With a 80-55 win over the Coppin State Eagles, the Wisconsin Badgers have now won 10 non-conference games for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Junior Jordan Taylor and senior Jon Leuer led the way with 19 points a piece.
The Badgers (10-2) final tune-up before the conference season was successful on both sides of the floor as they extended their nation leading streak to 31 games while holding opponents under 70 points at the Kohl Center.
By: Nick Grays
What It Means: Great defense seems to be the theme of most Badgers teams as they’ve finished among the nation’s top 10 in scoring defense in six of the last eight seasons. That trend won’t end this season as the 2010-11 squad ranks second in the nation, allowing just 53.9 points per game.
What does differentiate this team from those from recent memory is the three-point shooting. Wisconsin’s 17 three-pointers against Coppin State was a team and Kohl Center record. In fact, 38 of the Badgers 56 shots came from behind the arc. When you have a team that can protect the ball, pass the ball and shoot the three well, it’s going to be hard to beat that team. The Badgers seem to be full of confidence entering the conference slate of their schedule.
Some have went as far to mention Leuer as a possible National Player of the Year candidate. I wouldn’t disagree because Leuer has shown the ability to single-handedly take over a game. In the first three minutes of the game versus Coppin State, Leuer scored the Badgers first 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting. His ability to shoot the three is unreal as he started his scoring by hitting four straight three-pointers.
In addition to leading this season’s team, Leuer sits just seven points back from becoming the 36th member of UW’s 1,000 point club.
Highlight of the Night: With time expiring in the first half, freshman Josh Gasser hit a three-point buzzer beater from the corner to put the Badgers ahead 47-28. Wisconsin was 11-for-22 from behind in the arc in the first half, including a sizzling 5-for-8 for Leuer.
Stat of the Game: The Badgers finished with only five turnovers, making it their third game this season with five or fewer. Meanwhile, Wisconsin improved it’s nation-leading average of turnovers per game to 9.08. The starting backcourt of Gasser and Taylor combined for 10 assists and no turnovers.
Quotables: “Well, when I came here, we felt that we knew that Wisconsin had a lot of shooters, but we didn’t recognize how many ‘a lot’ meant,” said Coppin State Head Coach Ron ‘Fang’ Mitchell.
“We feel as prepared as any other time. Veteran wise, the Big Ten is at a higher level. Look at the record of Big Ten schools and who we’ve played and 75% of the league has played a tough non-conference schedule,” explained Ryan.
“Very prepared, through the non-conference schedule this team has grown a lot and taken a lot of steps in the right direction. We still feel we can get better and we will work on that every day in practice,” said Leuer. “Our goal is to win the Big Ten Championship. We feel that’s a realistic goal for us.”
What’s Next: What we’ve all been waiting for, the Big Ten Season! The Wisconsin Badgers will look to make it eight straight wins in Big Ten Openers as they welcome in the #16 Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-1) to the Kohl Center for a 6:00 PM tip-off on Tuesday, December 28th.
The Gophers will provide the Badgers with a challenge like none they’ve seen all season. The Gophers’ 6-8 forward Trevor Mbakwe has been a beast on the boards. Mbakwe leads the Big Ten with seven double-doubles and currently ranks sixth in all of college basketball with 10.5 rebounds per game. While the Gophers dropped their only game to Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, they have resume wins against North Carolina and West Virginia.
From what you’ve seen in the Badgers non-conference season, are they ready to contend in the Big Ten? Let me know by commenting below!
Rapid Reaction Archive:
Wisconsin 99 Prairie View A&M 55 (11-14-10)
Wisconsin 85 North Dakota 53 (11-16-10)
Wisconsin 87 NC State 48 (12-1-10)
Wisconsin 61 Milwaukee 40 (12-8-10)
Wisconsin 70 Green Bay 56 (12-13-10)
Follow Nick Grays on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.