December 27, 2009

Badgers stomp Flames in non-conference finale

MADISON - It took Wisconsin a little while to overcome its collective holiday hangover, but when it did, the Illinois-Chicago Flames felt the Badgers wrath.

Behind a 17-point and seven-rebound performance from Jon Leuer and double-digit scoring from four other teammates, the Badgers cruised to an easy 79-43 victory over UIC in the final tune up before Big Ten play.

"The record says 10-2," UW head coach Bo Ryan said after the game when asked about his team's progress entering Big Ten play. "There are things that could have gone both ways for better or for worse. We're 10-2. That set aside, now we go play in the Big Ten.

"So, let's see what we've learned."

If Sunday's matinee performance against an overmatched Flames squad was any indication, the Badgers are starting to get a bit hot entering the meaty portion of the schedule.

For the game, UW shot nearly 52 percent from the floor and nearly 48 percent from downtown. Anchored by Jason Bohannon's 5-of-6 shooting from distance and 15-point tally in the contest offensively, and UW's collective defensive effort that limited UIC to only 36 percent shooting from the floor, it seems UW has progressed a bit throughout non-conference play.

"Wisconsin does play good defense because they play good helping defense," Flames head coach Jimmy Collins, who witnessed his team turn the ball over 12 times, said following the game. "Once you think you've got one beat, somebody's there to pick up the slack.

"Part of it was them, but we don't have yet-that's not to say we can't get better-but we don't have the type of athletes and the type of shooters that have the confidence to compete against a team like the Badgers."

In the second half, UW only allowed 1-of-8 UIC three-point shots tickle the twine for an abysmal 12.5 percent clip. The Badgers dominated the boards throughout as their 40 total rebounds were almost more than UIC's total points.

Leading the charge in that department was sophomore Rob Wilson. His three offensive boards, and eight total, were a major catalyst in the 20 second chance points the Badgers were able to capitalize on during the game.

"Rob knows that when he gets on the court he contributes, just like every other guy that gets on the floor, either as a starter or coming in from the bench," Ryan said. "That's all we ask for.

"You have to keep getting better and keep your mind open and just keep working. He's been doing that and he's showing a couple of things here, especially on the glass (where) he was very aggressive."

Following a slow start that helped UW accrue only a 12-8 lead, and one where two of the team's nine turnovers were committed through the first eight-plus minutes of the game, the Badgers utilized a 23-8 run to end the half with a 35-19 edge.

In the second half, UW kept its foot on the throttle and jumped on the Flames with a quick 9-4 run to end any hopes of a competitive second half.

Whether it was Jordan Taylor (11 points) hitting an open three or Trevon Hughes (12 points) driving the lane and dishing, the Badgers simply had more firepower than UIC was capable of defending.

"They're a good team," Collins said. "There's no question about it. They're very polished. You start on one, and then another one strikes fire and then they get something else going. So they're a very good basketball team."

And that 'very good basketball team' now heads into conference play with a 10-2 record and looks poised to make noise throughout the league in the coming months.

"I feel like we're well prepared but I feel like we're trying to get better," Bohannon said.
"We're still improving as is any team at this point. It's still late December, but we want to get to where we want to be at the end of March. That's how everyone else on this team feels.

"We feel we can get a lot better and there's a lot more room to grow. We're striving for that everyday."

UW will open conference play Thursday afternoon at home against Ohio State.

Quotes from the post-game presser:

-Collins on Leuer's performance:

"Leuer's a special athlete, there's no question about it. You look at him on film and you know that he's a guy who is going to make some money playing the game later on. He's fluid, he's got a very high release on his jump shot and he's extremely athletic. We knew that we had to try to stop him, but I think all of those guys are good. Jon in particular is a very special player."

-Ryan on Bohannon's 5-of-6 shooting day from downtown:

"We know what he can do. So in games (when) he's open he shoots. There are more that's he's going to make and he'll miss some. But ask again after the next game. I don't know what he's going to do in the next game. I don't know if he's going to get open. I don't know if he's going to have the opportunities. I don't know how every game plays out so I can't look into a crystal ball. But he did it today. He was open and he made some good decisions."

-Taylor on turnovers keeping UW on a short leash:

"A couple of the mistakes we made were pretty bad. He expects better from us and we expect better from ourselves. So it's no surprise if we're not getting our job done and somebody else is going to come in and try to do it for us or do what they can to help. I wouldn't necessarily say short leash, but I just think some of the mistakes were just bad to a point where you had to come out."

-Leuer on his career high five assists:

"You know Jordan and J-Bo and Pop and Keaton Nankivil were just knocking down shots. So any time you find one of those guys open you've got to give them the ball because we have some really good shooters on this team that can spread the defense."

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