After a thrilling win in the final seconds against conference rival Minnesota, the Badgers are now 5-2 in Big Ten conference play. Head coach Bo Ryan has his sights set on the future with their next conference game against Ohio State in Columbus.
The Badgers have been playing lockdown defense as of late, holding conference opponents to an average of just 52.1 points per game, a fact that has Ryan impressed with his team’s effort.
“They’re really hustling and working so doggone hard to limit looks and not give teams second shots,” Ryan said at his weekly press conference Monday.
Jackson has been forced to step up this year at point guard following a season-ending ACL injury to Josh Gasser before the season began.
While Ryan said Gasser’s rehabilitation has been progressing nicely, he was a bit more skeptical about sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky’s injury status.
Sunday marked the first day he returned to limited practice.
“Frank has missed a lot here because he hasn’t done very much,” Ryan said when asked about Kaminsky’s availability. “So I’m not sure. We’ll know more tonight, and we’ll definitely know tomorrow something.”
Injuries are not the only problem the Badgers are facing. They have had a hard time putting points on the board in the last two games, scoring 45 points in the victory against Minnesota after tallying just 47 points in their loss to Michigan State.
A major player in UW’s recent point struggle has been free throws, with the Badgers shooting a measly number from the line – just 60.8 percent on the season. Nonetheless, Ryan doesn’t seem phased by their struggles.
“Several teams struggle,” Ryan said. “Sometimes it’s because of an individual or two. When we led the nation, it was two guys getting most of the free throws in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor.
“Two guys that believed, every time they walked up there, they had their routine. Nothing ever entered their mind, anything other than saying the other team is going to take the ball out of bounds because it’s going to come through the net.”
In their Saturday matchup with Minnesota, the Badgers shot 37 percent from the field, 50 percent from the free throw line and only 31.8 percent from three-point range. They have been in a shooting funk, which Ryan addressed when he was asked about senior center Jared Berggren, who has shot a combined 4-for-17 from the field and a combined 1-for-8 from three-point range in the last two games.
“I like to see it go through the net, wherever that is, but he is a threat inside and out,” Ryan stated.
Even though Berggren is in a slump, Ryan knows he is still a threat for any basketball team to have to guard and he said he is confident Berggren will get back on track, especially when Kaminksy is able to return.
“He works so hard defensively, especially with Frank out the last three games,” Ryan said. “He hasn’t had pretty much the same substitution pattern, rest periods that he was getting used to.”
The Badgers’ next opponent is Ohio State and star forward Deshaun Thomas. Thomas is leading the Big Ten with an average of 20 points per game this season.