MADISON – Jason Bohannon gave Wisconsin one way to beat Northwestern’s pesky defensive zone and its Princeton offense. Jon Leuer, Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft provided others on Wednesday night. Combine all those different faucets together and the Badgers made life pretty tough in their annual dismantling of the Wildcats.
“We'll take 'em from wherever we can get 'em,” UW coach Bo Ryan said. '”The more heads a monster has, the tougher they are to deal with.”
With the Badgers winning their 11th straight home game over the Wildcats, this time with a 74-45 victory, the largest victory over Northwestern in six years, Wisconsin (11-3, 3-0 Big Ten) did so by pinpointing all the flaws in the 1-3-1 zone of the Wildcats.
It started with Bohannon, who scored a career-high 20 points but doing it in unconventional ways. Known for his three-point shooting and free throws, 10 of Bohannon’s points came from driving into the holes in the zone and converting layups off the glass.
It continued with Leuer, who added 15 points, three blocks, two steals and a collegiate-high eight rebounds, and kept going by Landry, who finished with 12 points - his third straight game in double figures, and Krabbenhoft, who tied Leuer with eight rebounds, until Northwestern was down 30 points late in the second half.
The Badgers got 30 points from the post, 18 points from the perimeter and 14 from the free throw line, a balanced scoring effort which led to Wisconsin shooting 50 percent from the field, the fourth game this season in which the Badgers have shot 50 percent or better.
Wisconsin also was far from selfish, dishing out 16 assists between six players, including a career-high five from Bohannon.
“We’re just getting used to playing against them,” Bohannon said about the Badgers getting better against zone defenses. “We did a good job moving the ball and moving bodies. When you’re moving the ball, you’re moving a lot of bodies on the defensive end. We’ve got people cutting now, flashing to areas that are open and we’re finding all the soft spots. That’s a big key when you’re playing against zone defenses.”
Shutting down opponent’s tendencies had been the key for the Wildcats (8-5, 0-3 Big Ten) all season, as Northwestern entered play holding opponents to 38.7 percent shooting and a league-best 55.5 points per game.
“I didn’t feel a spark,” NU coach Bill Carmody said. “It just started right at the very beginning of the game. It looked like four of our first seven or eight shots were blocked. I don’t know if (the younger guys) were intimidated or what but I thought it affected the rest of the game.”
Defensively, Wisconsin was just as sound. The Badgers held Northwestern without a double digit scorer (the first time UW has done that all season), held Northwestern to a season low in points (45) and field-goal percentage (31.4), both season lows for the Badgers, as well.
“It was really good,” Landry said of the team defense. “In the beginning we struggled but for the most part it was really good. We kept everything in front of us and played good defense for the most part.”
Although some Badgers felt it was their most complete game of the year, Ryan, with the conference season still very young, knows that his team still has a lot of growth left to do, especially before Wisconsin heads to Purdue on Sunday. Even so, the veteran coach knows that the Wildcats weren’t themselves on Wednesday night because of UW’s defense.
“I’ll know I’ll find 20 to 30 things that we did not do well on some of those possessions,” Ryan said. “When you look at the (points), you say, ‘Our guys did a pretty good job.’ Well, I guess they did. When you play them, and we have to play them again, we have to work defensively because they can go on spurts that have been unbelievable. The fear of one of those runs that they can get into didn’t happen and that was good for us.”