Every week, Herald Sports will look back at the Wisconsin men’s basketball team and grade the Badgers in various aspects of the game, including offense, defense and bench scoring.
Here is how the Badgers fared last week against Michigan and Penn State:
Offense — 3.5 of 5
Ever since Jon Leuer went down with a left wrist injury, questions have lingered about how the Badgers would replace the junior forward’s scoring output. Two weeks later, the answer is clear, but the new question is one of consistency.
Without Leuer, Wisconsin is a guard-heavy offense that likes to fire from long distance. In two games this week, the Badgers shot 24 and 33 times from beyond the arc against Michigan and Penn State, respectively. Of those 57, they made just 14, or 24.5 percent.
As a result of that lack of consistency from 3-point range, the Wisconsin offense struggled to put up points at times in both games. The Badgers scored just 43 points combined in the first halves of the two games. In the second halves, UW put up 71.
Scoring just 54 points on 35 percent shooting from the floor earns Wisconsin a below-average mark against Michigan, while putting up 79 points on 43.3 percent shooting equates to an above-average grade.
Defense — 3 of 5
While the same could likely be said about the offense, the Badgers’ defensive play against Penn State was nearly the polar opposite of their D against Michigan.
Consider these numbers: Michigan shot 36.2 percent to Penn State’s 51.8, the Wolverines scored just 48 points while the Nittany Lions put up 71, and MU’s leading scorer — Manny Harris — had just 11 points compared to 28 for PSU’s leader, Talor Battle.
Of course, Michigan’s DeShawn Sims did put up 23 points, but that’s hardly surprising considering the Badgers’ lack of size without Leuer. Top-scoring guards, on the other hand, rarely go off for more than 20 points against Wisconsin’s stout defense.
Still, head coach Bo Ryan’s comment about the Nittany Lions in his postgame press conference comes to mind, as he said, “Can anybody put numbers up quicker than they can?”
Ryan’s point is a good one, especially after Battle hit three shots from beyond the arc in a matter of 64 seconds. It would be difficult to find another guard that can hit from long distance in transition better than Battle.
Bench — 2.5 of 5
With Leuer out and former sixth man Jordan Taylor promoted to the starting lineup, bench points have been hard to come by over the past two weeks. That fact made sophomore guard Rob Wilson’s 13-point outburst so important to the Badgers against Michigan.
On a night when Taylor went 0-for-7 from the field, and senior guard Jason Bohannon was not much better at 1-of-7, Wilson’s late-game scoring on 4-of-6 from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line was key to the Badgers’ win.
When Wisconsin hosted Penn State, however, bench scoring once again was all but non-existent. Wilson’s five points were the only ones off the bench for UW. As a result, it took impressive late efforts from Taylor and senior guard Trevon Hughes to escape with a win.
Unsung Hero of the Week: Keaton Nankivil
With Leuer out, Nankivil’s performance has become all the more important as Ryan puts out what essentially amounts to a four-guard lineup. Against the Wolverines and Nittany Lions, the Madison native finally answered the challenge.
A bit undersized at 6-foot-8, Nankivil put up double digits in each of the week’s games, including a season-high 17 against the Nittany Lions on 7-of-9 shooting.
During a first half in which most Badgers struggled to score, Nankivil seemingly could not miss. He also hit a pair of mid-range jumpers during the Badgers’ comeback run against PSU, while he added eight rebounds against the Wolverines and seven against Nittany Lions.
Badger of the Week: Trevon Hughes
This one is a no-brainer. Hughes had 20 points against Michigan followed by 22 against Penn State, both of which were team-highs.
More importantly, though, the senior guard showed his leadership skills in leading the Badgers back from major second-half deficits in consecutive games. Sure, Wilson and Taylor may get the most attention for their efforts this week, but without Hughes, the Badgers would have dropped back-to-back home games.
What’s more, Hughes was tied with Nankivil for the most first half points between the two games with 13 while his 29 combined second-half points are to thank for the UW victories.
Play of the Week: Jason Bohannon’s monster block
It was the most unlikely play of the game and one of the more impressive plays in the Kohl Center all season. With Hughes facing a mismatch against forward Andrew Ott, Bohannon raced over and skied to swat the ball out of bounds with authority.
The Marion, Iowa native crashed to the floor afterward, but the block made the crowd go nuts, and even Bohannon had no idea how he did it.
“I don’t know how I got that high,” Bohannon said. “It was a read. I saw Trevon trying to get post position. The guy got it up over top of him and I was on the backside and decided to come over and help. I jumped as high as I could and I got it.”