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‘Need to rededicate ourselves’

March 13, 2011 Comments off

INDIANAPOLIS — It took little more than three minutes for Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan to sense something wasn’t right about his team Friday against Penn State.

With the Badgers trailing 10-0 in their second round game at Conseco Fieldhouse, he called for an early timeout and made a couple substitutions. As play resumed, Ryan stood in front of senior forward Keaton Nankivil and freshman Josh Gasser.

“I just can’t believe that you can’t compete better than that,” a noticeably frustrated Ryan said to his two underperforming starters.

Two hours later, Nankivil sat in front of his locker fielding questions from reporters. Once again, Wisconsin had made an early exit from the Big Ten tournament, suffering an ugly 36-33 loss to Penn State.

With a week to prepare for the NCAA tournament, Nankivil was faced with the question of what they needed to do to get ready, and whether there was enough time to do so.

“I think we have a lot of guys in here, we need to rededicate ourselves, especially for us seniors,” Nankivil said. “At this point, it’s one-and-done for your college career.

“There better be enough time, because we don’t have much time left.”

Between sitting on the bench early in the game and sitting at his locker following the loss, Nankivil walked off the court along with his teammates, dejected after seeing a solid defensive effort stymied by an awful shooting performance offensively.

When asked after the game how he felt, Nankivil thought of that walk.

“To be honest with you, I walked off the court about as frustrated as I’ve ever been today,” he said.

It was the first time the Badgers had lost consecutive games since a six-game losing streak in January 2009.

On the other side of the room was Gasser, a guard who despite starting for the Badgers, is relatively inexperienced, especially when it comes to postseason play.

For the freshman out of Port Washington, Wis., the question came up about what was going on with the team that could allow them to give up its highest point total in years one game and score its fewest in years the next.

Put simply, he just didn’t know.

According to his head coach, it didn’t have to do with focusing too much on one thing.

“The story of the guy, the coach who asked one of his players how his grades went, and the kid said, three Fs and a D, do you know the answer the coach came back with? He says, “I’ve got the answer for you. You spent way too much time on one class,” said Ryan. “Defensively we couldn’t have done things any worse than we did in our last game. So before you ask did we spend all our time on defense, no, but it might have looked like that.”

Another starter, Tim Jarmusz, remained confident in the Badgers’ ability to come back in a week and begin a strong postseason run.

Despite looking a lot like recent Wisconsin teams that have struggled late in the regular season before making early exits from the postseason, Jarmusz insisted that it would not happen again.

“It’s a new year; it’s not going to be the same, it’s not last year,” he said. “We’re a good team, we can bounce back and we will. I know we will.

“This is a good team with a bunch of good guys. We’ll be out ready to play. This is the last go round for at least the six of us and we’re going to make the most of it.”

Seniors lead the way as Badgers finish perfect at home

February 28, 2011 Comments off

MADISON, Wis. — With 35 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game, Bo Ryan called a timeout. But with a 14-point lead, the Wisconsin head coach’s decision had nothing to do with game strategy.

As the UW student section chanted, “We want J.P.,” Ryan called for his three senior reserves, who entered in place of the Badgers’ three senior starters. One by one, Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer received standing ovations from the crowd.

Walking off the court at the Kohl Center for the last time, Leuer hugged Ryan, as the students had switched to “Thank you, seniors.” Taking a seat on the bench, the three seniors got the opportunity to watch Wisconsin’s final offensive possession of its 78-63 victory over Northwestern.

“It hasn’t really set in yet, I don’t think, for me,” Leuer said. “I definitely have a lot of emotions going. It’s just been an unbelievable four years here at the Kohl Center, and I’m definitely going to miss it.”

Just 22 seconds after they had entered, Wisconsin’s other three seniors were given their moment. Like the three starters, Wquinton Smith, Brett Valentyn and J.P. Gavinski walked off the court, one by one, for the last time.

It will not go down as the best game in the careers of the six seniors, but for the last one they’ll play at home, they were happy to come away with the victory. More often than not, that has been the result at the Kohl Center during their four years.

With a home record of 61-6 over four years, the 2011 senior class finished with a winning percentage of better than 91 percent at the Kohl Center. Overall, the Badgers have gone 97-33 over the same stretch, already making Wisconsin’s current seniors the winningest class in school history.

UW finished 16-0 at home this season, marking just the third time in 80 years the Badgers have gone undefeated at home.

