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Thursday, Feb. 29
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Badgers buried in Assembly Hall losing skid

Coach Bo Ryan remembers the last time Wisconsin won in Assembly Hall. \nRyan was a Badger assistant. He was 29 years old and Wisconsin hasn't won in Bloomington since Feb. 24, 1977. \nThat's 22 losing trips, average losses of more than 15 points per game and only eight games decided by less than 10 points. \nRyan hasn't addressed the losing skid, but he'll come face to face with it 8 p.m. tonight in Assembly Hall when his Badgers meet IU. It is the only regular-season meeting between the Hoosiers and Badgers this year.\n"I never said anything when we were going to Michigan State or Iowa," Ryan said. "I don't talk about streaks or records. I've never used that as a motivating factor."\nThat laissez-faire attitude worked at Michigan State, where the Badgers ended MSU's nation-long 53 home-court winning streak, and it's worked much of the season. Wisconsin (14-11, 7-5 Big Ten), picked to finish near the bottom of the league, shook off a 1-4 start and has since surprised Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State. \nThe latest win, a 94-92 overtime edging of Ohio State in Madison Feb. 6, bumped the Buckeyes from the Big Ten's top spot for the first time this season and allowed IU (16-7, 8-2) to slip into sole possession of first place. Wisconsin sits alone in fourth place, setting up an important mid-week matchup.\n"It seems like every week is a big week for us," IU Coach Mike Davis said. "Ohio State losing Sunday, it's very important for us to win these two games (against Wisconsin and at Michigan Sunday)."\nThe Wisconsin win over Ohio State stopped a two-game losing streak that consisted of losses at Michigan and Northwestern. The Badgers returned the favor to Northwestern Saturday in a 77-43 drubbing of the Wildcats. The Badgers, under their third coach in three seasons, put four players in double figures in that game and have five players averaging more than nine points per game this season. \nOn a team of seven freshmen, Ryan starts two seniors, one junior, one sophomore and one freshman. Ryan, who coached at UW-Plateville for 15 years and UW-Milwaukee for two seasons and has only one losing season in those 17 campaigns, has used the same starting lineup in all 25 of the Badgers' games. \nJunior guard Kirk Penney leads the Badgers with 14.4 points per game, but the most impressive output has come from freshman guard Devin Harris, who scores 11.6 points per game. Penney and Harris have combined to shoot 251 three pointers; six Badgers have attempted 40 or more three pointers, but Wisconsin is shooting a league-low 29 percent from the three-point line in league play. \nThe Badgers have already attempted nearly as many three pointers (475) as they did all of last season (477) under then-coach Brad Soderburg, who replaced the retired Dick Bennett. \nBennett and Soderburg used a grind-it-out tempo that featured long possessions and articulate working of the shot clock. Ryan has tweaked that system. The most notable performance was the 94 points against Ohio State, although Ryan has his theories on that game. \n"What we found out is they put the wrong rims up," Ryan said. "We had bigger rims. That was two games' worth of offense."\nThe Badgers are averaging 67 points per game compared to 59 last season. They're giving up 66 per game this season after yielding 56 last year. \n"I have coached teams that gave up 70-some points a game and 47 points a game, and we've been able to do a little bit of both," Ryan said. "It depends on what each team's going to do. We're not afraid to push it and see what we can get before the defense sets up."\nThe IU win against Louisville, which pressed and played a variety of defenses, gave IU a look at something it hasn't seen. Now, the Hoosiers feel they're ready for anything the Big Ten can throw at them.\n"We're ready to win this thing," IU senior Jarrad Odle said. "We're just trying to do everything we can to continue our success. The (Louisville) game was a good test for us to be able to change our pace of play." \nBesides similar inside-out attacks and mirroring offensive schemes, both the Badgers and Hoosiers are battling for NCAA Tournament bids. With pummelings of Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State and a top slot in the Big Ten, IU has made its case. Wisconsin hasn't just yet and has a chance tonight and a Saturday trip to Minnesota. "I don't know how many coaches would be excited about playing Indiana and Minnesota back-to-back, but that's the task in front of us," Ryan said.

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