results just happen to be better.
“I think sometimes it was matchups,” Ryan said. “We haven’t done anything differently, it’s just they get to do it a few more times.”
Regardless of the results, Ryan believes his team is doing what it takes to win these crucial last games.
“Our guys have been giving that effort, especially on the defensive end,” he said.