“When we’re at the Kohl Center, we don’t plan on losing,” Leuer said. “Ever. This team did that this year, and I think that’s one of our goals.”

But the final score hardly indicates how close Wisconsin was to suffering its first home loss in nearly a year. With 7:14 remaining in the game, a 3-pointer from John Shurna drew Northwestern within three points at 58-55.

Five minutes later, a rare Jordan Taylor turnover allowed the Wildcats to score twice in just 10 seconds to cut the lead from 11 points to seven with 2:22 to go in the game. On the next trip down the court, Nankivil hit a 3-pointer to put the Badgers back up by 10 points and spark an 8-0 Wisconsin run to close out the game.

While the Wisconsin fans may not have shared his confidence, junior point guard Jordan Taylor said afterward that he never believed the outcome was in doubt.

“I just felt like we were always in control, especially the way Jon was playing,” Taylor said.

With the way the first half had gone for the Badgers, the game looked to be an easy UW victory until the Wildcats made their second-half run. While Northwestern shot well throughout, Wisconsin was even better, especially in the game’s first 20 minutes.

UW scored 43 points in the first half matching the second-highest total for the Badgers in a first half during Big Ten play. Wisconsin’s 65.4 shooting percentage marked the team’s best-shooting first half this season and the team’s best-shooting half overall in Big Ten play this season.

Leading by 13 at the break, the Badgers extended it to a 16-point lead over the first three minutes of the second half on six points from Leuer. From there, however, the game’s momentum switched in Northwestern’s favor.

Fueled by their hot shooting from 3-point range, the Wildcats went on a 20-7 run over a nearly 10-minutes stretch. The run was sparked by a 3-pointer from Michael Thompson and capped by Shurna’s big shot that cut the lead to just three points.

For Ryan and the Badgers, the Wildcats’ run was something they expected.

“When you prepare for them, you talk about those kind of runs,” Ryan said. “You really do. I’ve seen them do that to other teams, and the other team gets down, the other team gets a little disjointed. And they’re going to do that at times. They’re going to go through those streaks.”

But with the Kohl Center crowd behind them as they have been so many times over their four years, the Wisconsin seniors — with a little help from Taylor and freshman guard Josh Gasser — held off Northwestern to ensure their perfect mark at home this season.

Even then, after all 16 home games had been won, Ryan made no mention of it to his team.

“It never was in a conversation that we had,” he said. “All I said after the game was we closed out the home portion of the schedule. Now we still have games to play. But I’ve never talked about it.

“They can read, they listen to their classmates. They know what’s going on. But we’ve never talked about a streak.”

Badgers upset No. 1 Buckeyes … (Again)

February 14, 2011 Comments off

MADISON — The Kohl Center, where streaks come to die.

One of the 17,230 fans packed inside the building on Dayton Street made a sign Saturday with the above statement. Another read “24-1.”

After a hard-fought 40 minutes, they were right on both accounts.

Behind an incredible second-half performance by junior guard Jordan Taylor, one that came when his team needed it most, Wisconsin handed No. 1 Ohio State its first loss, 71-67. With the win, the UW became just the eighth school since 1969-70 to defeat the AP No. 1 team in both football and basketball during the same academic year.

“It’s Madison, Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan of the upset. “It’s been said a lot of times about what this campus is like, what this school is all about. … Like I was telling people before, I think the basketball thing is a little different in February with Ohio State being No. 1.

“I don’t know about football rankings, and Ohio State was No. 1, I understand that. I just think in our sport, to be [24-0], you’ve had to win in November, December, January and into February. So, I kind of like ours because it just happened. I loved football’s because I was there at the game. It’s just all good for the school.”

Last time a school upset the nation’s No. 1 team in both sports? Florida, in 2006-07, also over Ohio State.

Heading into the matchup, Keaton Nankivil and the Badgers talked about looking to get off to a hot start and maintain a high level of intensity throughout, something that worked tremendously for the football team back on October 16.

Instead, the basketball version took a little different trajectory.

After a highlight montage from that victory at Camp Randall pumped up the crowd just before tipoff, Wisconsin jumped out to a fairly hot start, building a 12-6 lead through the first 6 1/2 minutes of play. Unlike the football team, however, that hot start did not translate into a dominant wire-to-wire victory.

