Breakdown: No.19 Wisconsin at Northwestern

Reggie Hearn leads Northwestern in scoring

Continuing to creep up the AP rankings, No.19 Wisconsin looks to keep pace in the Big Ten when it faces Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena Wednesday night.

No.19 Wisconsin (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten) at Northwestern (13-13, 4-9 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Wednesday, February 20, 8 p.m. Central

Arena –Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)

Television - Big Ten Network (Eric Collins and Mike Kelley)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 110-61 (Northwestern leads 38-37 in Evanston)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 77-57, on January 18, 2012 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Junior Guard, 11.3 ppg)

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Senior Forward, 10.6 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 6.3 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Senior Forward, 6.9 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Senior Forward, 11.8 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 George Marshall (5-11 Freshman Guard, 4.6 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-7 Freshman Forward, 9.2 ppg)

32 Zak Showalter (6-2 Freshman Guard, 2.0 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Sophomore Forward, 4.5 ppg)

Northwestern Probable Starters

3 David Sobolewski (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 10.5 ppg)

10 Mike Turner (6-8 Freshman Forward, 1.8 ppg)

11 Reggie Hearn (6-4 Senior Guard, 14.0 ppg)

13 Kale Abrahamson (6-7 Freshman Forward, 4.7 ppg)

14 Tre Demps (6-2 Freshman Guard, 7.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

4 Alex Marcotullio (6-3 Senior Guard, 4.3 ppg)

22 Alex Olah (7-0 Freshman Center, 6.1 ppg)

Last Time Out

MADISON (BadgerNation) - This one was needed in so many ways for the University of Wisconsin.

Coming into Sunday's game looking to bounce-back after a tough loss to Minnesota Thursday night, No.20 Wisconsin redeemed themselves in a big way.

Four UW players scored in double figures and six scored at least seven points in a dominant 71-49 thrashing of No.13 Ohio State Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center.

With conference co-leaders Indiana and Michigan State both pulling off Saturday wins, Wisconsin (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten) moved back within two games of first place with its fifth victory this season over a team ranked in The Associated Press top 25.

"I think every game is going to be a challenge no matter who it is," said junior guard Ben Brust, who led the Badgers with 15 points along with Jared Berggren. "Any team can beat any team ... Obviously you have to take care of what you can control and the rest will hopefully play out your way."

After trading baskets in the first few minutes, the Badgers pulled away on an 18-0 run, giving them the lead and momentum they would not lose. Three days after an 8:48 scoreless stretch cost the Badgers a road win in Minneapolis, Wisconsin shot a season-high 52.7 percent from the field (29-for-55).

"They were better, and I think they can get better again," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said about his team's effort. "Never too high, never too low. I'll find clips for tomorrow where I'll encourage the guys to improve their play and improve their decision-making."

The Badgers hit some tough shots and were consistent cutting to the basket to get easy points. Wisconsin outscored Ohio State 30-24 in the paint, 10-4 on second-chance points and 37-30 on the glass.

"Those guys did their jobs," said Ryan. "They worked hard [today]. They worked hard against Minnesota. Offensively they didn't make real good decisions and hit shots."

In addition to his 15 points, Berggren added eight rebounds and four blocks, but it was Brust who was the big factor on the glass. Brust recorded his fifth double-double of the season, and first in conference play, with 11 rebounds, adding three assists to one turnover.

Defensively, the Badgers executed the game plan better than their Jan. 29 matchup in Columbus; a game that saw Deshaun Thomas scored 25 points as the Buckeyes shot 51.1 percent. Thomas hit 8 of 17 shots and finished with 18 points to lead the Buckeyes (18-7, 8-5), but struggled to shake the tight defense that Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans blanketed him with following his first bucket of the game.

Last Meeting

MADISON (BadgerNation) -What was once a close Big Ten grind got quickly out of hand after Wisconsin ended five straight possessions over 2:07 with three points – three three-pointers from All-American Jordan Taylor, one from Josh Gasser and an old-fashioned one from Ryan Evans – that resulted in a 15-2 run that helped dispelled the Wildcats, 77-57, Wednesday at the Kohl Center.

Four Badgers scored in double figures and five had at least eight points as Wisconsin (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten) shot 50 percent from the floor for the eighth time this season but for the first time since Dec.27.

It's evident that the comfort returned from three-point range. Shooting 43 percent or better in four of its first six nonconference games, Wisconsin shot a combined 10 of 68 (14.7 percent) from three-point range in its first three Big Ten home games. Against Northwestern, Wisconsin knocked in 12 three-pointers, shot 52.2 percent from distance and six different players drained a perimeter shot.

The 12 threes were the most Wisconsin made since Nov.26 and made the Wildcats (12-6, 2-4) switch between man and their 1-3-1 zone defense to try and find anything that could slow a UW offense that seemed determined to finally knock down some shots.

At times this season, it was evident that one three-point shot could have rewritten the entire story. Wisconsin attempted at least 19 three-pointers in all five of its losses this season and the Badgers made more than five three-pointers only twice.

So when Jordan Taylor started hitting his second-half three-pointers, it drew shades of his second-half performance against Ohio State last season, which also included everybody else chipping in at some point. Starting with the three-pointers, Wisconsin went on a 30-9 run over a nine-minute stretch that was headlined by the perimeter shooting, production in the post, 6-for-7 on free throws and a 4-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Staring at the stat sheet, it's hard to determine which player gave Wisconsin the biggest lift. Evans missed his only three-point attempt, but led the team in points (17), rebounds (9) and scored 15 in the second half. Taylor scored 12 of his 15 in the second half thanks to four three-pointers, three coming on that decisive run, and a 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Throw in Mike Bruesewitz's 13 points, Gasser's 10 points, a 17-1 margin in bench points and UW holding Northwestern's John Shurna (leading Big Ten scorer) and Drew Crawford (third leading scorer) to 4 of 12 in the second half, it was a complete effort.

