MADISON – Jason Bohannon
knew that his role was going to change.
As the Big Ten's reining Sixth Man of the Year, Bohannon averaged 26.3 minutes coming off the bench for Wisconsin last season, scoring 8.2 points per game and led UW with 51 three-pointers.
With UW losing senior Michael Flowers, Bohannon knew that his role this season, now being a full-time starter, would be to assist in picking up the slack for the departed.
Although he's still trying to figure out the pieces, Bohannon helped UW avoid the upset by doing what he usually does best – hit the three-point jumper and nail free throws.
Bohannon nailed his first two three-pointers early in the first half and never stopped shooting from the outside, scoring 12 of his 18 points from the perimeter to help Wisconsin overcome a sluggish shooting night and outlast Idaho State, 60-58.
Bohannon finished with a game-high 18 points, tying his career high which he accomplished last February, and committed only one turnover, but is still searching for that consistency that carried him at the end of last season.
"There are a lot of things that kind of standout but there are a lot of things that I could have improved upon," said Bohannon about his performance. "I am not really looking at the positive things right now. I am looking at the things I can get better upon and I think that is how the whole team is right now. We're not really satisfied with where we are at."
Bohannon was either hot or cold from the perimeter. He made his first three-pointers to help UW build a 12-2 lead in the game's first five minutes. After missing his next three perimeter shots and seeing Idaho State take a one-point lead, Bohannon made his last two 3-pointers, including his one at the buzzer to give UW a two-point lead at halftime.
While missing his only two shots he took in the second half, Bohannon was the X-factor down the stretch, going 6-for-6 from the free throw line (all in the final five minutes) to help UW stay one step ahead of Idaho State the entire way.
"Everyone's role has changed," Bohannon said. "We lost some players from last year and the roles are different for everyone. There is a little bit of a role change for me out there and I have to fill Mike (Flowers) shoes a little bit offensively and defensively and do all the little things. Each person has to do something more than last year."
At times during UW's first eight games, it would almost seem that Bohannon was trying to do too much, as the changing of the guard hasn't been an easy one.
Despite his 18-point performance Tuesday night, the junior guard entered the game shooting only 30 percent from the floor (worst among the five starters) and had only made 13-of-46 three-point attempts (a team worst). Although he maintains it had nothing to do with the three-point line moving back a foot before the season, Bohannon was in such a perimeter funk that he had missed 11 three-point tries in a row before hitting three-in-a-row at Virginia Tech.
Even more surprising is Bohannon's issues from the charity stripe. Making a school-record 39 consecutive free throws last season, Bohannon had missed seven free throws in the team's previous eight games. To put that in perspective, Bohannon missed only 11 attempts from the line in 36 games last season.
Part of the reason Bohannon's shot has suffered is that his role, and focus, as a defender is much larger. Against Marquette, Bohannon was given the assignment of guarding senior guard Dominic James one-on-one. Despite his head coach comparing the battle to a cement mixer trying to herd a sheepdog, Bohannon has spent time focusing on the fine intricacies of guarding perimeter players.
"I've been working on it and keep listening to coach and taking small strides at a time," Bohannon said of his defense. "Each and every day, take every little thing he has to say and getter better on that part. From there, keep adding on with quickness and keep the guy in front me.
"If your coaches think you can handle a guy one-on-one, you have to be up to the challenge to prove that you can. If the opportunity to presents itself, I am more than ready for it."
Although UW didn't look ready for the Bengals with the late arrival from Milwaukee and finals on the horizon, the Badgers had better numbers against Idaho State in most categories than they did against Marquette; eliminating nine turnovers (finishing with only seven), grabbed nine more offensive rebounds and shot a better percentage from the free throw line.
Most importantly, the Badgers, despite blowing a double digit lead for the third straight game, managed to grab a victory in a competitive game, a stat that Bohannon believes will pay dividends down the road.
"We just continue to get better based on the experience we have in those late game situations," he said. "That will only help us out in Big Ten play and as we get further into March. That's what we want. We want good competitive game because that will make us that much better."
After struggling from the perimeter and the free throw line through eight games, Wisconsin's Jason Bohannon scored all 18 of his points from the three-point and free-throw line to help UW survive an upset. Still, the junior guard is not satisfied with his lack of consistency, an issue that continues to plague him and his teammates.