In fact, the Badgers fell behind by as many as 15 points with 13:21 to play in the second half, stunning the home crowd. The next trip down the floor, trailing 47-32, Taylor hit a floater in the lane that sparked a 15-0 run to tie it.

“You have to give Wisconsin a ton of credit,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “We got that lead and had some great looks, I thought, but it just kind of went in and out on us. It flipped, we started missing shots and they started making shots.”

Just like that, in a matter of four minutes, the Badgers took what looked to be a sure blowout and flipped it into the type of back-and-forth battle it had been throughout the first half. Only, they weren’t done there.

After dropping behind once again by four points with 7:40 to play, the Badgers tied it at 55 just 42 seconds later on a Mike Bruesewitz 3-pointer. Over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Wisconsin reeled off nine unanswered for its largest lead of the game at 62-55.

Now, not only was Ryan’s squad not going to be blown out, it was in control against the nation’s best. And while Taylor’s 21 second-half points stand out, it was a true team effort that got them there.

“When we were down, I don’t think things really changed,” Taylor said. “They made a run, and we knew we had a run in us. … We eventually we started getting stops and started making plays and everybody made a big play. Not one person didn’t.”

Ohio State kept things interesting over the game’s final minutes, but with the raucous crowd behind it, Wisconsin would not relinquish its lead.

Despite their best efforts, William Buford‘s 21 points and Jared Sullinger‘s 19 point and 12 rebounds just weren’t enough. Despite all the talk surrounding Sullinger as a national player of the year candidate, he and Buford could not do it alone.

“Our game plan [was] to kind of limit his touches, because when he gets it down there, he is pretty much unstoppable,” said Jon Leuer of Sullinger. “It is hard to score if you don’t have the ball, and that is what we were trying to do with him.”

Taylor, who struggled in the first half, finished with a game-high 27 points and seven assists against just one turnover. Leuer, Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser joined him in scoring double digits, with 27 of the points between the four coming from beyond the arc.

As the clock ticked to zero, fans stormed the court, mobbing the Badgers for the second time in four months following a thrilling victory over the Buckeyes.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Taylor said. “We were at the football game when they beat Ohio State and a few of us got to go down on the field. Just to be in another court rusher game like that, similar to Duke last year, it was unbelievable.

“It’s something you remember forever.”

 

Ready to upset No. 1 Ohio State

February 11, 2011 Comments off

MADISON – Watching from the packed and highly energized stands at Camp Randall Stadium, one play in particular jumped out at Keaton Nankivil during the Oct. 16 football game between No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.

It’s a play that stood out to everyone else, too, as David Gilreath‘s 97-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff set the tone for the Badgers’ 31-18 upset and was voted play of the year by UW fans.

“Gilreath returning the kickoff, to me shows right off the bat they’re ready to play,” Nankivil said. “They’re not going to back down from anybody and they kind of made that first move. Secondly, the intensity throughout the entire game. I don’t think Wisconsin in that game really let up or gave Ohio State a chance to keep chipping away at it.”

Nankivil was joined at that memorable victory by each of his teammates, and they all got a great lesson in stepping up to a challenge.

When they host No. 1 Ohio State tomorrow at the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin basketball team will have a chance to show its ability to rise to the occasion as well.

To be successful, they’ll likely need to do the two things that most impressed Nankivil about the football team in that upset.

“In a little different fashion,” Nankivil said. “But those are two important things to what we can do against Ohio State as far as hopefully making that first move and hopefully keeping the intensity high. I think those are two things that would really help us out.”

Of course, head coach Bo Ryan‘s players are no strangers to big games, either. Just last season, Wisconsin – unranked at the time – knocked off No. 6 Duke, handing the Blue Devils their first-ever loss in the 10-year history of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

In that game, much like the football team did against Ohio State in October, the Badgers jumped out to a hot start with an early 19-9 lead and never let up. In fact, UW never trailed against Duke en route to the thrilling 73-69 victory.

For senior forward Jon Leuer, that hot start is exactly what sticks out in his mind about the big nonconference victory.

“We got off to a great start and we were able to knock some shots down early,” Leuer said. “Against a team like Ohio State, you can’t get in a hole, otherwise it’s tough to dig your way out. That’s the main thing is just to get off to a good start. But if you don’t, you have to be able to handle that adversity and climb back from it.”

Typically, the mentality heading into a big game such as Saturday’s is one of treating it like any other game. Ryan’s team does its best to maintain the same approach before and after each game, so as to avoid getting to high on any win and too low and any loss.