Series Notes:

The Badgers have won five straight over the Wildcats by an average of 16.8 points per game.

The Badgers have won 10 of the last 11 match-ups overall against the Wildcats.

Bill Carmody (13th season) and Bo Ryan (12th season) are two of the three longest-tenured coaches in the Big Ten (behind MSU's Tom Izzo, 18th season).

Ryan is 15-4 all-time vs. NU. Ryan-led teams are 5-4 record at Welsh-Ryan Arena and UW has won in 4 of the last 5 trips to Evanston.

UW has out-rebounded NU in 11 straight games, by an average of 11.7 per game.

UW has 4 players from the Chicagoland area: senior Dan Fahey, junior Ben Brust, sophomore Frank Kaminsky and redshirt freshman George Marshall. Kaminsky and NU's Dave Sobolewski were high school teammates at Benet Academy in the Chicago area.

Wednesday's game matches two of the top 10 teams in the nation in terms of taking care of the basketball. Wisconsin ranks third nationally with a norm of 9.5 turnovers per game, while Northwestern is ninth at 10.7 per contest.

Wisconsin Notes

Including this season, Wisconsin has now reached at least 9 Big Ten wins in 13 consecutive seasons, including all 12 with Bo Ryan at the helm.

The Badgers are 5-4 against teams in the AP Top 25 this season. Wisconsin and Indiana (5) are the only 2 teams in the nation with at least 5 top-25 wins. Wisconsin has beaten five top-teams for the first time in school history.

Wisconsin is the only team in the nation to have played at least 9 games against AP Top-25 teams. In fact, only 5 other teams in Div. I (Minn, Ill., OSU, Nebraska and Purdue) have even faced 8 ranked opponents.

With one more win, the Badgers would also clinch a winning record in Big Ten play for the 13th consecutive season. Among the 6 major conferences, only Kansas (22 seasons) has a longer active streak of finishing above .500 in league play.

Northwestern Notes:

The Wildcats are limiting their opponents to an average of 62.3 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .417 field goal percentage. The 'Cats have held 10 of their opponents to below 40 percent shooting in a game.

The Wildcats ranked fourth in the nation with a 1.53 assist-to-turnover ratio last season and they're 11th in the nation so far this year with a 1.40 ratio (389 assists, 278 turnovers).

Prediction

Since Jordan Taylor graduated and Josh Gasser went down prior to the season, the University of Wisconsin has been looking for a playmaker to step up and be the go-to option. After the last four games, it appears junior guard Ben Brust is willing to become that player.

After leading UW to a pair of overtime wins, including his now famous buzzer-beating 3-point shot to force OT against No. 3 Michigan, Brust earned his first Big Ten's Co-Player of the Week award two weeks ago. He followed that performance by averaging 13 points and 7.5 rebounds last week, including a double-double over then-No.13 Ohio State.

"He just continues to work hard at every phase of the game," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "He's a heck of a rebounder for his size. He takes very good care of the basketball. Those are two things that sure help throughout the course of the season. He's one of the most consistent players I have ever had the chance to coach."

While Brust is the present, it's evident that freshman Sam Dekker is the future. Having scored in double figures in three straight games, Dekker is averaging 8.5 points per play in conference, shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and 42.6 percent from 3-point range. Those last two percentages lead the team; so much for hitting a freshman wall.

"He's reading and reacting better offensively to what we're doing," said Ryan. "Defensively he's also learning to react and read the way we do them. If he continues to make that kind of progress, he's going to be one heck of a contributor to what happens."

As good as things seem to be going for the Badgers, Northwestern endured yet another season-ending injury when Jared Swopshire hurt his right knee at Iowa on Feb. 9 and then went arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 12 that ended his campaign.

Swopshire was averaging 9.7 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game this season, but joins a growing list of Wildcats who have been lost for the season including Drew Crawford (shoulder), Jershon Cobb (violations of team policy), Sanjay Lumpkin (wrist) and Chier Ajou (knee).

It's a reason why Northwestern used three freshmen in the starting lineup last time out against Illinois and the first player off the bench was a freshman.

"It's always good to have guys that have been through the rigors of the Big Ten," said Ryan. "For freshmen, this league can be a tough league for them."

The Wildcats will try to challenge the Badgers from the perimeter. Northwestern led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally in 2011-12 with an average of 9.0 3-point makes per game. The Wildcats are averaging 7.7 makes this season and are 9-2 when they make at least eight shots from three.

Wisconsin has allowed just 101 total 3-pointers this season (3.88 per game). That figure leads all major conference teams and ranks 5th in the NCAA overall. Last season the Badgers finished second in the NCAA allowing just 3.58 triples per game.

In regular season games played on Feb. 1 of later, Ryan's teams have gone 77-26 (.748) over his 12 seasons. That includes a mark of 4-1 this year. It's always tough to win on the road in the Big Ten, especially at Northwestern, but the Wildcats will become the 10th conference opponent UW has held under 60 points with a 10-point victory.

Worgull's Record: 16-10

Points off Prediction: 277 (10.65 per game)

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