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Defense stifles young Wolfpack

December 1, 2010

MADISON — With a name like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge you might expect a competitive, hard-fought battle between two major conference teams.

If so, you may have been disappointed by Wednesday night’s battle between Wisconsin and North Carolina State at the Kohl Center. Thanks in large part to an impressive defensive effort, the Badgers won by 39 points in a game that was never in doubt over the final 25 minutes.

“That was just a good ole-fashioned one,” said Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe. “They played well, they shot the ball well, they executed. And we didn’t.”

In saying his team didn’t execute, Lowe was putting things lightly.

N.C. State turned the ball over 13 times compared with just nine assists. Beyond the arc, the Wolfpack hit just 4-of-13 shots, while connecting only 18 times on 57 attempts from the floor.

Guard Javier Gonzalez best embodied the struggles for N.C. State as he committed five turnovers while dishing just two assists and shooting 1-for-6 on the night.

“We’ve seen them attack some teams and make some pretty good decisions,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “We tried to squeeze the court as we usually do when playing teams that are pretty good off the bounce, and I thought we did a good job of that.

“That’s what I liked the most, how we cut down the driving lines and kept [Scott] Wood pretty much in check.”

After battling through the first 15 minutes in a close game, Wisconsin separated itself with a 23-0 run over the end of the first half and beginning of the second. The Badgers held the Wolfpack scoreless for a span of 10:12, taking the score from 29-21 to 52-21.

While the offense looked its best during the span, it was the UW defense that really changed the game over those 10 minutes.

“We had a couple of shots that were right there, we had two that were on the rim and rolled out,” Lowe said. “It just seemed like one of those things where the ball wouldn’t go in the hole.

“Our offense hurt us probably more than anything in this ball game, our inability to score.”

One of the keys to the game, which showed the difference between the young Wolfpack squad and the experienced Badgers, was the number of trips to the foul line. In particular, Wisconsin’s aggressiveness getting into the lane and the post forced N.C. State to foul them.

Whereas the Wolfpack committed 21 fouls that sent the Badgers to the stripe for 26 attempts, UW committed just 11 fouls, giving N.C. State 13 attempts at the line. The disparity in foul shots was a welcomed sight for Wisconsin, which struggled to get to the line throughout the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

“We were making hard cuts and they have to defend them,” said Jon Leuer, who posted a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds while going 7-for-8 at the line. “A lot of times when you make hard cuts, they’re going to grab and hold.

“The officials were seeing that, and that’s how we were able to build up fouls against them. That and getting the ball inside. Anytime we can outshoot our opposition in free throws, we have a really good chance of winning.”


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