That being the case, the Badgers still recognize the opportunity presented by the matchup against the top-ranked team in the nation.

“Any time you get the No. 1 that’s kind of a once in a career type of thing,” junior guard Jordan Taylor said. “I don’t think a lot of guys get to play against the No. 1 team in the country, especially at home. I expect it to be fun, and loud, and we’ll be ready to go.”

With the opportunity comes the challenge, and the Buckeyes certainly provide a formidable one for Wisconsin.

In order to come away with the big victory, the Badgers will need to effectively limit freshman Jared Sullinger, a national player of the year candidate, while being sure not to forget about guys like William Buford, Aaron Craft, David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

Even if they can do all that, things will not come easily on the offensive end, either. Ohio State’s length and athleticism could cause plenty of problems for Wisconsin.

And finally, there’s that unbeatable factor, as OSU enters the matchup with a flawless 24-0 record. But that should only serve to further motivate the Badgers.

“Nobody else has been able to beat them, and we’d be the only team to have proven that we can beat them,” Leuer said. “So there’s a little extra incentive, but any time you step on the court you have the same motivations. You’re just hungry and you want to win, and that’s how we’re going to play.”

 

Wisconsin too strong for Marquette

December 11, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — They’re not sexy, and they aren’t going to wow you. They’ve never been known as one of the more athletic teams in the nation either.

But the Badgers are big, strong and aggressive, and that made the difference as Wisconsin held off Marquette, 69-64, in a hard-fought battle Saturday at the Bradley Center.

Just minutes into the second half, senior forward Jon Leuer picked up two quick fouls, giving him three for the game and sending him to the bench. After Darius Johnson-Odom connected on two free throws, Wisconsin led by a slim 36-34 margin with its leading scorer watching from the sideline.

While the situation did not look promising for UW, not only did the Badgers not struggle without their star, they actually extended the lead to as much as 48-39 over the next six minutes.

“That was big,” Leuer said. “It’s frustrating when you get in foul trouble because you want to be out there helping the team, but … they all stepped up, and that was fun. I was a cheerleader there on the sideline for a little bit. It was fun to see those guys step up and produce for us.”

Playing without Leuer is nothing new for the Badgers, of course. Last year, the 6-foot-10 forward missed a significant portion of the Big Ten schedule due to injury, and Wisconsin stayed afloat without him.

Leuer’s fellow senior forward, Madison native Keaton Nankivil was particularly impressive as Leuer sat on the bench. Nankivil scored Wisconsin’s first six points following Leuer’s third foul, while grabbing a pair of rebounds over the same stretch.

Nankivil saw the opportunity presented by Leuer’s absence, and took full advantage when his team needed it most.

“That’s something we work on all the time is taking advantage of opportunities,” Nankivil said. “I think when Jon went out, they might have focused on putting that pressure on a little bit harder. A couple of the possessions, we were in shot clock situations, they were looking to pressure our guards and maybe run and jump.

“Two of the plays were off hand offs that I decided to keep when they might’ve been looking to pressure our guards and we’ve just got to step on them.”

Squaring off with their in-state rivals Saturday, the Badgers used their superior size and strength and translated it into dominance on the boards, especially on the offensive end.

Wisconsin outrebounded Marquette 32-28 overall, including a 15-10 edge in offensive rebounds. While MU did post an 18-17 advantage on the defensive boards, the home team only grabbed three more rebounds on UW misses than the Badgers did themselves.

As a result, Wisconsin dominated in second-chance points with a 21-9 margin.

“The idea is either you can put it right back after a pump fake or you get it out and we make them work again,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “Plus, we know what it does mentally to the other team.”

Sophomore Mike Bruesewitz was particularly impressive on both the offensive and defensive glass, grabbing four rebounds on each end for a total of eight for the game. Nankivil also pulled down five rebounds (two offensive), while Leuer had six, four of which came on the offensive end.

The best example of the Badgers’ dominance on the boards came during a stretch in the final seven minutes of the game. Following a missed jumper by Marquette, Leuer grabbed the defensive board with 6:34 to go in the second half.

On the other end, Rob Wilson missed a jumper 24 seconds later before grabbing his own offensive rebound. Twenty-three seconds later, Leuer missed a jumper and Ryan Evans cleaned up the offensive glass.

