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MADISON - It’s an early, early season test unlike many have seen from No.22 Wisconsin when it heads to Gainesville to take on No.10 Florida Wednesday.
The last time the Badgers played an AP top 25 team within the first two games of the season, Wisconsin beat No.24 Illinois State, 80-66, at home November 18, 1997.
The last time Wisconsin played a top 10 team away from home that early in season was the 1995 Maui Invitational, as the Badgers lost their opener to No.3 Villanova and their second game to No.4 UCLA.
“A few years ago we thought we had him scheduled, and then his assistant said that Billy (Donovan) made the comment that, ‘do I really want to go to Wisconsin?” UW coach Bo Ryan joked Monday. “Something else came up, and he had a chance to do this, and we had a chance to do that. So we've been talking through the assistants and finally got it set up.”
Both teams are coming off one-sided openers. Wisconsin jumped out to a 19-0, held Southeastern Louisiana scoreless for the first 7:21, held a 19-6 edge in offensive rebounds and a 24-6 cushion in second-chance points.
In its 84-35 victory over Alabama State Sunday, Florida set a shot-clock era school record for fewest points in a half, holding ASU to nine points in the first half. The 35 total points was also the fewest by a UF opponent in a season opener during the shot-clock era.
Actually, the game against Alabama State was supposed to be the Gators’ second game of the year.
Florida led 27-23 at the break in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic when the matchup aboard the USS Bataan in Jacksonville was canceled by the court condensation.
But after watching only one half of basketball, Ryan knew that the Badgers would be in for a challenge.
“I just know from watching the half of game that I watched that they’re pretty good,” said Ryan. “They know how to win. They know how to play.”
All five of Florida’s usual starters averaged in double figures last season, led by senior guard Kenny Boynton (15.9 ppg).
Forced to play point guard with the suspension of Scottie Wilbekin, Boynton scored 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting (making all four 3-point attempts) to go with six rebounds and five assists. Florida closed the regular season as the SEC leader in assists (14.9), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and 3-pointers (9.9). The Gators also led the league in free throw percentage (.764) during conference play.
“They can bring some heat, especially at home,” said Ryan. “They’ve turned a lot of teams over many times and I am sure they are planning on doing the same with us. We just have to not fall into the traps very often, make sure we’re reading the traps before they come, retreat dribbles, not one dribble pick-ups.
“There is a list of about 20 things, in my mind, to go over … We see what they can and what they can't handle. If (we’re) weak in an area, you try to improve them. We'll find out some things on Wednesday.”