MADISON - After a brutal week against two teams ranked in the top 20, gone is Wisconsin’s 23-game home court winning streak and its first 6-0 start under coach Bo Ryan because of two streaking shooting performances that resulted in single-digit losses.
Those facts could be either encouraging or discouraging to a fan base, but fans aren’t going to find Ryan sulking in the weeds.
“I don’t have levels of disappointment,” said Ryan. “My job is to help people through the emotional roller coasters that they are on. They are in their (four-year) time frame right now. I have had 10 four-year periods in coaching. (The players) get one, so somebody that has been through it needs to help them.
“I don’t measure by my discouragement or how discouraged I am. That’s really never what it’s been about. The key is to make sure to know what you are doing when you get together is to not agonize over what did or did not happen.”
After shooting 35.9 percent (23 of 64) falling by three at No.5 North Carolina, Wisconsin - which dropped to No.14 in the latest AP poll - again had trouble putting the ball in the hoop at home against Marquette Saturday. Shooting 32 percent (16 of 50) from the floor and making a season-low five 3-pointers, Wisconsin trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before ultimately losing, 61-54.
Ryan said after the game that he has a group of streaky shooters and that’s something he’ll have to live with, but the key is not to deviate from an offensive philosophy that has given them good open looks over the last month.
“If you take 10,000 games over the past x number of years throughout the country and you did a press conference and the coach coming in was allowed to say one thing, what do you think the team that (lost) would say to wrap up the whole press conference?” Ryan said. “Make shots. … We just played two very good teams. … I think competition wise that was a good week.”
Even when things weren’t going well and UW never led in the second half against the Golden Eagles, Ryan pointed to an 11-0 run to cut the score to 41-40 and a 6-0 run to cut the score to 51-48 as signs of improvement and grit. It also helps that the Badgers held two high-scoring offenses to 60 and 61 points, respectively.
“A lot of times when we are done playing teams they are scratching their heads saying, ‘Why couldn’t we shoot it better against those guys?” Ryan said. “I thought defensively we stuck to our rules, didn’t do some things on the boards that I think we are better at than what we showed. Shore those up and give you better chance in the next one.”
Wisconsin will also have its work cut out for itself on Saturday against UNLV, who scored 90 points in a victory over North Carolina and is 18th in the country averaging 81.8 points per game.
Learning to be a Solid Sixth
As a freshman, Ben Brust scored a total of 10 points, but topped that by halftime of the season opener with 11 points versus Kennesaw State. Through eight games this season, the production has continued, as Brust has four double figures games and scored a career-high 21 points against BYU in the finals of the Chicago Invitational Challenge, tying a UW single-game record with seven three pointers.
Although he is 7 of his last 20, Brust ranks third on the team with 11.9 points per game and leads the conference with the most points by a non starter.
“The thing is, Ben, along with every other guy on the team, is trying to get better at defense,” Ryan said. “Some guys have a little further to go than others. If you are not on the floor, say last year for a guy like Ben who is getting a lot more minutes, it’s because you are always trying to reward the right things. If you want A, you don’t reward B because that’s what you’ll get.
“If you want a player on the court that is good on both ends, relatively skilled rebounding and passing, blocking out, making plays, making good help and recovery decisions, things like that, you are always trying to develop the total player. We knew that we had a lot of minutes to replace with guys that needed to get better. One way to get better is learn from things that don’t exactly go your way and when things do go your way, remember what it took to get that result.”
In State Round Up
Wisconsin is 20-2 (90.9 percent) at home against in-state teams under Bo Ryan, including perfect 8-0 against Green Bay, its opponent Wednesday at the Kohl Center.
Ryan, who also coached two years at Milwaukee before coming to Madison in 2001, can appreciate what the round-robin games does for the state’s image.
“It’s pretty excited because not every sport at the university has rivalries like that within the state,” Ryan said. “The teams that do, I think that’s pretty special. It’s different for some and we do play the other schools in the state. Having coached at UWM, I knew what it was like getting ready for this. You know what the players are thinking.
“It’s like in high school. Having played in a high school where everybody that played us it was like their biggest game. For a lot of our guys in high school, that was the situation, too, that ended up playing at scholarship schools. The players are kind of used to it but on this end, there’s nothing like playing where there is some familiarity, that’s for sure. It’s good for the sport.”
Wisconsin travels to Milwaukee on Dec.13 to take on the Panthers to complete the three-game in-state stretch.
On what Ryan learned about his team in the past week
“That they are pretty gritty. Physically, we might not match up real well with some of the teams you are going to see us play, but I really like how hard, especially the Carolina game, … even though they got us on the boards, if you break it down possession by possession and you look at some of the things our guys did, it’s very encouraging.”