After another 23 seconds ran off the clock, Jimmy Butler was called for two fouls in six seconds. Leuer finally ended the possession with 5:12 remaining, hitting a jumper on an assist from Bruesewitz.

Down the stretch, however, Marquette cut the lead and made things interesting. While the Badgers continued to rebound well, one of their usual strengths — free throw shooting — betrayed them.

With 44 seconds remaining, Wilson missed one of two free throws, leaving it at a seven-point game. Following two points on the other end, Jordan Taylor missed a free throw of his own, giving Marquette the ball back down six with 32 seconds to go.

Taylor would shoot six more free throws over the final 20 seconds, though, hitting five of them to seal the road victory.

“I was disappointed I missed the first one,” Taylor said. “So I just wanted to kind of get up there and knock the next two down really put it away.”

Leading by one point with 1:13 to go at UNLV, the Badgers failed to score again before ultimately losing by a three-point margin. In Orlando against Notre Dame, the game was tied with 2:01 remaining before Wisconsin lost by seven points.

Apparently the third time is the charm for Wisconsin in tight road games, as the Badgers managed to hold off a late rally by their in-state rivals.

“They weren’t frazzled,” Ryan said. “The great advantage is we played in Vegas, in a possession-per-possession game. That’s how we walk away with this win today.”

Not only did the Badgers get a road win, they added what certainly should be a resume win down the line. Come tournament time, a win on the road against a Big East opponent like Marquette should carry plenty of weight.

Count MU head coach Buzz Williams among those impressed by Wisconsin.

“It’s the best team they’ve had since I’ve been here,” Williams said. “I don’t think the world knows it now, but they will.”

Nankivil leads stingy ‘D’ against Milwaukee

December 9, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Through nine games this season, Wisconsin has held its opponent to 60 points or less. Three times, the Badgers have given up fewer than 50 points.

With Rob Jeter and UW-Milwaukee in town Wednesday night, Bo Ryan‘s squad put together arguably its best defensive showing yet. With the Panthers struggling to shoot throughout the contest, the Badgers turned in a dominant 61-40 victory.

“Coming in tonight, playing a team like the Badgers, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get back on track shooting the basketball,” Jeter said. “It’s the wrong team to play to do that against.”

Wisconsin held its first of three consecutive in-state rivals to just 30.8 percent shooting from the floor, as UW-Milwaukee made just 12-of-39 shots on the night. In the first half, the Panthers were even worse, shooting at just a 28.6 percent clip, connecting for just six field goals en route to 15 points at the break.

In the second half, UW let up just a bit, allowing 25 points on 33.3 percent shooting. Much of the damage came at the free throw line for UWM, however, as the Panthers made 11-of-16 attempts in the second half and 13-of-21 overall, compared to just 10-for-12 on the night for the Badgers.

After limiting the Panthers to 40 points Wednesday, the Badgers’ opponents are now averaging just 52.5 points per game. The 40-point output was 15 fewer points than UW-Milwaukee’s previous season low, while marking the second-fewest points allowed this season by Wisconsin, which gave up just 35 against Manhattan.

The problems started inside for UW-Milwaukee.

“We never really got a chance to get our inside game going at all,” Jeter said. “It was null and void and we just couldn’t get anything going down there. That was the key.”

Leading the way for Wisconsin’s stingy defense Wednesday night was senior forward Keaton Nankivil. While he is not going to sneak up on anyone as an offensive threat, Nankivil’s defense typically flies under the radar.

Against the Panthers, the Madison native grabbed nine rebounds, six on the defensive end, while blocking three shots and effectively shutting down UW-Milwaukee’s leading scorer in Anthony Hill.

According to his head coach, the only area in which Nankivil lacked during the game was his wardrobe.

“His one sock wasn’t quite as high as the other,” Ryan said. “He was unbalanced when he got dressed, but other than that, he had a pretty good night.”

Hill, who averaged 14.9 points per game coming into the contest, tallied just three against the Badgers, all of which came from the charity stripe. Thanks in large part to Nankivil’s tough defense, Hill went 0-for-8 from the floor while converting 3-of-6 free throws.

Hill added five rebounds and one block, but was otherwise rendered ineffective on the night at the Kohl Center.

“He got touches,” Jeter said. “Keaton Nankivil just did a nice job of staying between him and the basket and you are going to have to make a decision, is it a good play or is it a foul. They didn’t call fouls, so I have to assume that it was a good defensive play.”

