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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Perfect Storm Continues

There is no doubt that Wisconsin played better in its second meeting with Purdue than it has been lately. At least the Badgers came out with a little more intensity and toughness than usual, which was exciting to see. Unfortunately, the familiar contributing factors kept the Badgers (12-8, 3-5) down in the dumps again as they lost their fifth straight game, 64-63, on Tuesday night.

Wisconsin surrendered an effective field goal percentage of 66.7% to Purdue, which is the worst of the season by a wide margin. It looked as bad as the statistic sounds too. In the first half, the Badgers gave up too many layups to driving Boiler guards who faced no help defense. Though UW made up the halftime deficit with two quick 3-pointers, the adjustments to the penetration was a basic "pick your poison" situation. Purdue (16-4, 5-2) made three straight daggers from behind the arc in the final minutes to make the Badgers pay. And at least two of those shots were wide-open attempts.

:: Contributing factor #1: Wisconsin is a team of average defensive players. That will not cut it against Purdue, who has forced UW into two of its three least efficient nights defensively this season (Virginia Tech being the worst). In particular, Robbie Hummel does whatever he wants against Wisconsin since Purdue's screening offense leaves him wide open half of the time. I saw both Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft either make bad choices getting around screens or failing to keep up with the guy.

On the flip side, the Badgers were very efficient on offense themselves, but again, could not sustain the effort for a full 40 minutes. Whereas Trevon Hughes was penetrating earlier in the game, by the end, Jordan Taylor found no one calling for the ball at crunch time. In a game where the Boilermakers can individually shut down each of the Badgers with solid defense, submissiveness is a death sentence. The freshman point man took the last four meaningful shots for Wisconsin.

:: Contributing factor #2: The Badgers lack a true scorer with a leader's mentality. Give Purdue credit ... they turned it up a notch on defense when it counted. But the Wisconsin offense often looks its worst when a score is most critical. It bogged down on Tuesday night when each of UW's players became passive yet again. A big part of being a go-to player is knowing when to seize that inch that the defense gives you, even if it's early in the shot clock. Likewise, with Hughes in mind, the player must make sure he completes the play with a good finish or the best pass.

Though I don't fault Taylor for the his drive in the final 17 seconds, I think he is one of the last people you want shooting the 3-pointer Wisconsin was looking for when 35 seconds remained. Shooting percentages rarely lie and Taylor is hitting only one out of every nine shots from long distance.

:: Contributing factor #3: Jason Bohannon's slump is destroying the season. You would love to run a player like J-Bo off a double-screen every now and then to get him a good look, but even the open shots are not falling right now. It has gotten to the point where he is in his own head, passing up open opportunities. J-Bo will turn it around eventually, but I am not sure it will be in time to make a run to the NCAAs.

Keaton Nankivil's sweet touch was the silver lining for the Badgers in the midst of this mass of cloudy weather. You absolutely cannot waste a 21-point performance from someone who has given you nothing for weeks. Nankivil, who was averaging 4.3 ppg prior to the game, was feeeee-ling it. By hitting all five of his treys, the sophomore kept Wisconsin in the game all by himself. [box score]

Unfortunately, Nankivil's play also kept Jon Leuer on the bench for the most part. Leuer scored only two points and has been non-existent since the Minnesota game as his minutes have steadily dropped. I wonder what would have happened if Bo gave Leuer a chance to get in more of a rhythm last night alongside Nankivil. It would have come at the expense of Landry, but so what? JuJuan Johnson seems to render Landry invisible anyway. With Nankivil's outside shot falling, the team could have used Leuer's length and quickness in the mid-range zones. The lanky one seems to have fallen in love with the trey, though he is actually less effective on 3-pointers than Bohannon this year.

1 comment:

  1. Nice analysis of the Purdue loss. You identified as number #2 what I think is their biggest problem. They've got a penchant for prolonged scoring droughts, which puts added pressure on every aspect of the game. I they had a guy who could create something on his own once in a while, it'd be huge. The guy I think has plateaued more than I thought is Landry. Coming into the season, you'd think he'd be able to get a good look at crunch time.


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