For years, a home game at the Kohl Center spelled a victory for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team. But what was once a fortress has now become shaky ground for a Badger team (18-6 overall) that has already lost four times at home this year.
Even though the 58-52 loss against then-No. 3 Ohio State Saturday may not have been an unexpected defeat to many, it marked the end of a nine-game home winning streak against OSU – including a victory last year that saw UW beat an undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State team.
But head coach Bo Ryan insists none of the statistics matter.
“I don’t [pay attention]; I don’t know how many [losses this season],” head coach Bo Ryan said at his Monday press conference. “You’ve got to remember what we do. What we’re trying to do is develop young men into a cohesive unit and compete at the highest level that they can. … There are people losing at home that don’t normally lose at home besides us.”
The Badgers, who have shot the ball well from 3-point range under Ryan, have been streaky from behind the arc as of late, which has led to shooting woes, especially at home.
So far this season, Bo Ryan’s men are shooting an abysmal 23 percent at home from three-point range, while they are sinking 40 percent of their shots on the road.
“It’s crazy, and if there was an answer that was easily attainable, I think we would have it by now,” Ryan said. “I haven’t … ever had a team get into those kinds of phases. It’s just something in practice you just keep working on.”
Ryan went on to express the need for this Badger team to strive to become more than “average” this season, and he even handed out an article on the topic to motivate his team before the Penn State game Feb. 2.
“Average is no longer good enough; a lot of people could survive on average the past couple generations,” Ryan said. “It was referring to education, but it also, to me, referred to a lot of other areas of your life. Being average in athletics, is that going to get you a scholarship? Is that going to get you a chance to pick which school you want to go to?
“Average isn’t good enough anymore if you want certain things in life.”
Senior point guard Jordan Taylor has also struggled with “average” this season. Taylor, who finished with 12 points Saturday, is averaging 14 points per game for the Badgers this season, a total that is down from his 18.1 points per game last year.
Before the season began, Taylor was selected as a preseason All-American, as well as being chosen for the Wooden Award’s top 50 list. With such high expectations ushering him into the season, it would have been understandable if Taylor got frustrated – but Ryan insists Taylor’s intensity hasn’t wavered.
“Every day we come to practice, I always check the eyes of my players, … and I haven’t seen anything different in him,” Ryan said. “He knows that he is getting a lot more attention. You could see the way the screens were handled by Ohio State; they weren’t going to give him some of those looks that he was getting last year, … but it hasn’t changed his eagerness to be on a team that is getting something done.”
Heading back on the road this week, the Badgers go to Minnesota Thursday to play in a state where Ryan recruited three players on Wisconsin’s current starting lineup (Taylor, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz).
The group of Minnesota natives on UW’s roster represents a recruiting rivalry that is common in the college sports world and often leads to tension between programs and coaches. Still, Ryan insists there is no bad blood between the two teams.
“In the recruiting process, I don’t get territorial. I don’t get to the point where you worry about what you don’t have. With us, it’s always what you do have,” Ryan said. “Whoever decides to come here, … we have guys who want to be here, and they have guys who want to be there.”