Catch Me if You Can

Bohannon making a name for his defense (AP)

Coming to Madison known for his three-point shooting, senior guard Jason Bohannon has been through the league enough time to pick up a few tricks. With No.16 Wisconsin going against Chris Kramer, one of the best defenders in the conference, and No.10 Purdue Thursday, Bohannon has showed that defense is one area where he's the most improved.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Stepping to the free throw line late in overtime on Sunday, sitting at 999 career points, it was obviously not the time for senior Jason Bohannon to be thinking about become the 35th member of Wisconsin basketball's 1,000-point club.

Sitting at the post game press conference 30 minutes later, it wasn't the right time either for Bohannon to be thinking about the achievement, as all the senior cares about it winning basketball games.

Bohannon has done a lot of winning during his career, playing for a program that has won 97 games to only 28 losses in four years, and has done a lot of scoring via the three-point bucket, making 182 career three-pointers, good for sixth on UW's career list.

But more important than all the clutch three pointers and free throws has been the improvement of his defense, which Bohannon takes the most pride in of all.

"You win basketball games on the defensive end," Bohannon said. "We've seen that the last couple of games we've been in. We haven't shot the ball particularly well, but we've been able to play good defense and stay in the game."

Bohannon has received great tutelage over the years, especially playing two seasons with Michael Flowers, someone UW coach Bo Ryan considers one of the best chase defenders he's coached.

While the number of steals a player gets can define what kind of defender they are, Ryan states that it's more about the positioning, stopping dribble penetration and guys from driving into the line, things Bohannon has picked up on.

"Good defenders do all that, just not get a stat," Ryan said. "They do all the rest of it. It's like playing tag like you are on the playground … and not come in second. You are automatically going to be trailing, but you want to be in position to cover on the catch."

Over the past four years, senior guard Chris Kramer has been the ‘Michael Flowers' for the tenth-ranked Boilermakers (16-3, 4-3 Big Ten), who host No.16 Wisconsin (16-4, 6-2) tonight at Mackey Arena.

Not only is Kramer, who is 15 steals away from setting a new Purdue-school record, shooting a team-best 54.2 percent this season, the three-time Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection and the 2008 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year ranks second among active Division I players in multi-steal games (71) and total steals (245).

Twelve of Kramer's defensive assignments this year have finished with at least four turnovers, and only two have finished with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.

"(Kramer and Flowers) both do a great job of getting in your face defensively, making you do things you don't want to do or making you go to areas of the floor that you don't want to be at," Bohannon said. "As an offensive player, you have to be able to counter that and get him off balance."

Bohannon has taken his defense so seriously that it was one individual effort Sunday against Penn State that overshadowed his 1,000-point achievement. With his team needing a boost after struggling in all areas, the 6-foot-2 Bohannon skied to block Penn State's 6-foot-10 Andrew Ott in the second half that got the crowd into it.

Despite giving up a couple of inches to his competitors, Bohannon leads the Badgers in blocks in conference games and is 11th in the Big Ten (0.88).

"I used to love the movie, 'White Men Can't Jump,'" senior Trevon Hughes said after the game. "JBo proved that white men can jump. I don't know what Wesley Snipes is talking about."

The increase in blocks is just one of many statistical categories that Bohannon has seen a spike in as he plays his final year in the league. His 10.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game are a career best; his six turnovers through Big Ten play puts him on pace to barely finish over his mark of 12 last season and his 21 steals is already a career high for a season.

More importantly, Bohannon is showcasing his durability, as his averaging of 36 minutes played per game is fourth best in the conference.

"I just forget to take him out some times," Ryan joked. "I think he's got this knack when there's a dead ball, he hides behind an official or another player, because I sub a lot of times if a guy is breathing hard or bent over. That's my theory."

Leaving Bohannon on the court is one of the reasons the Badgers lead the conference in scoring defense during Big Ten play (54.8 ppg) and have held five opponents under 55 points. When Wisconsin led the nation in scoring defense two years ago (allowing only 53.8 points per game), the Badgers had a core group of players (Flowers, Brian Butch, Joe Krabbenhoft and Greg Stiemsma) that knew what to expect from a rugged conference schedule.

Coming to Madison as a three-point specialist, Bohannon now fits into that category of knowing what to expect.

"I think early on in his career, he was known as a three-point specialists, but he has come a long way defensively," assistant coach Howard Moore said. "You don't get a night off in this league, and he's done a great job in answering the challenge with all the different things coach asks him to do."

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