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Friday, February 26, 2010

Badgers Balanced in Bloomington

Jon Leuer returned to Wisconsin's starting lineup Thursday night and helped lead the No. 17 Badgers to an impressive 78-46 dismantling of Indiana.

Wisconsin, which rose to No. 4 in the Pomeroy ratings, was the model of efficiency in Bloomington. As you might imagine, the team's 70.4 defensive efficiency was it's best of the Big Ten season as they held the Hoosiers to 35.3 effective field goal percentage (eFG%). Meanwhile, Keaton Nankivil (6-of-7 FGs) and company posted their second-highest eFG% mark (62.3) in conference play.

All five starters scored in double figures, led by Trevon Hughes' nice shooting (17 pts): Nankivil scored 14, Leuer and Jordan Taylor both had 13 and Jason Bohannon scored 11. Wisconsin shot 8-of-11 on 3-pointers (72.7%). [box score]

With Leuer replacing Tim Jarmusz, Wisconsin now puts an imposing three-guard lineup on the floor to start games, one which may rival any starting five in the Big Ten (yes, even the Ohio State). Each of these players has experienced their ups and downs during the year. Bohannon started the year in a bad shooting slump and Nankivil disappeared when Big Ten play began. Leuer is of course trying to return from injury. Hughes has not seemed as mentally engaged as he was the first half of the year and forced many bad shots in the last few games. Taylor has struggled uncharacteristically with turnovers lately.

The key going forward will be getting all five to contribute against higher caliber competition. Bohannon blossomed with Leuer out and is still shooting the lights out now that he is more aggressive finding shots. Nankivil is more assertive too. Leuer looks closer to 100% after a few tune-ups. But remember that the young Hoosiers turned the ball over 18 times and played uninspired defense all night.

At least for one night, the whole team seemed to put it together. As the first two off Bo Ryan's bench, Ryan Evans showed off his rebounding ability and Rob Wilson displayed his scorer's mentality once again. In fact, Wilson has asserted himself as the team's second best offensive threat in the post. He's decisive, and even then, knows when to stop his move and pass out if he can't get the look he wants.

So if Hughes and Taylor can can clean up the decision-making issues of recent games, you might see an entire starting lineup firing on all cylinders at just the right time.

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