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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Streaky frontcourt looks to regain form after loss to OSU

Ryan Evans (5) holds a team high average of 6.6 rebounds per game, good for fourth in the Big Ten. Evans fielded questions from reporters this week pertaining to his offensive output, but constantly referenced his need to play better defense after Saturday’s loss to OSU 58-52.[/media-credit]

The frontcourt of the Wisconsin men’s basketball team certainly got the message after Saturday’s 58-52 loss to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes’ execution inside proved to be one of the biggest differences in the game, with 30 points coming in the paint and 13 off free throws as preseason All-American forward Jared Sullinger scored 24 points himself.

Wisconsin had a game plan for Sullinger, but the Badgers strayed from it. With the objective incomplete, it led to an overall failure of the mission Saturday.


A rare mental lapse, indeed, for a team that routinely finishes in the nation’s top 10 in points allowed under head coach Bo Ryan and is currently allowing fewer points than anyone else.

“In that game, we had really worked hard on trying not to allow the ball in the post and then had a scheme based upon that, about what we would do when it did get there and where we would allow it to come,” assistant coach Lamont Paris said. “I think we just got off of our game plan, as far as trying to do that. That made our jobs a little harder because we didn’t make it as hard as we needed to for him to catch.

“Typically, we’ve done a great job [with] the scouting reports, a really really exceptional job.”

The defensive slip is just another little bump in this season for Wisconsin’s frontcourt, which has played admirable defense all season and improved offense.

In the post-game press conference Saturday, Ryan made it quite clear he wasn’t pleased with the defense’s attack on OSU’s post-play. Minutes afterward, forward Jared Berggren – who went one-on-one with Sullinger for much of the first half – accepted some of the blame.

And talking to the media Tuesday, forward Ryan Evans appeared to have his defensive shortcomings occupying his mind more than anything else. He fielded two questions about his offensive performance from Saturday, but concluded both answers with a reminder that he also should have performed better defensively.

Moreso in the second half, Evans, along with forward Mike Bruesewitz, took turns on Sullinger and held him to eight points after he had scored 16 in the first.

Evans listed his weak points from Saturday:  “Following the scouting report and also boxing out on the defensive end. I got to do a better job boxing out and getting more of those rebounds. If I was doing that I think I would probably be third in the Big Ten by now in rebounding.”

Evans is currently fourth in the conference with 6.6 rebounds per game.

“But I wasn’t doing that in the last game and I haven’t done that in a couple other games so I need to work on that,” he added.

On the other hand, Wisconsin’s frontcourt appears to have ripened offensively over the past several games. Bruesewitz started slow offensively during the non-conference season, which preceded a shooting slump from Berggren and Evans as the Badgers entered Big Ten play.

But things have reversed course for the most part. Of all players who receive 20-plus minutes of playing time per game, Evans and Bruesewitz have the two most cost-effective hands on the team in conference play at the moment.

Bruesewitz leads the team with a 45.2 percent shooting clip with Evans close by at 42.3. Evans is second with 10.1 points per game while Bruesewitz puts up 7.4.

Although Ryan has not typically dipped too far into his bench this season, the Badger frontcourt has also been able to count on freshman forward Frank Kaminsky for the occasional spell.

Despite averaging just eight minutes a game this season, Kaminsky has been able to provide Wisconsin with a spark in the second half of the last two games. Kaminsky hit a three that gave Wisconsin a four-point lead against Penn State and then four days later splashed one that pulled UW to within four points against OSU.

The shot against PSU also marked the beginning of an impressive 58-second period in which the freshman blocked a shot, grabbed a rebound and assisted on another three-pointer.

Kaminsky’s assertiveness from the arc is a welcome change for the rookie, who at one point in the season fell into a slump where he deferred open looks that laid within his range.

“Frank’s done a great job,” Paris said. “Off the bench he’s had limited minutes and so when a guy plays limited minutes and he does something that you remember positively – that’s hard to do.”

Berggren’s offensive game in conference play, however, hasn’t been as streamlined lately as the rest of the frontcourt. The Badgers’ center is currently shooting 37.4 percent (46.5 on the entire year) from the field and 29.7 from three.

That may be due, in part, to an increased emphasis on his defensive game. Despite the mishap against Sullinger, Berggren has been able to keep the likes of Indiana’s Cody Zeller in check while gaining a reputation as an emerging quality defender.

“Confidence-wise, he’s getting better, getting used to playing that many minutes,” Bruesewitz said. “It’s kind of an adjustment at first. You just got to get used to playing that many minutes and being used to more responsibility on the offensive end and everything like that. It just took us a little bit of time to adjust to that, I think.”

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