Bronson Koenig did not practice Tuesday, as an injury to his lower left leg continues to bother the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball senior guard.
Koenig’s status for UW’s Thursday night game at Michigan (16-9, 6-6 Big Ten) is day-to-day, per a team spokesperson.
No. 11 Wisconsin (21-4, 10-2) dropped four spots in the latest Associated Press rankings after falling to Northwestern at home on Sunday. Now, the team is uncertain if it will have Koenig, who scored 16 points in the Badgers’ 68-64 win on Jan. 17 at the Kohl Center.
UW assistant coach Howard Moore said the coaching staff hasn’t really debated allowing Koenig an extended period of time off.
“It’s just hey, let’s get the treatments, let’s do what we need to do and gauge it day-by-day,” Moore said Tuesday. “Because you may feel crummy today and the next like ‘Hey, I can go and I can give it my best.’ And you play well. I don’t think you overreact. I think you just take each day as it comes and then go from there. But you do the work every day to prepare yourself.”
UW was off yesterday.
Since the teams’ first meeting, Michigan has gone 4-2, meaning UW will run into a team that is desperate to keep its NCAA Tournament chances alive. The Wolverine offense can be downright deadly at times, evidenced by the 55-point first half it put up against rival Michigan State last week.
“They definitely need a top 25 win on their resume. That definitely bodes well for them,” senior forward Nigel Hayes said. “Also, it’s still conference play … they’ve been playing extremely well as of late.”
In UW’s win last month, it was key for UW to contain the forward combination of Moritz Wagner and DJ Wilson. Wilson failed to score, and Wagner went 2-for-7 from the field. Moore said all-around team defense and collapsing on them will be important.
“They’re playing much better and with a lot more confidence than what they were a month ago,” Moore said. “It’s a huge part of what we have to do defensively. They create a lot of problems as 6-10 guys that can put it on the floor, that can shoot it, that can pass.”
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Duncan Robinson hit three 3-pointers against the Badgers last time, as he always provides a deep threat.
Derrick Walton Jr., reigning co-Big Ten Player of the Week. He averaged 22.5 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game in leading the Wolverines to a pair of double-digit wins over Michigan State and Indiana. The engine that drives the Wolverine offense, Walton Jr. leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game. Zak Irvin (12.6 ppg) is a quality sidekick. Against UW earlier this season, he notched a game-high 20 points.
Shooting struggles throughout the last two weeks continue to hinder the Badgers. Over the last five games, UW has shot 37.62 percent from the field. It’s even worse from 3-point range, where Wisconsin is shooting at a 27.8 percent clip during that stretch.
Michigan possesses the worst field goal percentage defense in the Big Ten, thus providing a prime opportunity for UW to break out of its slump. At the same time, the Wolverines rank third in the conference in scoring defense (65.5 ppg allowed), while UW ranks first (60.4 ppg allowed).
Hayes said the wake-up call should have been heard long before that. After the loss, Hayes suggested maybe the team will respond now. He sent a text message to the team recently with a message he hopes they will adhere too.
It hasn’t been a night and day change, Hayes said, at least not yet. In addition to his message to the team, UW football head coach Paul Chryst addressed the team before practice. His main message: have fun.
“Hopefully we read it, hopefully we take it to heart,” Hayes said. “We’re in a great position right now. Even though, as Coach Chryst talked to us today, the sky fell down last game when we lost, yet we’re still 21-4 and first in the conference.”