UW ready to face MSU

first_imgJunior forward Keaton Nankivil and the Wisconsin Badgers hope to bring high energy and play hard in tonight\’s home matchup with Big Ten-leading Michigan State.[/media-credit]When Duke came to the Kohl Center in December, Wisconsin basketball players downplayed the game as a fun non-conference opponent to help prepare UW for conference play.The Badgers then knocked off the Blue Devils with an intensity normally reserved for March.When Purdue traveled to Madison three weeks ago head coach Bo Ryan passed the game off as another tough Big Ten game.UW proceeded to play with a fire fans hadn’t seen since, well, the Duke game.With No. 5 Michigan State (19-3, 9-0 Big Ten) coming to Wisconsin (16-5, 6-3) Tuesday, UW players and Ryan are once again making light of a game with huge Big Ten and possible NCAA Tournament ramifications.While the clich? responses are easy to understand, it is a lot more difficult to believe them.“Every game is big,” UW junior Keaton Nankivil said. “We don’t look at it differently. This is a chance to play against a very good team at home… so it is a good chance to prove ourselves on the home floor.”Undefeated at the Kohl Center this season, Wisconsin will find out just how powerful the home court advantage really is after falling to Michigan State in East Lansing earlier this season 54-47.The Badgers struggled with the Spartans’ tough man-to-man defense, often resorting to contested shots late in the shot clock.As a result, the Badgers were forced to play from behind for much of the game and never got into a strong offensive rhythm.With UW struggling to consistently score the past five games — relying on strong shooting spurts to put together a 3-2 record — the Badgers may have their hands full with a tough defensive opponent.“We just have to bring energy and play hard,” Nankivil said. “I think maybe last game we started a little flat [in East Lansing].”Pre-season expectations for the Big Ten predicted a tight conference race with no clear winner pulling away.Sitting at 9-0 in conference play, Michigan State could seal a conference championship up early with a win Tuesday night.Just four days after the Badgers lost a game in the last possession to Purdue, senior guard Jason Bohannon says MSU keeps winning because of their ability to pull out close games.“They are finding ways to win, regardless of how close it is,” Bohannon said. “And that is what good teams do.”Ryan, owner of three regular season championships, concurred.“They have won the close ones,” Ryan said of Michigan State owning an undefeated conference record. “When we’ve won the championship, you take a look at the ones that we were able to get, and Michigan State is on track to do that by the ones they have been getting on a last possession or two.”Though neither team may like each other much — MSU coach Tom Izzo all but accused UW players of flopping in their last meeting — both programs actually play very similar styles.Built around rugged defense, Izzo’s teams have been marked by balanced scoring, and this season is no different.Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, point guard Kalin Lucas, leads the Spartans with 16 points and four assists per game, but three other players average double digit points, and fellow guard Chris Allen is close with 9.3 points per game.One difference between UW and MSU is in the transition game. Where Ryan prefers his players walk the ball up the court, MSU tries to run off missed shots and turnovers.While Wisconsin did a decent job limiting fast break opportunities in East Lansing — seven points allowed in transition — they know the performance will have to be repeated for UW to have a shot at the upset.“Kalin Lucas has done a great job of getting his team, and leading his team, getting them all involved,” Bohannon said. “He does a great job of getting in the lane and kicking it out, and obviously Allen has been knocking down some shots.”last_img

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