On no play was Nankivil’s defense more impressive than the Panthers’ offensive possession with just under five minutes to play in the first half.

With the Badgers leading 22-11, a jumper by Jerard Ajami was blocked by Nankivil, and five seconds later, Nankivil rejected an attempt inside by Hill as well.

“You don’t really think about it when you play, but I’ve always loved blocking shots as a player just because it’s an energy thing,” Nankivil said. “That’s always just been something that’s fun to me.”

 

Equipment issues affected offense in Orlando

December 1, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — For a brief moment, Keaton Nankivil had an impressive two-handed dunk in transition, on a nice feed from teammate Mike Bruesewitz.

As he was landing, the ball was rejected by the net, popping out of the basket and into the hands of Boston College freshman Danny Rubin. While the ball certainly cleared the rim, it must pass through the net to count as a made basket.

That missed dunk was the perfect example of the ball, rim and net issues that Wisconsin, along with every other team in the Old Spice Classic, had to deal with over the weekend in Orlando.

“Have you seen anything like that? I’ve never seen anything like that,” said assistant coach Lamont Paris of the dunk. “He had so much rotation on the ball, that it grabbed the net and jumped out of there.”

Nankivil was far from the only player to experience issues with the basketball at the HP Field House, a part of Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

In the first half against Notre Dame, the Badgers shot 29 percent from the field and just 10 percent (1-of-10) from beyond the arc. A day earlier against Boston College, Wisconsin made only three of 16 attempts from 3-point range, an 18.8 percent clip.

But nothing quite compared with the performance against Manhattan on Thursday in round one of the tournament.

In the first half, the two teams went to the half with the Badgers leading 17-10, shooting a combined 21.8 percent from the field. Wisconsin made 7-of-30 from the floor, including 1-for-7 beyond the arc, while Manhattan went 5-for-25 and 0-for-4 from three.

The combined low of 27 points was outdone in the second round, when Notre Dame led California 21-5 at the half. In that game, neither team made more than 28 percent of its shots, while the Fighting Irish went 1-for-20 from 3-point range.

In the first half, the Golden Bears went 2-for-25 (8 percent) from the floor, and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc. Notre Dame was 9-for-32 at halftime, with an 0-for-13 mark from three.

“We weren’t the only team in that tournament that didn’t shoot the ball well,” Paris said. “Whether you want to attribute that to the balls or whatever it was, no one shot the ball well in that tournament.”

Was the basketball, a composite ball named “The Rock,” a factor?

“Me personally, I think it was,” Paris said. “Whether it was or whether it wasn’t, in our guys’ minds it was. The ball was fresh out of the box, it hadn’t been dribbled but three times maybe before the tournament. It was the type of ball that I could palm it with two fingers.

“It was just really grippy. It wasn’t coming off the backboard how guys were used to, it clung to your fingers when you tried to release it, so it didn’t come off the same way. It wasn’t just our team, everybody was struggling shooting the ball. It was one of the strangest things I’ve seen to have a crisp, brand-new ball like that out there.”

With the sticky, grippy nature of the basketball being used, it likely altered the shots of the players, which took some getting used to. By the second half of every game, both teams adjusted to the way the ball came off their hands and began to score more points and make a higher percentage of their shots.

Still, when asked about it Monday, the Badgers’ offensive leaders, Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor were not ready to make any excuses for poor shooting performances as the team shot 38.9 percent overall and 25 percent from 3-point range.

“They were a little bit stickier, I thought,” said Leuer, who shot 45.4 percent on the weekend and 35.7 percent beyond the arc. “It came off your hand a little bit different. The rims were pretty tight, too. But that’s something you have to deal with and play with.

“Obviously you don’t get a lot of shots on those baskets, and you’re not really familiar with the balls, but you can’t make excuses for that. You have to be able to, under any circumstances just step up and knock down shots.”

Taylor, who shot 32.4 percent from the floor and 28.5 percent from three on the weekend, gave even less credit to the basketballs, rims and nets for the Badgers’ offensive struggles.

“Every basketball is the same diameter,” Taylor said. “Nothing really changes. Obviously the feel’s a little different, but we were down there playing with that ball for the past week, and we’ve played with it before.

“You never use the ball and the rims as an excuse. You’ve just got to play through that stuff. It’s not anything we were thinking about.”